Running for Answers

I remembered you was conflicted
Misusing your influence, sometimes I did the same
Abusing my power full of resentment
Resentment that turned into a deep depression
Found myself screamin’ in the hotel room
I didn’t wanna self destruct…
So I went runnin’ for answers
-Kendrick Lamar

I slip the knot between my fingers and pull tight enough to feel a preliminary cramp in my arch. Outside is balmy, even for late spring Midwestern evenings. With a shallow breath I leave the smoldering embers behind as anxiety burns off like rocket fuel, carried by optimistically melancholy tunes into the fading light.

As a kid I ran everywhere, a tactical maneuver to encourage chase from boys. I sprinted for punishment, as a means to a goal or tackle. I ran for camaraderie, bringing up the rear or maintaining the pace. These days I run to keep my shit together. It’s the only control I relinquish.

My body is angry. I’ve been subsisting on bitter pills and willing it to fly on fumes, which has whittled my curvaceous thighs to athletic pistons furiously pumping against hard concrete. A fistful of nuts here, two gallons of water there, and I’m churning past cheerful houses to the optimistic ranting of CHVRCHES. I catch myself mouthing pertinent lyrics between equine snorts as happy families with playful dogs enjoy the luxury of standing still. My shins wobble with each strike on the brick and stone as I slough through my shit, distracted by the heavy scent of roses lining fancier paths to god knows where.

I am not okay. Not okay. Not okay. Not okay.

My breathing reflects the rhythm of these words, becoming shallow while I elongate my stride to eek out another half mile. Am I freeing my mind? Am I punishing myself? I realize around mile four I’m running for the future, frontrunner to the cloud of consequence that catches up when my head hits the pillow and rains a silent storm of questions into the darkest hours. If I run, hard, it may settle into my dreams and spare me a night of waking agony.

“Do you like how you look?” he asked.

I mutter something about the means and the end of it all, the words still forming in my mouth when he vanishes. The neutrality of this inquiry is loaded, the shot that started this marathon for answers or at very least, less questions.

In some ways I’ve lost the weight of us, once rounded, laughing cheeks hollow to slim planes with pursed lips. My stomach flattened after passing him from my gut in the mornings, a new and stabbing ritual bookended by moisturizing and brushing my teeth. His fate: sticking to someone else’s ribs. The fat melts away as I shave him from my bones, a meditation considered as I sputter and trip haphazardly over a curb.

Rending fat from flesh isn’t without consequence. The sinews strain along my shins, tendonitis grips my knee. I feel my hip sliding out of socket on the uneven urban terrain. I peel compounded blisters from my toes like banana skins, a metamorphosis into soft, thick callus. I shed water and sweat until runner’s high washes over me. I’ll survive to run away another day.

I kick dirt from my Mizunos and choose a final tune to carry me home, trying desperately to outrun what I already know: this race has a finish line for one, and I cannot go backwards.

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