In the evening when the bright playground lights came on, it always felt like an alien landing field from a science fiction movie, and all the young men chasing and shouting were excited Earthlings, looking for First Contact.  They weren’t.  They were playing soccer – futbol – dreaming of Muller and Cruyff and Super Lig glory.  Sylvia Harrow didn’t understand the game, but it didn’t matter: she wasn’t playing.  She was running, one foot in front of the other, chasing the clock inside her head.  Circling the boys, over and over, like a jogging sentinel, on the long oval track that surrounded their field.

In the beginning, they’d taken an interest in the odd phenom of a woman running, shouting gestures and pantomimes for her perceived attention.  Once, early on, in a bold stroke of stupidity, one wannabe Romeo hopped the short chain link fence to run alongside her, feigning kisses.  Sylvia’s eyes never left the track and, in perfect rhythm, she shot the ball of her foot into his ankle and sent him face first into the unforgiving gravel.  He skidded and rolled and got to his feet, burning with his buddies’ laughter, not sure what to do with the fist-tight girl standing over him, ready for a fight.  Fortunately, his honour was saved when Mirac stepped between them and guided him back to his friends.  That’s where he explained that the woman called Sahin and her employer Karga were busy people who didn’t have time to visit idiots who ended up in hospitals.  From then on, the futbol players pointedly ignored the foolish lesbian, although several of them would remember her effortless stride and swinging ponytail later on in the night.

Sylvia didn’t care.  She was concentrating on her hips, fighting the natural feminine sway, cushioning the impact with her calves and trying to force her feet to align and drive her forward, not sideways.  These were the kinetics her school coach had taught her.  They were the magic combination that triggered her instincts to abandon all thought and just run.  Run, like some female animal built for the chase.  Pacing her prey, tireless, relentless, collecting tiny molecules of energy, gathering them in her pulsing, aching muscles, saving them for one final tearing rage of speed.  This was where her mind filled and emptied and filled again, sorting and discarding the practicals, the possibles, the problems, the stress.  Nothing escaped.  While she ran, no part of Sylvia’s life could hide in a dark corner, waiting to ambush her.  No emotional thread was too thin to untangle nor too big to reweave.  No vague thought was too small, grand plan too large and no passion, feeling or sensation could be conveniently forgotten.  This was where Sylvia forced honesty to reveal itself.  Here, there was no place for her to hide.

And the truth was, these two hours, whenever she could grab them, were the only ones Sylvia regularly allowed herself.  And when she ran, step after step, steady as a metronome, she understood, deep somewhere, that they were all she needed.  She knew she was a strong, female animal and even though she also knew she wasn’t actually built for the chase (No, she wasn’t a predator, not really.) she was also nobody’s prey.

3 thoughts on “Running

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