They Stumble that Run Fast

Life, I have decided, is a series of partitions, none of which, unfortunately, are adequately marked. And it’s often only in retrospect that they can be appreciated with any clarity. Attributed to the proper sources. But I guess knowledge in general is like that, isn’t it? You don’t really know whether something will work until after you’ve tested it. Theory needs proof; life needs time. Evolution needs both.

None of this is seismic, I suppose, but there comes a time in life, when reminiscence becomes the wallpaper of our rooms. When the colours of what we did, pale alongside the patterns of what we didn’t –especially if we could’ve. It seems, when we gaze in soporific blinks at the walls that inch closer each day, as if things could have turned out differently. As if nothing was printed in advance and that what we remember are only the borders. The edges of the boundaries we didn’t cross.

And yet, the heartland of a trespass can imprison as well as the wall that defines it. I, as it turns out, am still entrapped by an addiction I acquired when I was in grade four. In retrospect, it might have been better if I had considered its long term consequences, but this is seldom within the purview of an eight year old –especially a short, mouthy eight year old whose birthday condemned him forever to be a year younger than everybody else in his class. An eight year old who, to prove his worth, developed a vocabulary rife with medieval curses, and Shakespearean expletives.

But, my addiction was not so much to the sprinkling of little-understood obscenities around the school yard, as it was to a discovery I made the first day at a new school in that fateful grade. I had decided that, to make a good impression, to show that I could not be pushed around, I needed to call somebody a bull’s pizzle. I picked a rather large boy who refused to kick a soccer ball my way –well, actually, he did but I tripped over something and missed it. He laughed; I retorted; he chased.

It was then that I realized that success in life was not always gauged by what you said, but how fast you could escape. Joby –I still remember his name- simply couldn’t catch me. In fairness, I quickly realized that it was not in the straight-ahead, that I excelled, but more in the zig-zag. The ‘border-collie’, as one of the kids later called it. But I was hooked -hopelessly trapped by the feeling of wind on my face, and curses thrown but seldom reaching me. You can, sometimes, run away from your mistakes.

But not your knees. I’ve been a runner all my life, and yet, until I retired, I never had enough spare time to do it justice. In those work-filled days, of course, whenever I ran, I could push myself to exhaustion and brag about it. Now, my joints do the cursing, and I… I am the Joby forced to listen to the obscenities.

“You’re limping,” she said, as I sat down carefully in a seat across from her.

She walked around her desk and checked my knee, putting it through a few movements like she usually does.

I shrugged bravely, trying not to show how much my knee really hurt.

“Having you been trying to push yourself again?”

“Running, you mean?” I push myself in all sorts of ways, and I wanted to clarify which endeavour I was confessing to.

She rolled her eyes and nodded with a little sigh as she seated herself again behind the desk. “It’s always running whenever I see you…”

I let my eyes rest on her lips for a moment. “No, sometimes it’s the bike…”

She checked the computer briefly. “Oh yes,” she said, smiling. “You once fell off it somewhere during a… what…?” She glanced at the screen again. “…a 110 Km ride up the Squamish Valley.” She locked eyes with mine and wrestled them to the desk. “I never did ask. How do you know the distance so accurately?”

I shrugged again, as if it were obvious. “It’s an app on my phone.” And then, when she seemed puzzled, “I always set it before a ride, or a run,” I added. “It’s good to know these things.”

A blank stare. “Why?”

“So I can tell you, I suppose.” Stupid question, really.

She sat back in her chair and smiled. “And so you’ve hurt your knee again…?”

I smiled back at her, a little embarrassed for some reason.

She sighed loudly and leaned forward again. “At your age, what do you expect, Goz…?”

It was a mistake to tell her my childhood nickname –I never expected her to use it… For that matter, I never expected a family doctor to ask me what I expect. I figure it’s her job to tell me what she thinks. But Dr. Bethany is a bit unorthodox –that’s why I go to her, I guess. And anyway, she’s a long-time runner, so I expect her to understand these things.

She typed something in her laptop and then her eyes surfaced above the screen. “So how long did you run this time…?”

“The usual…” I was lying, and she could tell immediately.

“That’s no answer, Goz.” Her expression turned stern and her eyes burrowed into my face. “Did you go over the limit again?”

I had to resort to another shrug. “I was just testing something…” I think I blushed –I usually do when I get caught doing something I’d agreed not to. “Two-eighteen this time…” I said, looking down at my lap. “I mean, that’s hardly pushing it.”

She shook her head sadly, as if she were disappointed in me. “You told me the last time you were in here that you had ‘2 hour knees’… That you knew their limit.”

I risked a glance at her face before dropping my eyes into my lap again. “Last week I had them up to two-ten with barely a twinge… As a matter of fact, I had a two-twelve, uhmm, four days ago…” I almost felt like I was justifying getting home late to a watchful mother, or something.

Her eyes disappeared behind the screen and I could hear the clickety-clack of her fingers on the keys. All I could see was the tight bun of her grey hair bobbing up and down whenever there was a flurry of clicks. When the rest of her reappeared, she closed the screen and leaned forward on her desk with a big, smushy grin on her lips. But silence wrapped her like a shadow. She could be as unnerving as an excessively annoyed teacher sometimes. Her eyes sat heavily on me, like an eagle on the thin branch at the top of a tree.


She observed me, for a long moment before shaking her head slowly. “If I told you to stick to the two hour run, would you listen to me?”

I blinked. “Not when I can do a two-twelve and get away with it…”

She sighed, loudly this time –obviously frustrated. “So tell me again why you wanted to see me today?”

“I, ahh… I just wanted to check with you to make sure I hadn’t done too much this time…” It was a lame thing to say, but she seemed to understand.

“And you’re going to rest it for a few days?”

I nodded. “Until Saturday, at least. You gonna do the trail again, Saturday?”

She rolled her eyes and smiled. “Just the 2 hour loop, though…” Then she stared at me for a moment. “What is your app called?”

I smiled back at her. You have to go to a doctor who understands.


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