I run with The Joshua Tree in my ears. Thirty-year-old memories chase me as I push the buttons on the treadmill to 4.2, 4.4, 4.5.
Run to 10 minutes. Run to one mile. Run to 100 calories.
In my line of sight is the headquarters of a corporation that was the subject of one of the first stories I wrote for The Associated Press, when I was a 21-year-old intern starting out on the career that was going to take me so many places.
That road was not supposed to bring me back here 20 years later.
Dry skin flakes slough off my red face and land on the purple jacket slung across the treadmill bar. It, along with my teal-and-purple Asics running shoes, was a Christmas gift from my husband, arriving just before my self-selected denial ended.
I try to not to huff and puff audibly. I am reminded of what my friend, who now runs marathons, used to say: “When I first started running, my goal was for people to realize I was not running for help.”
Run to 15 minutes. 1.5 miles. 150 calories. To the end of the song.
Run to Edge’s guitar riff to open Where The Streets Have No Name.
I want to run/I want to hide
I haven’t told many people I’m back here, and when I have, I’ve been very vague about my plans. Not hard to do when I have no idea what those plans are.
I want to be with my family, but how to accomplish this is less certain. Do I want to return to the beautiful state where I could not get my footing? And do what? Stay here, where some things seem easy but so many others wrong? And do what? Go somewhere else, start over in my (shudder) middle age? And do what?
I want to feel sunlight on my face
These streets, the ones I drove on to get here, the ones that took me to meet friends last week, the ones that will deposit me back at my parents’ house when I’m done, are familiar, and yet strange. My car, with its out-of-state plate, is foreign.
I’m from here, but I’m not.
Honeyed accents that once sounded like home now grate through my earbuds. My hip hurts. I want to slow down. I push the buttons to 5.0. “Work,” I say out loud, then cough in case anyone is nearby.
The 20 pounds of self-pity that have metastasized around my middle jiggle. I hitch up my spandex pants.
Run to 20 minutes. Make two miles before 24. Yes, your runner friends would laugh at 12-minute miles. That’s fine, too.
The music on my iPhone fast-forwards 27 years.
Somebody stepped inside your soul/Little by little they robbed and stole/Till somebody else was in control
No motivation. No gratitude. The second teenager in the house.
Marinating in misery while I sat on the couch, remote in one hand, Tastykake in the other. Mourning who I had been so long I couldn’t become anyone new.
You think it’s easier to put your finger on the trouble/When the trouble is you
I slow my pace a little. Out on the large field in front of the YMCA, where patchy grass seems optimistic about the approaching spring, a father throws a baseball to his son. The boy, no more than 3, weaves back and forth, glove waving in front of him.
His father stops, walks over to him, puts his hands on his shoulders, and pulls the boy’s elbows back to his chest. He’s telling him to follow the ball with his eyes and his body, and extend his glove when he knows where it is.
I have a will for survival/So you can hurt me and hurt me some more
Words I can’t unhear, words that slither through my chest wall in unguarded moments. Words I can’t unsay. Words that flew farther than their intended targets.
This album now playing in my ears, Songs of Innocence, was widely mocked when it appeared, unsolicited, on people’s iPhones. I appreciated the gift. It marked my return to my once-favorite band after a long, Zooropa-induced absence. It sounds a bit like 1987, when I put a cassette tape in my stereo and discovered there were others who felt love and alienation, who knew sadness was the necessary twin of joy, who needed God but not the packaging.
Who I was. Who I am. Whoever that is, and will be.
You think it’s easier to know your own tricks/Well it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do
Run to 30. Run to the cool down.