He sits alone on the bottom row. He’s wearing his gym shirt, but with jeans and clunky black shoes.
The other kids are all unleashed on the track. The gazelles sprint, the jocks settle in to the middle, the two nerdy guys push each other as they bring up the rear.
And the one kid sits with his chin in his hands.
Running in the outside lane, I go past him again and again. His expression is so sad, like he’s trapped in a place from which he can’t escape. Quietly resigned to this little bit of childhood humility, not fitting in. The other kids pass by him as if he’s not there. In a way, he’s not.
I want to stop and talk to him. To tell him that deep down we’re all misfits. Nobody’s got it figured out. Those other guys are just pretending. They wear their neon yellow Nikes to say something that’s not real. What is real is this — we’re all lonely sometimes. It’ll be OK. I promise.
The other guys finish their run, the fast guys piling on to the stands while they wait for the stragglers. They all sit on the opposite side of the bleachers. When the two nerdy guys finally finish, still shoving each other, the group heads back to school. The boy in the jeans waits, then walks behind them. All alone.
Then they’re gone. I run my last mile.
p.s. My bounty from The Great 2011 Slow Ernie Rice Pudding Giveaway © arrived today. Thanks, Ernie!
- 4 miles — 46:37 (11:43) 57
- 11:55, 11:22, 11:49, 11:45
- Piranha-meter — 826 miles