“So, it’s a story about love?”
“No. It’s a story about running.”
“Oh. Tell it again. I must not have been listening.”
“Way back when your mom and I used to share an apartment, I used to go running. I went nearly every day. And nearly every day, I would ask your mom to come along with me. She’d tell me, time and again, that she wouldn’t be able to keep up with me. She’d say she’d be holding me back. I’d tell her she could set the pace, but still, she refused.
“One morning as she was putting on a pot of coffee, I asked her to join. Temperatures were cooling off. Autumn was near. I knew how she liked the scent of the leaves laying on the grass. She thought it smelled like cinnamon sticks. We’d not run outside since we were kids.
“I put my hand on her shoulder while she started pouring herself a cup and I was about to tell her all of the reasons why she couldn’t refuse this time. She whisked herself out from under my touch faster than I’d ever seen her move, shrieking at me, ‘enough! Enough with the bloody jogging! I won’t go with you, David, ever. I’ll hold you back. Stop asking me.’ I put my hands up in surrender and left without uttering another syllable.
“I ran longer than usual that morning, avoiding my return home and whatever hostility awaited. She was still at college then and went to class in the afternoons, so I wandered the streets until I knew she’d left. My sweats were dark with chilled perspiration by the time I thought it safe to head back. When I got there, I found a note pinned under her empty mug.
What is it you are running from?’
“I sat on the kitchen floor, a glass of water in one hand and coffee-stained slip in the other, and fell into thought.
“She didn’t get in until after supper. She laid down her books and turned to me as she hung up her jacket. ‘Well then?’ she said. I’ll never forget her face, cheeks rosy from the wind.
“I looked at her and said what I’d rehearsed. I wasn’t running from anything, I said, but just don’t know what I was running toward. I found a purpose in being tested to go a bit further each time. It kept me focused, the forced awareness of my breaths. ‘Even if the destination always matches the point of departure, I’m going to keep it up. Even if it’s absurd, I’ll keep it up. All I want is someone to laugh at the absurdity with.’
“Will you believe what happened? The very next morning, my sister—well, your mother—and I went out for a jog. You see then? It’s a story about running.”
“No,” Uncle David, “it’s a story about love.”