An Unexpected Sight, and a Cat

It’s 4:57am and she’s driving alone through the empty streets of her childhood.

“Right on time”, she thinks.

She just left her husband at the airport. Usually, she leaves the car in the underground park — this way she can go up with him and prolong those last moments together before he goes through security.

But this time was different. They are used to goodbyes by now, and the parking fee is expensive, so she just drove through the passenger’s drop-off area, gave him a kiss, let their bodies touch each other for one more minute,

(“I love you.”
“I love you too. So much.”
)

and then drove away.

She knows this feeling very well,

(a bittersweet nostalgia, 
a mixture of freedom and regret, 
the things she could have said but didn’t,
love like in the movies.
)

and she knows it will go away when the sun goes up and she wakes up again (this time for good). For him, she is sure, it will go away as soon as he boards the plane. She’s been on the other side, and she knows it’s always easier for the one who leaves.

She enjoys having the road for herself. There is music playing on the radio, but she doesn’t pay attention to it. She has seen this neighborhood almost everyday since she was born, but only a dozen times at 4:57am. She soaks in the novelty of it without every realizing it, and it adds up to her fairytale-ish mood.

Her head feels heavy (her body ready for sleep, her mind flying 1000 mph) and she is almost ready to accept the familiarity of her surroundings, when she suddenly sees it:

She is there.

Not in her car, not coming back from the airport, not thinking about the cozy bed that awaits her at home: she is on the sidewalk, under the moonlight and the open sky.

She sees herself, flesh and bone, right in front of her car.

(“That can’t be me, this is absurd. I’m right here, driving this car, thinking these thoughts.” — she knows it, but she doesn’t — “Right…?”)

She sees herself, fifty meters ahead, on the sidewalk, wearing her baggy shirt, her short shorts, her running shoes, in the middle of her jog.

For a moment, it almost makes sense.

(“I do run here, every morning, wearing that shirt and those shoes and listening to M.I.A. with those headphones...”)

For a moment, she almost lets herself believe that the sweaty, sporty-looking (“and quite attractive”, she notices) is herself.

There is no one else around, apart from a black stray cat who hides behind a trash bin when he sees the jogging woman approaching him at a threatening speed.

But then she tells herself that she “cannot know for sure; after all I am driving behind her, and all I can see is the back of her head (I wear my hair like that), the back of her Dark Side of The Moon shirt (my husband gave it to me for my birthday), and her muscled glutes propelling her legs back and forth, up and down, one step at a time (the slight unbalance caused by my old running injury is still visible).”

“STOP IT!”, she screams, while she hits the break and the car screeches to a halt. The cat — who had been snacking on the abandoned remains of a chicken leg — jumps over the bin, across the road, and over a gate leading to a vacant lot full of old tyres and bags of cement.

She doesn’t want to overtake the runner (“I don’t want to look at her face. I can’t look at her face”). She looks at the clock — it’s 4:59 — and she decides that she won’t move until the jogger is out of her sight.

She thinks she is going crazy. The radio is playing Blackstar by David Bowie. This time she pays attention to it, but she quickly switches it off. She doesn’t want to be distracted. She is scared, but she’s aware, and she wants to remain that way. She know that she is safe in the car

(but is she, really? and safe from what? from herself?)

and there she remains. The jogger turns left and disappears. The cat must have found a new delicacy in the empty lot, because he never showed up again. The street is empty again — apart from the motionless car that waits, and waits, and waits.