While talking about Thai restaurants today, I remembered someone I hadn’t thought of in a while. And then, I remembered something about her I hadn’t thought of in even longer.
It’s funny how these details, these seemingly monumental, mind-blowing coincidences, fade away so quickly. Nine years ago, we met and hit it off, and when I went to find her on Facebook, it turns out we already had a mutual friend. The year before, she’d dated a guy I’d had a class with in college two years before that. It seemed like such a huge deal at the time, those early days of the Extras Theory.
So how did I ever forget it?
I ran a 10k yesterday, my second in five months, with the third to come on my birthday in a few weeks. This one was more torturous than the one before, or any of my practice runs in the gym.
My headphones died as soon as I turned them on.
There’s been a marked decline in music in my life in recent months, as I’ve mentioned before, and the proliferation of podcasts is largely to blame. Instead of music at the gym, I listen to podcasts—usually Too Beautiful to Live—and spend the rest of my time either burning through other queues or embracing a lack of stimuli. I keep telling myself I’ll get around to the new Frank Ocean. Soon.
But race days, those are treats. Those are M83 days, as I let the masterpiece that is Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming power me across terrain. Shifting tempos lead to different paces, enabling me to catch my breath or push onward.
I’d even considered bring backup headphones, but dismissed the idea as unnecessary. And so, I was forced to listen to nothing but the sounds of the city, too early in the morning. To my own footsteps, grunts, and other noises, not as loud as I so often fear in the gym.
A side stitch hit somewhere around the halfway mark, and I spent the rest of the race in varying degrees of pain. Despite the agony, I finished only 1:14 off of my pace from the last 10k, and less than two minutes slower than my goal time. But without my faithful companion in my ears, 52:58 felt practically like forever.
Monday evening, I sat alone awkwardly at a table, worried the final minutes of happy hour would tick away before my friend arrived. A couple weeks earlier, she asked me for advice on buying baseball tickets for her friend’s impending visit to our city, and the discussion ultimately turned into us hatching a plan to go to a game together, as these things do.
She arrived moments before happy hour ended, and we quickly placed drink orders, but I could see discomfort on her face when the waitress asked if we wanted food as well. She hasn’t been eating lately, and it’s been a growing concern for all of us. She hasn’t been eating for a while, and we can see it in her face, wasting away. And while I understand her issues, and the way she lies about them to try to escape judgment, better than most, I’ve been doing a delicate dance to not let her off the hook.
Monday, though, we didn’t eat. We weren’t sure if we’d have time, and at the game, we were distracted, enjoying the Mariners’ comeback against the God-damned Yankees and telling each other things we don’t tell other people.
I realized a while ago that there’s a unique empathy between us, that she and I know better than most what it’s like to have the universe punch you in the face as a child in a way that fundamentally alters your existence. For her, it was her body betraying her, a blood cancer she wasn’t supposed to survive. For me, well, we all know that story by now.
Maybe it’s some sort of revenge, three decades delayed. Her body fought her all those years ago, and now, she’s fighting back. Maybe it’s the stress of her job, of her son spreading his wings, of her rent’s logarithmic increases, all taking its toll. I can’t say where her anxieties appeared from.
Late in the night, she told me more details of a story she’d told earlier in the evening, and I guess I made a face. She asked me if I was judging her, and I assured her I wasn’t. She’s well into bonus time, free to do whatever she wants with the life she was never supposed to live.