For the past 5 years, I have ran or walked 3 miles nearly every morning at 6am.
It is the same 3 miles. The exact same route. This is just one of the ways my OCD rears it’s head. I used to apologize for it but when you do the same things, the same way, at the same time every day, you begin to notice that others do too. They just don’t publicize it.
I try to get out my door at exactly 6:01am so I can run into the ladies across the street as they leave to catch the bus for work. It is some sort of Women’s Home, owned by the church down the street. The house mother, Sister Lanie sees the rest of the women off from the top of the stairs. “Have a blessed day! I love you!” she calls out. Sometimes it’s still dark as the women leave. I always hope I’ve timed it perfectly so that she will notice me too. She does and calls out “Hullooo Sister Shemaiah! How are those precious boys of yours?” Sister Lanie exudes love. I know if the shit ever hit the fan in my house, any one of us could run to her house and she’d have our back. I am grateful for any morning word she bestows on me. It is a benediction for the rest of my day.
I round the corner to pass through the park. Mr Wei, my elderly neighbor is already there in his bright yellow cotton pants. He wears these every morning as he does his morning exercises which include jogging up and down the block and hanging from the monkey bars. We’ve lived across the street from each other for 8 years. Since I do not speak Chinese and he does not speak English, we simply exchange good mornings and smiles.
I turn the corner, this block is gratuitous. I take it and back track onto the main street so that in months when the sun is up at 6am, I can see Mount Rainier from this vantage point. It’s covered in darkness and clouds this morning but I don’t mind. Just knowing it is there is comforting to me.
I switch on the music in my headphones and think about what it will be like when I am older. I hope I am able to continue exercising in some way. My family history predicts that I will suffer from Alzheimer's. Will my body have muscle memory? Will it remember this path since I take it every morning? Studies show I should train my muscles to practice some other sort of exercise, like tai chi or yoga. Something that will stay intact in my muscle memory when my mental memory fails. Right now, my middle aged body feels tighter, stronger as I move faster when a Shakira song starts in my ears. I pretend my body is like hers.
A mile in is the steepest hill. In the winter months it is nearly impossible to do in the morning, slick with ice. Heck, it’s hard to do any morning. It’s where you feel that extra glass of wine or dessert you had the night before. Sometimes I walk it, but I always feel like a rock star when I run it. I know after this the rest of the route is cake.
I reach the top, seeing the house where once when I ran at night instead of the morning and came across a group of men playing craps under the streetlamp. I remember I nearly laughed aloud for it was like something out of a movie.
I turn up a street to double back. There are hardly any cars on the street but each morning a lady stands out in the street, ready to stop traffic, as she guides her husband and his car out of the driveway. Her movements are as stiff as a traffic cop. A few houses down lives my son’s 1st grade teacher. I look up to see if I can catch her looking out the window. She often tells me later in the day if she saw me running.
A block down is the French writer on his porch. I have NO IDEA if he’s French or if he is writing but I see him each morning out there with his huge journal and teal French press. I imagine he is writing , although he might be sketching. I have walked by his porch at other times of the day and noticed that he trustingly keeps his journal under the chair on the porch. It reads “HOLY SHIT” on the binder. I have never spoken to him. I only imagine that he is French because he has long curly hair which he wears back in a ponytail and he smokes. I’ve decided I don’t like him. Mainly because if he’s writing, he’s doing what I want to be doing...but am not. I told a friend this and she imagined that every morning, he sees me running and says, “I wish I could run but I have to write.”
The house a few doors down has confused me. Each morning it either smells like a skunk was attacked in their yard or weed. Well bad weed, to smell so much like skunk. It’s not far from a forest trail so the skunk story isn’t too far fetched. I guess I just didn’t want to believe that someone would really smoke that much weed...at 6:20 in the morning. Every morning I go back and forth between the two explanations until one morning I see it, on the top of one of the windows, foil covering the windows inside has peeled back to reveal grow lights. The whole house is full of weed. DUH! I think to myself but then I cut myself some slack, it’s early, I am always half asleep while running.
I could run to the north of my house, instead of the south. The neighborhood is nicer. The hills less severe. Yet, I feel like there would be nothing interesting to see if I ran that route. I’d miss the people on this route, the mismatch couple I see running together each morning, the HR manager at my husband’s firm waiting for the bus, the dapper older black gentleman who makes my day if he says hello to me on his way to work. I’d wonder about all of them.
As I round the corner for the last few blocks before my house, I see a woman parked in an old Ford Truck. She has the ignition idling and keeps looking around anxiously. I have not seen her around and I know she doesn’t live in the house she is parked in front of. I’m a little wary, keeping my eye on her and my surroundings as I pass. A few houses down, I hear a door close quietly and notice a woman creeping out of the apartment building, balancing two bags and a baby. She makes her way to the truck, looking behind her every few steps. I may have an active imagination but to me it looks like a woman leaving an abusive relationship. I slow down, as if I’m covering her, should she need the backup. She climbs into the truck and the driver drives off. I send up a little prayer of protection and strength and then of gratitude as I turn the corner to see my kitchen light on, the shadow of my husband making pancakes shaped like Star Wars Tie Fighters for our boys.