BY CHRISTOPHER CHAE
I’m always running. I’ve always been running. Sometimes, I think it’s the only thing my body knows how to do correctly.
With the kiss of gunpowder in the air, I’m off. Step by step, one leg in front of the other my naked feet push themselves off the ground.
I’m racing against competitors that have no names. Some of them pass by me, some of them struggle behind. But I pay them no attention, the only thing that matters to me is that each footstep is in front of the last.
The crowd watches from the sidelines. They cheer, they boo, they scream, they gasp. I hear nothing. The sound of my footsteps on the pavement deafens me.
My legs move faster. Each knee higher, the legs itching, dreaming to be longer than they actually are. My lungs cry out, my muscles scream in pain, but I stomp their desperate pleads to stop into my footsteps. I pass people, I pass objects, I pass myself. I’m in second place. I see the last competitor in front of me. I see it. I see victory, I beg my body to go forward, but I miscalculate. My leg cramps up, and I fall.
The black of the ground slaps my face as I eat the crumbs of pavement. My leg bloodied, face smeared, I lay on the ground broken. The crowd stops, the runners pass me. I fall behind further and further as my body attempts to reboot itself.
The crowd starts to lose interest in me as they watch the runners in the front. They think I’ve given up. But a fall won’t stop me. Nothing will stop me. I get up. I pick up my legs, sprawled out, I pick up my body, bruised and bloodied, I pick up myself, hope and all.
I keep running. I’m in last place, but I’m running. I finish in last place, but I finished running. I’m not a loser. People congratulate each other around me, others lash out in frustration. I hear what they say. They ask each other why did the runner who fell keep running instead of giving up. To them, I don’t answer, but I know why. It’s not because I wasn’t in pain, I was. It’s not because I wanted to run, I didn’t. It’s because it’s the only thing I know how to. So I run. I ran then, and I run now. It’s the only thing my body knows how to do.