Your foot hits the hard packed earth with a thump, the air loosens around you, your lungs fill with excitement, your tongue tastes of hope. Your elbows push you forth, nudging your body forward with each stride, encouraging your legs to keep lifting, flexing and stepping. In your gut, it wasn’t entirely clear at the start what would come of the next fistful of minutes. You weren’t sure what your body would convince your mind of or what your mind would demand of your body, but you knew that the battle would be worth the toil.
In the beginning it all made sense, the theoretical plausibility of the task at hand was high. Your head erect and spine concave, ass popped and biceps bulging. You held it together for 10 sweet minutes, feeling the wind cool small beads of sweat as they emerged from the little hairs above your eyes. You knew you were pushing too hard, but the adrenaline shot straight through your veins, giving your head a dose of happy pills and your feet a bed of hot coals. There was no looking back now.
The next 10 minutes start to tighten up. The pain from a torn cruciate ligament begins to pulsate. Your lungs want more air than your nose can draw in, while the air inside wants out faster than you can manage. The salt water drips like a broken faucet into crevices that prefer not to be disturbed. You gaze out into the setting sun and glance down towards the road ahead, imagining what the next set of 10 will bring, and how many more until its time to turn back.
Your focus on your gait, your speed, your posture, your breath begins to lift. You begin to search for distractions, milestones, pieces and places and people that will scowl or smile, anything to take your mind off the uphill climb and allow your body to do all the thinking for you. A dog jumps out of a seemingly locked gate, yelling and fretting, angrily and confusedly imploring the fast paced intruder. A group of adolescents turn away from their sand and sticks, jumping and waving, “Hi Auntie! What is uyore naema?” The men wrap and rewrap their checkered linens, eyes following your face and feet, wondering and exploring, tempted but timid. The mothers, much younger than you, they smile at your audacity.
Your mind begins to wander and immediately you feel your body lift off the ground. The pain is gone, the problems subsided. You forget about your feet and your struggles. You drift into a place that no drug can take you, tasting air so fresh it could be from the Himalayas, seeing colors so bright they might not be real, dreaming dreams so tangible that you cant fathom why they haven’t come true. You hear the electric waves pass through the thick uninsulated wires above, watch the sun rays fall deeper and deeper into someone else’s morning run, you contemplate life as it is, here, now, unreal but all too real to be yours’ forever.
A sharp incline jolts you back into this world, asking you to put a little effort in, pretend at least to make the battle seem hard won. You respond slowly, mulling over the options and acquiescing finally to digging in and clenching up, give it all you’ve got, you think, because this will be damn fun on the way back.
You reach the top where you are gifted a sight begging for all to come and see. The rolling hills and endless farms. The little huts and flickering lights. The bountiful sky that begs to be touched. The 180 view that beckons you to stop and turn but knows you can do nothing less than keep on going. Each cluster of shops and homes brings new faces and follies. The drunkard unconsciously sleeping half naked next to the street, villagers discussing the appropriate measures to take. The little girl baffling you with impeccable English, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Hindi,” as she jogs next to you, mimicking your peculiar style of movement through her precious fragile world.
You glance around and realize it is late. Your eyes may have adjusted to the dimming night but there are many paths to be taken, many roads untravelled, and you cant be sure which leads home. Begrudgingly, you touch a pole to make it so, make it said, make it done, and pivot back towards the light. The return trip is simple, it’s philosophical and splendid. You have met once, and you are now family in the homes of those who watched you going the other way. The clock no longer ticks slower than your heart beat, as everything is in synch now, and everything feels perfect.
This is what got me addicted, you think, this is what moved my world. Oh, how I’ve missed this beautiful high.