I ran to feel alive

esophageal

Last night was my only night off this week, with rehearsal for Pandemonium all week and Labor Day holiday stuff taking up the non-rehearsal days. I went to the gym. Not what most people would do with a night off, especially with a broken finger and a run of shitty sleep nights back to back for almost a week, but I went. I tried to take it easy, with a mere twenty-minute run; a run which, ten years ago, would have maybe been a quarter of my usual length, to be followed by a half hour of heavy weight machine work, but that body is no more. I ran, even though my foot has been really bothering me, even though my knee problem is still in rehabilitation, even though it’s been less than a week since the last run and I promised myself I would wait another full week, that I would wait until after my performance Saturday in case I got seriously injured. It’s weird to work out and worry that because you did so, you may be so hurt afterwards or the next day that you can barely walk, but that’s what working out is like for me with the body I have, and if I don’t do anything, I won’t do anything the next day either, or the next, or the next, and the problems don’t get any better, they just get worse.

But really, I ran to feel alive.

My high school quarterback is dying. He has perhaps a few days to live, maybe only a few hours. He is (obviously) my age, and has three small children and a beautiful wife. I don’t know him at all. I don’t think I ever exchanged more than ten words with him in school, but he always seemed nice enough. He was very popular of course, being the quarterback, in with the in crowd, and part of the royalty at the various dances that celebrate school royalty in the form of homecomings and proms, along with the cheerleaders and the other pretty people from well-off families with straight teeth and new clothes and consistent utility service and myriad other things I couldn’t identify with, being a very poor kid. And of course, the quarterback is symbolic – youth, vitality, strength; the leader of the team we sat in the bleachers to scream for every week when I was captain of the flag corps in marching band, and we’d scream the hardest for the quarterback when he was announced, who we hoped would lead our team to victory. It’s truly the only period in my life during which I ever regularly watched football. I had no interest in it before or since, the only other exception being a period of time in the early 90s, when I was engaged to the brother-in-law of one of the Cleveland Browns, and so was kind of obligated to watch a lot of games, but that time was brief, and that story for another day.

My twenty-fifth high school reunion was last summer. The QB, Dan, was there, which was a little surprising. Everyone knew he had gotten sick with esophageal cancer and there were a number of fundraising efforts people put together that weekend for Dan and his family, which was really nice. I briefly introduced myself to his wife when I saw her in the bathroom. She didn’t know me from Adam, and I couldn’t claim to be a friend of her husband’s in any fashion, but I said something about how how sorry I was to hear of his diagnosis. She is a perky, happy person but I could see the pain and fear radiating out of her even then. I don’t know if anyone else could see it or not. I wanted to give her a hug, but I didn’t know her and thought that would be weird. There was a charity basketball game and Dan actually tried to play a little bit – he tired easily, no surprise. I’m pretty sure he was on the basketball team too, but it’s hard to remember things from so long ago. The game was held in a high school gymnasium so the whole thing was just very weird, to be sitting in the bleachers and watching Dan pass a ball around with other people. I was sixteen for just a few moments, worrying about boys and how my makeup looked, trying to remember the flag routine and wishing we’d play a different closing song, how cold it was on the field, how tight my costume was because I had to buy it used from another girl and she was a size smaller than me, the custom sweatpants the corps had, in school colors, with the letter of our last names up the side of one leg. Sneaking drinks with a friend before boarding the bus, rushing home to watch Miami Vice with my Mom, since we were both in love with Don Johnson,  screaming for Dan and the other orange crush members as they took the field at the stadium, lights blazing, our eyes wide open, shivering in the cold, screaming out cheers with the cheerleaders, dancing when the brass section would play a quick ditty in between plays.

Smooth journey to wherever you are going, Dan.

“The ticking of the clock has gotten so loud.” – Robin Romm, The Mercy Papers

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4 thoughts on “I ran to feel alive

  1. I really liked this. Goes to show you…tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. So poignant that a high school quarterback, (the embodiment of youth, health, vitality, and Americana) is struggling with this at such a young age. I wish him peace. And props to you for a Miami Vice reference 🙂

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