“So, it’s a story about love?”
“No. It’s a story about running.”
“Oh. I missed that. Tell it again. I must not have been listening.”
“Way back when your mom and I used to share a flat, 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 time again, that she wouldn’t be able to keep up with me. She’d say she’d be holding me back. I’d tell she would set the pace, but always refused to come out with me.
“One morning as she was putting on a kettle, I said why not join me today. 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 stopped the whistling and started pouring her tea and I began to tell her all of these 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 the flat without uttering another syllable.
“I ran longer than usual that morning, avoiding my return home and whatever hostility awaited. She was still at university and went to class in the afternoons, so I wondered the streets until I knew it’d be empty. My sweats were dark with chilled perspiration by the time I thought it safe to head back to the flat. 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 tea-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, rosy from the crisp wind.
“I looked her and said I wasn’t running from anything, but I didn’t know just what I was running toward. I found a purpose in being tested. It kept me focused, 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,’ I told her. ‘No one need keep up with me. 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 for a jog. See? It’s a story about running.”
“No. It’s a story about love.”