“How was your run?”

Nupur Patel

In recent times, running has become a part of my daily routine. Through the unbearably long days of lockdown and all its humdrum, it has allowed me to break away from the confines of my dingy room. Who would have thought it? Me, the girl who buried her trainers in a pile of odd shoes and winter coats, finally putting one step in front of the other?!

It was that or face the heavy burden of my thoughts…

On the open road I launch myself into lines of trees and the peaceful echoes of birds’ greetings. It is escapism at its core. Mother Nature calls out and offers me a hand; I explore the nothingness, the luxury of being comfortable with the world around me: a quick wave to passing neighbours, the taste of salty sweat dripping down my face, the gentle humming of cars driving by. Every week is a new adventure and a promise to pause the crippling surges of anxiety, at least for a half an hour or so.

And yet, that one time. That one time the clouds came in. When the sun set and the wind began to roar, it happened again. It all returned, just when I thought I was getting better.

A different environment. A different time. But there I was, chased by the shadows of my past. Haunted by his figurations.

In my own home. A place I thought was safe. Booming stereos, laughter, dancing. In my own home. I can’t stop thinking about it… please let me stop thinking about it… 

At every corner, the storm rumbled on and my shoulders tightened. Every few seconds were a quick look back in fear, flinches at the sound of shivering willows, a desire to escape the dark shadows of hanging trees. In the fresh air, I was quickly suffocating. 

His hands sliding surreptitiously across my waist, I didn’t want this. I made it clear, why did he ignore me? Why did I freeze? Why did my body fail me?

Before I was conscious of it, I grabbed the keys and held them tightly in my fists. I made sure that the sharp edges were placed in the crevices. Just in case. My legs turned back and my pace mirrored thoughts racing and colliding. The beats of my heart never quite found their peace.

I thought I had found a way out of this. You’re never going to go away are you? Are you?

My podcast told me to slow down to a brisk walk, but I kept running. Pushing past the breathlessness, I couldn’t stop until his memory gave up and disappeared.  No cheerful waves on an eerily silent street; just lit lamps and parked cars.

Before my brain could catch up with my body, I entered the door.

‘How was your run?’

Will I ever be free? Will I always be a shell of my past self?

A long sigh. A few seconds to put on a convincing smile. ‘Yeah, fine.’