Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Keep Running

Today on my way to work I saw a guy running down the sidewalk. Jogging, I mean, for exercise.

I've seen him before; he has some vague lack of mobility or twistiness to his limbs, and when he runs, he flails, he gasps, he labors. He looks like he's struggling underwater, or fighting an invisible foe. I have never seen anybody put so much effort into running. Every time I see him my own problems seem small.

He's been doing this every Tuesday and Thursday for at least the five years I've taken that road to work. This is, clearly, not a short-term thing for him.

This morning I also passed a small box turtle, huddled inside its shell on the double yellow line in the middle of the road.

Should I go back and move it? I thought, driving on. For years I've pulled over to rescue turtles because they're slow and cars are so fast. Should I go back? No, I'm late for work. Just go back. What difference does it make? Maybe I should go back. No, I'm already late.

I drove on.

I turned around.

I went back, worried about where I could pull over safely. It's a winding country road, so I was scoping out driveways and patches of gravelly shoulder.

The turtle was smashed into a wet pulp like a broken melon. It had been less than two minutes since I drove past it the first time. Two minutes while I debated about what I could do. What I "should" do.

I turned around, my stomach tight. Continued the familiar road into work.

And when I saw the familiar guy running toward me, flopping along the sidewalk, his mouth gasping open like a dying fish, his limbs bent into parentheses clawing the air, and when I realized he'd been doing this in all weather for years and years, I still thought of the dead turtle but I now I also thought: keep running.

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