Two weeks ago I ran my first 5K. I was paid to do it, which doesn’t detract from the doing. I knew this then and know it more now.
My energy post-race was a surprise. I’ve been dragging for several weeks, distended through what I’ve thought has been Lyme reasserting itself: more pills, vitamins, exercise haven’t helped. I have been made to accept that taking time off from work allows for taking time from everything, which has always made me uncomfortable. Exciting life is out there waiting to be lived, and even if I’ve never managed to find that heart of adventure I’ve known is out there, it seems wrong to stop making motions about looking. This stillness too has been another kind of progress, and finding a light effervescence rise up from my lungs in the hours after the run has been remarkable, almost dreamlike. There is a strange, alchemical purity in a state that feels wholly new.
My friend’s band is playing this evening just down the street. I assumed I would be too exhausted to go but instead feel more than fine. I feel like–what do I feel like? A balloon made of light containing the essence of snow. A warm day at the meadow. Water in a mirror. It is something I haven’t felt in a long time, if ever. I wonder if I am glowing.
It’s walkable, but a little far. I ride my bicycle; the motorcycle is too much trouble. Even after having run the race, I can power it without effort. I feel like the light in this picture.
This vacuum cleaner repair shop is on the corner of Lucile and 4th; the bus turns left here. This is the entrepreneur Adam Smith and the founders had in mind: the jack-of-all-trades in his little house doing his sensible work, waking early and wasting nothing. Junk vacuums are spray-painted and built into B-movie robots that leer out at passersby. The place makes me glad that vacuums are still things that can be fixed. I make a joyous noise unto repair. I wonder if anybody takes a Bible.
I actually end up riding home, having forgotten my ATM card and needing cash to get in to Slim’s Last Chance Chili Shack and Watering Hole, but remain as energized. The place is thinly peopled but the band is there, and my friend, obscured behind sunglasses in her curvaceous red dress, yaks at others for some minutes before noticing me. How long you been there? Oh, hours. Yeah, whatever.
She: hugs me, tells me I look great, apologizes-justifies her fleeting contact due to intransigent busy-ness. We have talked only rarely since my divorce, but this is what comes up. You’re a different person. You look and sound so much better. You must feel better. I know you do.
Dusk is coming on, the tables filling slightly, more activity inside. Her band, The Swearengens, goes up.
I’m not pedantic about music and enjoy the non-processed country-ness, the city people playing at being country sitting at the tables, the women trying cowboy boots, the one server falling out of her t-shirt as she hands out PBR. It’s fine. I feel a little tired in a wholesome way I remember out of elementary school, like I’ve ridden my bike all day.
A strange loud wonder is everywhere, wonder without excitement, merely pleasant. It is fine to be here without a job and with nowhere to go but home later. It is fine to be who and where I am. In a million years it will make no difference at all, but right now it is fine, and right now is the only place one can be.
Set over, she gets some high-test drink to match my non-alcoholic beer. She talks about things going on. I learn she has matching motorcycles. We set up a ride down the Alki strip. This still hasn’t happened. She is very busy. A friend of hers, lanky and blonde, comes up and we talk together, and then the friend and I talk for a while. The friend is younger, nice, unpretentious. Her plan is to get a modest sailboat and retire soon to a low-rent life shuttling between Caribbean islands. I mention a blog I read about a guy who has predicted society’s collapse and lives very cheaply and well on a sailboat. I leave out the collapse part. I am new at knowing whether she’s interested beyond being interested. I say I hope I see her again. This is her first night off that’s coincided with a band performance, but she’s pretty sure she’ll get out more. She thinks chances are good. I leave it there.
It’s getting dark and other bands are going on. It seems like I should head home, both because it feels like the event has run its course for me and because I don’t know how long this strange energy will last. My friend pulls away from her public for us to talk some more. I get a lecture about asking for numbers and taking the initiative. I say I’ll work harder next time, but it looks like her friend has already gone, so when you see her next…. I get a hug. You’re doing great.
I pass this sign coming and going, glowing out to travelers long gone and not coming back. I hear music from different venues drifting and mixing, not loud enough to hear and not soft enough to ignore, making its own atmosphere in the leaves with streetlights shining through. People are walking, sitting on stoops; the bus goes by. It is Saturday night and I feel what I imagine normal kids felt in high school and college: light, escaped, hours ahead, buoyed by something invisible that will never end.