It is 4 am, darkness around the world and one woman is wearing her tights. The stray dogs are fast asleep while she is fixing her hair in a ponytail. The city is engulfed in fog and she’s tying her shoe laces. Water runs through the pipes, street lights go off and she locks the door behind her embraces the cool clean air with a long breath.
She stretches as she walks, her left arm is numb because she slept on it last night; she hurt her little toe on the coffee table yesterday; she squats and smiles at the reflection of her perfect behind in the mirror of a parked car; she adjusts her armband, puts on the head phones, plays her favorite track and just like that in the misty darkness, off she goes disappearing, as the silence of the still asleep city swallows her whole.
Her body is stiff and aches as it slowly adjusts to the pain. It has been a long, busy week since her last run. Her spirit is free and exhilarated even though her body is going the opposite way. She smiles at the dilemma as she passes by the familiar gym ‘Body & Soul’. Her happiness cannot be contained, she pushes her legs hard against the ground and flies through the foggy street breaking into a full-fledged sprint.
She checks her iPhone just when the app reaches 2 kms – 15 minutes and slows to a jog to catch her breath. Her body is glowing; heat radiating from her arms, face and the headphones in her ears feel like they are steaming. A coat of sweat covers her body. And suddenly all her limbs remember what it is like to run.
All the stiffness vanished, the numbness gone, all there is the joy, pure unadulterated joy of running. It is not something she could compare to, or even describe if asked. She just feels it deep within her, a place that she could truly call her own. A place where there was no midlife crisis, no family problems, no work stress, no gossip girls or boyfriend drama. Just her and the open road.
The dawn is breaking in the east, sweat glistening in the now rising sun. She looks exquisite. Ponytail swinging left and right, her muscular yet feminine frame somehow in perfect coordination with her tights. She knows she looks gorgeous, but she also feels beautiful. She could feel the warmth of the sun rays on her face and in that moment she knew no facial or massage would feel so intoxicating.
After about 10 minutes of sunbathing and jogging she picks up her pace and heads for the park. The watchman recognizes her and nods from his chair with a big smile welcoming her. Her answering smile is even more energetic. And she sets off among the canopy of old sentinel trees.
Birds are chirping, insects are stridulating; the trees are full of life. She takes off her headphones because the music out there is much sweeter than any song on her phone. The swans in the lake are still sleeping. Mesmerized by their beauty and grace, even in their sleep, her heart fills with joy.
Today will be a good day, she tells herself and finishes the curve around the lake to enter the gardens. She smells the wet soil before she could see the flowers. The gardeners are done watering and are now chopping off the overgrown branches. The smell of freshly cut grass is high in the air. She gazes at each of the flowers with the corner of her eye and revels in their beauty but she knows now is not the time to stop and adore them. She moves on, almost trekking now to the top of the hill. The sunlight is now turning yellow from blood orange. The trees start thinning as she runs to the top.
The trail is getting thinner and she knows the top is now near. And as the noises fade out in the distance birds take off from their nests and with them she breaks free from the tree line into a clearing atop the small hill. She feels accomplished and contended. Her soul is at peace and she is smiling her biggest, brightest smile.
She is alone there but not lonely. She looks at the horizon and the slowly rising sun, she is proud of herself to have beaten the sunrise. She stretches for a few minutes and enjoys the sunrise. Then she begins her Surya Namaskar. Rejuvenated, she feels fresh. All her body is awake and comes alive. She can feel her heart beating behind her ears, sweat dripping from her brows, and that good ol’ ache in her muscles. She pushes herself and does an extra one just because she is that happy.
The sun is fully risen and with that she completes her routine of stretching and exercises. It is time to go back she realizes with a sigh. But still there is the road back home. She begins her descent from the hill and makes her way towards the trees. The park has begun to fill with people.
She realizes the irony in the crowd she sees. The majority of the people are the old ones and adults. Whereas the least number is that of the young ones. She is thinking about the future generations and how they have lost touch with their primal self. But she will not spoil her morning with such sad thoughts, she just runs through them all.
Near the lake, she slows down to a jog and holds her breath. As soon as she turns at the curve her eyes meet his without any warning and her heart skips a beat. She was expecting him, but still him being there takes her by surprise. He literally takes her breath away. Those nerdy glasses of his, unkempt brown hair and that lazy stubble makes her weak in the knees. She regains her focus and breaks the eye contact with a surprised expression.
He on the other hand is daydreaming like he always does. She looks from the corner of her eye, and he is still looking aimlessly at the same direction as he was. She smiles to herself and realizes that he is probably deep in thought about some or the other story of his.
Artists, she thinks about him, are weird. He comes at the lake every morning and sits in the same exact spot and scribbles something in his little notebook. Never talking to anyone, he just sits there. She has thought about talking to him, more than once, but is too afraid. He is not very handsome, but there is something about him, that pulls her towards him.
But today is not the day, she tells herself. Someday perhaps, she promises herself, she will gather enough courage and go talk to him. As her self-debate ends so does the curve around the lake. She steals one last look at him and finds him buried in his notebook scribbling furiously. Enough, she scolds herself smiling, and picks up the pace again.
The newspaper stand is opening up and the early morning traffic has begun. Delivery boys are fumbling at the stand for their share. Milk trucks arriving in the city making stops at small shops. City buses are leaving the depots. The streets are getting busy, the city is awake. The weather has gotten a little warmer and she can feel the sweat soaking her clothes.
Today will be a good day she reminds herself again. Her phone reads 5.3 km-50 minutes. She’s happy that her stamina hasn’t dulled and she can still run ~6 km easily. Her favorite cafe is opening up, she waves at the owner as she passes by. He too waves back and shouts ‘coffee?’ She gives a thumbs up, smiling to herself. How predictable am I? She wonders.
She turns the last corner and enters the lane to her house. Some of the neighbor’s are up; some are still asleep. Just as she crosses the temple, she sees a silhouette come from behind her and jump. Before she has time to react she slips and falls on the ground and on her back there is a hairy Labrador.
She turns and starts cursing that damn dog but it doesn’t give her the chance to speak. The dog is licking her face, she missed her. She starts giggling and the dog is excited too. She hugs the golden coated beauty right there on the ground. Just as she’s about to get up, the lady from the next door starts laughing in her balcony, she’s holding her little daughter in her arms and they’re both laughing at her. She waves laughing along.
The neighbors daughter is beautiful and cute. She loves that little devil. Her morning is turning into a perfect one. She races the dog to her house and wins, just like always. The dog barks goodbye and goes back to its owner’s house.
She enters the parking and is fumbling with the keyhole. Just as she turns the key, she wakes up. She turns around to see where she is and finds herself sitting in the bus, traveling back from the office.
She curses under her breath. She fell asleep in her window seat. A dream she thought and what a vivid one at that. She is angry at herself for not having been on a run for so long.
She takes out her phone, sets 3 alarms for the next morning. She vows to herself to go for a run tomorrow no matter what. And as she is contemplating about tomorrow morning’s schedule she gets up from her seat and walks to the end of the bus where the nerdy guy with the notebook is sitting. She asks if she can sit with him and that she is cold with all the windows open up ahead. He is nervous at the sight of her. He just nods and she scoots in with him. He is shocked and fumbles on his seat, he is about to keep his little notebook inside his pocket when she snatches and reads the last few line he wrote:
“And the sun that morning, looked pale in comparison to her beauty.
I saw her ponytail swinging before I noticed her big beautiful eyes staring right at me.
Her skin, moistened from the sweat, was glowing.
She looked so hauntingly beautiful.
No woman has a right to look so devastating.
Before I could smile or react she broke her gaze and ran off amidst the trees, smiling ever so slightly leaving me breathless and wanting…”
His heart was beating so loudly it was almost audible, while hers stopped altogether. She handed him the notebook and neither of them said a word. They just looked straight ahead wondering what to do/say next. As if it wasn’t awkward enough they both started at the same time “Would you…” and laughter spread among them. She said “You go first”.
His voice was cracking but he managed to complete the sentence,
“Would you like to go for a run tomorrow morning?”
And in that moment she knew she had never been asked anything that would bring her so much joy. “Yes” she sighed and rested her head on his shoulders, dreaming of tomorrow…
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