I was on the phone. It was a winter afternoon, already too dark too early, with wind whistling at the sliding glass doors and the heater refusing to warm the corners of my apartment. I was standing in the kitchen in pyjamas, leaning against the counter as I relayed my latest fuck-ups and annoyances to a friend. Somehow I’d spent the morning reading and dicking around online and drinking coffee in bed, dirty laundry shoved off to the side. The laundry wasn’t just on the bed, either. It had spread like a parasitic growth, creeping across the floor and onto the dining room chair, taking over the bathroom rug. Dishes were stacked up. I needed a shower.
C’mon skinny love, just last the year
There’s a night in the back seat of a long, bloated car, your feet tangled in the skinny end of a sleeping bag, when you can’t move him from your mind. Cicadas chirp outside your cocoon, muted by the cold-pearled windows. Your logic sits in your throat, whispers up to your brain, Stop. He cared more about his reflection in other people’s eyes than your trust in his hands. But your mind is too cloudy with the late-night fog of memories, and all you can think of is him seated at the end of a torn couch, caring, caring. The two of you on the dewy front lawn, cigarette smoke floating above the taste of burnt coffee, a father chasing his renegade children down the sidewalk in front of you, and him turning to tell you, “I was one of those leash kids. I’d just take off running.” And you laugh until you are doubled over, because of course he was. He might be running his whole life.
Before, when you took off and walked down new, foreign streets, it was in defiance. Not that you knew it then, of course, but it was how you were going to prove your worth to yourself. Not anybody else, just you, which is somehow worse. Nerves crackling as you walked jagged sidewalks — I can learn this city, you would challenge yourself, I can crack its codes. This would signify a permanence you could take with you, despite the changing tides of your life, despite the uncertainties. It would carry you through.
Why do you want to run on your own? Let’s run together.
We first meet in early fall, hands in baggy hoodie pockets, sun glinting off free sunglasses advertising some real estate company. I like your laugh, your kindness humming in the background, your battery bunny energy. Your honesty as we sit at the top of a half-hill, half-mountain. My day has taken a turn, and the sunshine warms my bones.
The first time I ran a 10k, I was 16 and had recently completed the Couch-to-5K program. My mum and I had managed to run about 8k without stopping, so we made a last-minute decision to sign up for a 10k that weekend. I was excited — to wear a racing bib, to reach a new goal, to cross the finish line. Mum gave me a little side-eye and said, “Kenza, remember to pace yourself.”
We’d been running together for a while at that point, but the problem was, we never actually ran together. I had this horse-like instinct to remain in front of our two-person pack as we looped around Santo Domingo’s botanical gardens, so I ran slightly ahead of Mum, which kept my competitiveness in check for the most part. If someone came up from behind and passed me, it was fine — as long as they were fast enough that they quickly zipped out of eyesight. But if they were within reach, I couldn’t help it — breath ragged, I’d speed up with a singular goal of needing to pass them. It usually fucked up my run, scared strangers, and I’d end up walking the last kilometer or two.
When I first considered writing this blog post, I hesitated. The second and third time I considered it, I still hesitated. It’s not a funny post and it doesn’t really give you warm fuzzies. Actually, it’s a topic that tends to piss people off or make them feel like you’re including them in blanket statements. That’s not my intention. I’m talking about what I’ve experienced and what I’ve seen in the world. That’s it.
Here’s the thing: when talking to guys, I’ve realized a lot of them have no idea what it means, in practical terms, to be a girl in a still-somewhat-sexist world in 2015. Since they don’t experience the other end of it, they don’t know how a lot of seemingly harmless actions come across. So I thought I’d share my own experience in a couple of areas.
Put a well-worn record on and throw a handful of worlds in the air. A solar system of softly gleaming marbles, they hang suspended, memories rippling across their surfaces. With each lazy spin, the taste of the past — a strum, an ocean, a tug at the heartstrings, a second — glints like Saturn’s rings.
I gorge on songs. They enter my consciousness accidentally, through a friend’s recommendation or the well-timed switch of a radio in a car, and then I consume them greedily, seeds and skin and all. They stain my fingers, leave stripes of purple and raspberry red on my tongue. I play them on repeat, learn their dips and valleys, hear the clicks and spikes. And then as accidentally as a song spins into my world, it leaves it — shaken off out of annoyance when its first few stanzas start to grate, or discarded when a new chorus catches my attention.