Strong

Everything is quiet as I slip into the night.  Everyone who is home is sleeping.  The snow has stopped falling, but it still smells fresh.  Tire tracks lead from the driveway, but their outlines are fuzzy from the snow that fell after you left.  It’s cold out here, I can see that from my breath in the air, but I barely feel it.  My Saucony are laced on, snug around my feet, their wonderful lugs cutting through the ice that lays beneath the snow.  I know I should stretch, but I want to run; I want to fly through the empty streets, so my stretching hits only the high points.

One, two, three, four.  One, two, three, four.  Breaths to footsteps.  Up the street, careful to face whatever traffic there might be.  Breath easy, keep it loose.  Up the hill, shorter breaths, power through.  Let your glutes take it now, easy on the calves.  Almost there, then glide on the even terrain.  There are no flowers out now, just snowy branches.  The clouds still cover the stars, but the moon shines through.

Out here it is just me, my legs, my body, my strength.  Every hill makes me stronger, every stride gets me closer to where I need to be.  I let the anger wash over me, and work it out in my cadence.  That smugness, that knowing look, I see him in my mind and feel anger instead of fear.  He thinks he can take what I don’t give.

I hear the growl of a V-8 coming around a corner.  The headlights sweep past, and a voice calls out, “Work it, girl!”  My anger grows.  I run faster, stronger through the night.  Down a hill, careful not to slide.  This is where you slow it down a bit, not for a break, but to save your knees.  Time vs distance remains relatively constant, but turnover can slow. 

Turn onto the street where the azaleas are covered in snow and there are no streetlamps.  In a movie, this would be the spooky part, but in real life, it’s the busy streets that are scary.  This is a good, smooth street, no potholes, not much of a crown to the road.  One, two, three, four, breaths to steps, breaths to steps.  Up the hill, sidewalk now.  The concrete is rough here, giving good traction, but I know that concrete gives less than asphalt.  Cars prowl this street, even in the dark, even in the snow, so stepping off the sidewalk is not an option.

One, two, three, four, breaths to steps, take a long breath this time.  My muscles are beginning to ache, sweat coats my skin.  One two three four, one two three four.  Keep it going.  Go another round.  I am strong, I can do it. 

The clock at the bank says 1:17.  Your car slides by, but I don’t think you see me.  Another round is too much, but the timing is wrong.  Can I climb up the tree or will I get caught?  Keep going, keep going, around the long block.  One two three four, one two three four.  Your car is still in the driveway.  I need to sleep, but lights are on and my parents are awake now.  Up the tree, onto the icy roof, the window slides up and I am in my room again when I hear footsteps on the stairs.  Shoes off, blanket on.  Nobody stops to check on me.

I am alone, but I am strong.

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