After the end of a strange work week, when – among other strange things – I accepted an offer for a new job, I came home and collapsed on a chair. This was to be the first weekend in ages when I had absolutely nothing planned except to read a lot and drink buckets of hot beverages. I like having plans on weekends, but they don't usually leave me as well-rested and eager to get back to work on a Monday morning as having a chance to get bored. Not that I'm ever eager to get back to work. Less openly hostile maybe? Yeah, let's go with that.
I did have a little plan for this Friday evening though. I had complained to my chiropractor that I can only run 10 km before my knee starts acting up and getting stiff, and he advised me to add another 10 km run in my week instead of increasing the amount of kilometres on any particular run. So, naturally, I thought: ”Wouldn't it be great if I could run 14 km?” and – after a lot of hesitation because it was Friday after work and I was tired and lazy and it was snow-slushy outside and windy and dark and I'd rather be reading my Stephen King with a hot beverage in my hand and there was no one to give me a kick in the butt – I did just that.
I had a route planned and it started with a detour to round it up to 14 km, so that I could jump in head-first and regret it later, when there was nowhere to take a shortcut if my knee started hurting. The route took me through the town centre and then to the western outskirts of town, to a sleepy, forest-surrounded neighbourhood that is usually so pretty this time of year, when everyone has put up their Christmas lights and they shine on snow-heavy trees. It's a perfect winter wonderland. One of those souvenir snow globes.
Only now there was hardly a snow flake on the ground. The wind howled and strove to push me back. I alternated between running on the wet bare tarmac of the road (=slippery) and running on the slush-covered side (=dirty and slippery). In the dark, it was hard to tell which was which. The Christmas lights were so out of place in this bleak environment, trying to look all cheerful and festive but just looking pathetic and weak in the enveloping night, the thick forest all around a pressing wall of indecipherable, relentless blackness.
The feeling of isolation was made whole by the complete absence of people. Who was insane enough to leave their sofas to get out and go for a walk on this inhospitable planet? Passing cars disappeared quickly, eager to get back to their own island of warmth and light. I ran on against the wind, turned back towards town, stared at a patch of deflected city light in the clouds of an otherwise black, starless sky: my own star of Bethlehem to guide me home.
I listened to the creaking sounds of my seemingly ancient body as I subjected it to kilometre after kilometre of hard surface. The closer I got to my goal, the more I listened for warning signs that I had gone too far. With just one kilometre to go, Paradise City came on the radio and a smile formed on my lips. I started singing under my breath and accompanied Slash on my air guitar, headbanging as I ran. I was feeling pretty awesome, having gotten through the longest run in months unscathed and with a whole lazy weekend ahead of me.
Then, with just 50 metres to go, I slipped on slush and almost fell on my butt.
I put my air guitar back in its sheath, pulled myself together and jogged the last few metres properly chastised for my defiant display of mirth in the face of darkness.
But my smile stubbornly lingered.