The act of running has had many literal and metaphorical implications in my life.
Whenever I got drunk, I liked to take off my shoes and run wildly in the streets. My then-boyfriend got real accustomed to this. At first he would briskly walk after me, turning right down the streets I did and left down the others. Later, he would keep his pace but call me on my cell phone ("Where did you find yourself?") Towards the end of that relationship, he just let me run ("She knows where she's going.") Truth was- I never knew where I was going. Even before drinking was an option, I'd like to run.
Sometime earlier this summer, I found myself driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles. And I cried the whole way because I was scared, frustrated, and mad at myself. And I wasn't able to talk my way out of a situation, to manipulate someone's ideas into my own. And this was really scary. I was losing all of the control. No, it was being reaffirmed to me that I never had any control. Hard lessons. When I got there, I was welcomed to an old, dimly lit condo with hardly any furniture. And this angered me more. My mom found me in my car in the garage. "Where are you going?" "I'm going home!" I snapped back. My mom sighed heavy and looked me in the eye, "When are you going to stop running?" I put the car in reverse and got about 5 miles onto Interstate-5. I called her back, a dog with my tail between my legs. "I'm coming back. But not because I want to. There's too much construction on the highway, and I'm tired now."
But even before that summer. Even before I was old enough to make my own brash decisions and pack up my car and move to San Jose, or to move to Phoenix, or to move to Fresno, or to move to San Francisco.
When I was about 5 years old, I experienced the sheer liberation and freedom that running gave me. The house I grew up in had somewhat of a circular layout-- everything was connected, the only barriers being doors to the bedrooms and bathroom. I used to run around the house a lot. Over and over and over, through the living room, past the glass table in the dining room, into the kitchen, through the den, into the hallway, whizzing past the bedrooms and bathroom, back into the living room. One time, my older sister and I were running around the house, and she eventually got bored or tired and stopped, laying down in front of the TV. But I kept running, over and over. As I approached her, full speed, she kicked up her feet and I tripped, flying into the wall by the entry. As a result of the force of impact, I have a scar on the hairline of my forehead. A mark of permanence and a symbol of my liberation. Physical and emotional scars, due from running.
Sometimes things get really hard and I get really emotional and I begin to cry, and then those feelings come up again and they come up real heavy in my chest and get stuck in my throat, and I can't speak, but words-- in that moment--- wouldn't matter anyway. And all I can manage to express is how much, how badly, how necessary it is for me to run. I want to run. That's all I want to do now is just run. And I begin to imagine where it is that I would run: up Divisadero into the Marina, or maybe at Lands End, I could do Golden Gate Park, maybe Ocean Beach.
It's as though my body is saying, "I'm going to speak for her, let's see how far she can run now." My then-boyfriend, I would have to tell him, "When I run, it isn't so that you'll catch me. When I run, let me run." Nobody runs after me today, and nobody is trying to catch me. But I'm in enough pain to know now that the only person I'm running from is myself.
And the irony is, only she will be the one who is able to catch me.