You. You Can Run, Run, Run, But I’ll Be Running Next To You
So for about a month before that day I had been getting up every Tuesday and Thursday at five, drowsily shuffling off to the nearby track on campus, and doing about forty minutes of alternate jogging and walking. I put on my trusty pair of sweat shorts and sweatshirt, tied my hair back in a ponytail, grabbed my walkman (thank you, daddy), and headed out the front door of my dorm. Soon within five minutes I was outside my building, braving the freezing morning air. I turned on the walkman, began playing my very favorite tape of the brothers Gibb (thank you, moi), and started the five minute jog down to the track.
I had made the mistake of jogging later on in the morning the first time, at around eight, and had come across the biggest hurdle to my exercising endeavor, crowds. When I had arrived there that day I found the track filled with other health-conscious people like myself all pounding the oval. It reminded me of the old track meets from high school, except there were no crowds watching and you might as well have stuck on brake lights on our derrieres the way we were all bumper to bumper that day. I found running that day to be more like determined walking because with the great multitude of people I was constantly having to change my pace every other minute. To say the least, I was a very unhappy gal that day. And, if you knew me at all, it verily pisseth me off to not be able to get my way. That’s when I made the determination that trading in a few hours of sleep was worth exchanging for forty minutes all to myself. The first couple of times I had feared a tad for my safety, but I discovered that on those very same Tuesdays and Thursdays I ran the northwest dining hall was in the midst of their breakfast preparation. And I was never more than a couple of yards from people loading and unloading the daily shipment of consumables into the building. Sure, I may still have been in danger, but I felt some assurance that I was in no great danger with so many individuals close by. Besides, certain events in my life have provided me with irrefutable evidence that there is a greater force watching out for me.
I arrived at the track, “Staying Alive” blasting directly into my ears, and began my first loop of the clay track. Normally when I run this is the only music I listen to. Something about the sounds of disco at its finest tends to get little ‘ole me excited. Not only that, but I have loads of fun singing to myself as I feel my legs and feet touch down upon the ground. And I was definitely happy that day. I had the track to myself, great music playing in my ears, and I didn’t have to go to class for another three or so hours. Everything was firing on all cylinders.
“Staying Alive” had just ended as I completed my first circle. Soon, “How Deep Is Your Love” was starting up in my head. I usually paced myself by jogging the first two laps and then walking the third lap. I would continue this pace for the full forty minutes until I had finished twelve or fifteen laps. It usually gave me a good workout and made up for the fact that I was only coming out twice a week. Fairly soon during that second lap I was singing very loudly to myself. The words of the slow song were soon being belted out by me. I knew I was being loud when I saw some of the kitchen staff look up from their positions twenty yards away. I didn’t care. No one, and I mean no one, comes between this gal and her music. I may not have the greatest voice, but damn it all if I do not sing with conviction.
By the time I was starting my third lap I was in the midst of the third song, “Night Fever”. And, as was par for that singular song, I took my first of four mini-breaks. I stopped on the track and started to dance. I’m a fairly good dancer. My mother had spared no expense in getting me some of the best dance instructors for various ballroom, ballet, tap, and other so-called “genteel” dance forms. Everybody always remarks how graceful I am and how resplendent I look out at the dance floor. All that’s well and good, but, as God is my witness, you shall never see a bigger grin on this gal’s face than when I’m busting out my best John Travolta impression. If you could have seen me cutting a rug out on the field that day you would swear that I was taken straight out of “Saturday Night Fever.” I know all the routines from that movie by heart. It may be a backlash to all the formal training I took as a child, but I’m never so myself than when I’m mimicking the hand gestures, the footwork, and the whole attitude of disco.
As the song began to die out I was startled by an intruder on what I thought had been a private show. He was a man dressed in a plain white tee and a pair of cutoff jeans. All I know is that I had never seen him around the track before. I saw him place his windbreaker and water bottle in a pile by the nearby gate. That’s when I saw him walk towards me.
“Nice moves, ginger.”
“Thanks,” I said back as I resumed my running, embarrassed at putting on this whole display in front of a total stranger.
I had run maybe a half lap away from the gate when I saw this guy pass me on the outside of the track, his short dirty blond hair whipping across his brow. Instead of passing me by he had the audacity to start jogging backwards in front of me.
“So what’s your name or shall I just start calling you Ginger?” he asked.
“Breanne,” I said as I made a move to pass him in his backward state. I was thinking to myself that I would be cutting my workout short if he persisted in pestering me. I sprinted far ahead of him. I do not know if he tried to catch up with me, but after about thirty or forty seconds of flat-out running he had surely had gotten the hint that I did not want to be disturbed.
“More Than A Woman,” my absolute favorite song came on about a minute after I had passed the mysterious stranger. I took a quick glance behind me to see if he caught up again. I was in luck. I saw that he had gotten the hint and stayed back. I felt safe enough to begin to sing along to the music again. I don’t know if any of you have ever had a favorite song that stopped the whole world for you, the kind of song where you close your eyes, lose yourself, and merely become one with the song. “More Than A Woman” is that song for me. It’s my personal statement on who I am and what I believe. So when it came on that day at that particular moment, I had no choice but to immerse myself in the melody. I began to jog slower, with my eyes closed. Every word, every syllable, I sung with utter conviction. My running became slower and slower until finally I was stopped in the middle of the track. He was sure to catch up with me now.
I did not care.
I wasn’t surprised to find myself staring at him staring at me when I opened my eyes. What I was surprised was to find him not laughing, not smiling, but this amazed look on his face. It was as if he had stumbled upon a two-headed goat or something.
“You have a good voice is all, Breanne. I shall have to jog here more often to hear that wonderful voice of yours.”
“Shut up,” I nervously answered back. This time it was his turn to take off. I stood watching him disappear around the bend before I began my running again. It wasn’t so much the compliment that threw me off as much as the fact that he had chosen to compliment me on something I always thought I was fair to middling at. It may have been a throwaway compliment and perhaps he didn’t even really mean it, but to me it made my morning somewhat brighter. I thought to myself, even if this guy is some sex-crazed maniac, he’s a sex-crazed maniac with good taste.
And good taste counts for a lot in my book.
That’s when I got my brilliant idea. I have been a great lamenter of dying arts. No one ever sculpts anymore. No one ever cobbles anymore. You hardly see anyone make candlesticks for a living. And, what I have always though was a damn shame, was the slow death of mooning as an art form. I decided on that morning of all mornings to begin a revival. The next time I passed him I made sure that just enough of my ass was hanging out of my sweatshorts for him to notice but as not to be completely obscene. I was still a lady, after all. And merely because one is showing one’s backside to another individual does not invite any thoughts of being vulgar about it. Like I said, it’s an art form and I do believe I treated it as such.
I got the loudest whistle I have ever heard in response to my artistry. Who said true genius is never appreciated? Not I, said I. I started laughing as I pulled my sweat shorts back up. And I was continuing to laugh as I made my way to the gate, tape still playing. I decided that I had successfully repaid the compliment. I think my ass for a gracious remark about singing is a fair trade, don’t you? I had almost made it through the gate when I heard him yell out to me.
“So is that all or am I going to be seeing more of you?”
“Play your cards right…” I began, “I do apologize, I didn’t catch your name.”
He had begun to put on his glasses to leave as well. I guess he decided that jogging could be put on hold as well. He had caught up with me by the gate before he answered.
“It’s Greg, my name is Greg.”