i’m running on the jesus etc. course. it’s cold, and a north wind makes the section going out the opposite of fun. i’m just shuffling along, killing time and sightseeing. if looking at dead fish counts as sightseeing.
it’s the start of a sad week. we’re not going to participate in the family thanksgiving this year; everything’s too weird. when Ma was around, it was impossible to boycott. can’t make it, Ma, gotta work. that’s ok, we’ll just wait till your day off. gotta work straight through till march, ma. that’s ok, we’ll have thanksgiving in march! i’m putting the pie in the freezer. followed by the inevitable, ok, ok, we’ll be down this weekend. but now it’s easy to just walk away, so i’m walking. i run along feeling sorry for myself. the void. the silence. the guilt. the nagging concern that a crazy guy could become president. a sorrow for mali, even though i have no idea where it is. an increasing concern that i’m never going to stop listening to this huffamoose album as it drives me slowly insane.
and then i see him.
he’s leaning against the railing, shoulders slumped, starting into the horizon. what i suppose are all his belongings — a small daypack, a sleeping bag and a gatorade bottle full of coffee — sit on the curb nearby. he’s perfectly still. what’s he thinking about? it’s cold today. it’s going to be colder tonight. is he thinking about the family he won’t see over the holidays? where he’ll sleep tonight? the ongoing controversy over syrian refugees and identification cards for those already in the country? romo’s comeback? the black friday backlash? the inequities of life that allow people to die on the streets while we debate how to stay safe? or is he just existing, waiting to die?
i go around the magic fountain and come back. my mood brightens as i embrace the shifting wind and the warmth it brings. i’m settled in to my stride. sun’s out, guns out. autopilot turned on. i remember for the millionth time why i love running. as i come back by, he’s still there. same spot, same position. a performance-art statue of desperation. i consider offering him the extra packet of tailwind i’m carrying, which is all i have, but passing small bags of white powder is considered impolite by the local beach police, so i keep running. it’s what i do.
this week, we’ll have our own little thanksgiving tradition. we’ll watch the macy’s day parade and critique the balloons. we’ll eat too much, and the cat will mooch. we’ll go out and shoot photos of rudolph terrorizing the neighborhood. i’ll go for that same run. and he will likely still be standing there, staring into the horizon. just existing, waiting to die. just another happy thanksgiving.
Ma always made us go around the table and say what we were thankful for. I always hated it. As it turns out, the thing i’ll always be most thankful for is her. I’m sure she’ll be with us on thursday.