He didn’t have to come and watch me race. When we tried to figure out when we’d see each other next, I explained I wouldn’t be free Saturday night because I was running #weownthenight, a women’s 10k.
‘What if I come watch?’ he said.
Oooof, I thought. That’ll be a distraction.
But, y’see, as my head yelled at what a bad idea it was my heart (loins?) inexplicably did high kicks and jazz hands, and so I said yes. Come with me. Thank you. I’m trying to learn to be more gracious, and this seemed a good opportunity to let somebody be kind. Y’know. Romantically.
I’m ten days away from a two-month backpacking trip designed to Eat, Pray, Love the shit outta myself, and so obviously there’s a boy that I’ve gotten my knickers in a total twist about. They design it that way, I think. And he isn’t “a boy”. I don’t know why I said that. He’s a man. That’s an important distinction.
(a man with the most incredible thighs you have ever goddamn seen. Another important distinction.)
A man says, ‘This feels special. I want you to know that.’ A man picks up the phone and dials your number to hear your voice. A man brings wine to say thank you, unprompted. A boy fucks, and a man… well. My knickers, on reflection, aren’t so much in a twist as they are in a heap on the floor by the bedroom door I barely had time to close because ohgod. Ohgod, ohgod, ohgod.
Obviously, then, one morning last week, hair mussed and body sweaty and sun coming up -- the day always comes too soon -- I found myself saying the words, ‘I can’t go away with a boy – a man – to my name, you know.’
‘I know,’ he told me, stroking the base of my naked back. ‘I thought we’d already decided that. You said it first, Laura: lean into what feels good. Well, this feels good. We’ve got two choices, call it quits now, or just… see. And I’d like to… see.’
I’d like to see too, I think. Maybe. I don’t know. I’ve left somebody behind before, and spent the whole time miserable because everything paled in comparison to what it’d be if they were there with me. I want to be present on my adventure – this time in my life that has all come together so serendipitously. It’s so important to me to drink every last drop of dirty, dusty, frustrating, inspiring, difficult brilliance of my solo quest. A man just doesn’t fit with that.
I know it’s already too late, of course. He’ll be on my mind whether we end whatever this is now, or not. I knew it at about 11.54 p.m. on Saturday.
Internet – the man had laced up my goddamn running shoes for me. When he said he’d be at the 3k mark to take my sweater from me, he was. When he pledged to be at the sidelines for a 7k high-five, he was. He told me he’d see me at the finish line and he did. I saw him before he saw me, and I got to watch him search the crowd for my face, intently. Purposefully. Everything he does is deliberate. I ran 01:05:03, shaving almost twelve and a half minutes off of the 10k I ran last month, and yeah, I trained super hard and did a lot of speed work to complete it in a faster time than I did before, to beat myself, to get better, but ultimately, I thought about him for almost the entire race and that’s what did it. I’ll see him in another kilometre, I’d tell myself, pushing through the pain and staying in sync with the pacer I had attached myself to. Do him proud.
I thought I was going to throw up as I sprinted the final 600m to the end, to where he waited with my two jumpers and a protein bar, in the dark, and the drizzle, not a single complaint to be had just concern for how I was and how it felt and a big congratulations before he got me on the train to warm up – my hand in his back pocket, head on his shoulder. He kissed me even though I was a sweaty, trampy mess and gave a shit when he asked about my splits, my fucking hydration, everything.
He took me home and fed me carbs and that was when I watched him lean back in the bath, the candles playing tricks on his handsome face, eyes closed, exhausted because it was almost midnight. I ran a wet hand over his knee and marvelled at the water dancing at the top of his heart, and I thought to myself, oh hell, girl. You’re in so much trouble.