Extract from: The Running Dream
16-year-old runner Jessica lost her right leg in an accident. She tries to run again with a prosthetic limb.
The air is cool and moist from a light fog - perfect running weather. I breathe in deeply and close my eyes. Something in my mind doesn't know I can't run. Something inside me believes I can just take off.
Sherlock puts down the Frisbee and looks up at me. He's holding his breath. Hoping.
I pick up the Frisbee and say, "Heel."
He falls into place on my left side as we go down our walkway, but he's keyed up, waiting for something big to happen.
When I get to the sidewalk, I turn left instead of our usual right.
I sense his confusion.
"Fetch!" I tell him, and toss the Frisbee a straigth, controlled distance down the sidewalk.
He tears off after it, and while he's gone, I take a few jogging steps. […]
Through the misty air I hear my name.
It's soft, drifting toward me from the left.
I turn, and it's like I'm thrown into a dream. There's a mermaid fountain in the middle of the yard and, beyond it, a girl sitting on the porch, wrapped in a white blanket.
"Rosa?" I ask.
"Jessica!" she says again.
It takes me a moment to understand that I'm not dreaming. When I do, I clap twice, bringing Sherlock running back to me, and we both head up the walkway. There's a ramp up the side of the porch steps, just like there still is on ours.
"I can't believe you're up so early," I say with a laugh.
"Look who's talking," she says back.
"But … why are you out here?"
"I love mornings," she says. "They're so peaceful." She's got her eye on Sherlock. "He's gorgeous!"
"Sherlock, this is Rosa," I say, making the official introduction. "Say hi."
"Aaarooo!" Sherlock says, wagging his tail.
Rosa reaches out tentatively to pet him.
"He's very friendly," I say, sitting on a bench that's near her wheelchair. "Don't worry." Soon she's hugging Sherlock around his neck, giggling from being slobbered with doggie kisses.
"You were taking him for a walk?" she asks when Sherlock's settled down a little. […]
Then she says, "Tell me about running. Why do you like it?"
No one has ever asked me this so directly before. Either people like running or they don't. Either people get it or they don't. And if they don't, they just think people who like it are crazy.
Which is okay.
That makes us even.
But now I have to explain why I like it, and I'm not sure where to start.
"Uh … running, or racing?"
She thinks, then says, "Running. Like this morning."
"Hm." I try to put my finger on it. "Because it feels like freedom?"
She nods thoughtfully.
"And your mind travels places where it doesn't normally go. …"
"Like dreaming in real time?" I laugh. "Never mind. It sounds crazy."
She laughs too, so I say the next thing that pops into my mind. "I love the morning air on my face - it's one of the best things about running. The rest of your body's warm, but your face is cool." I laugh again. "I totally get why dogs like to stick their head out of car windows.
Running's like that but with fewer bugs in your teeth."
She laughs again, then sighs and says, "I wish I could feel that."
"What?" I kid her. "Your mom won't let you stick your head out of the window while she's driving? What kind of mom do you have?"
"A good one!" Then she says, "Now racing."
"Huh? Oh- what do I like about racing?"
She nods, so I give that some thought and finally tell her, "It's electric. From stepping into your lane until you cross the finish line … every cell of your body is charged."
"Going over the finish line must be wonderful."
I laugh. "Especially if you're the first one there."
"But … it means you finished. You made it. Even if you don't get a medal."
I look at her. "You're very philosophical about the finish line."
She gives a thoughtful nod. "It's symbolic." I nod too, because I'm sure I know what she means, but then she adds, "Because it's also the starting line."
For some reason this thought startles me. And I think about all the races where this is true - the
400, the 800, the 1500, all the relays - and it shocks me that I have never looked at it this way.
Maybe because of staggered starts.
Maybe because starting feels so different from finishing.
At the starting line you're amped, set, coiled. At the finish line you're completely spent.
So the thought that they're the same line gives me a very strange feeling.
A sort of uncomfortable
Like discovering someone very close to you has been leading a secret double life. Van Draanen, Wendelin: The Running Dream. New York: Random House 2011, p. 210 - 214.