I decided to run outside. It was the lunch hour of a summer weekday. I grabbed my gym bag and left the office.
The sky was as blue as a Smurf, or maybe the color of Cinderella’s ball gown. The only imperfections were the white trails of a passing plane, like the thread of a needle passing through the atmosphere to patch a tear. It was a sky to turn your face up towards, eyes closed at the bright sun, lungs ready for a deep inhale.
There was a light breeze. As I walked to my car, I could hear the leaves brushing against each other. My keys clinked in my hand. I was not listening to waves crashing, a wind chime tinkling in the background. But I was close.
I changed at the gym. I laced my sneakers tight, tied my pony tail tight. I slid my sunglasses onto my nose and behind my ears. I opted against earbuds and music.
I pushed past the glass doors, into the early afternoon. I stretched. I started running.
My feet set an early rhythm that my breath worked to match. The black pavement bounced the heat from above back up, where it was trapped by my face. It did not take very long for me to go from warm to hot.
The houses I ran by were quiet. Empty driveways, empty yards, empty porches. Lawns so lushly green they beckoned like invitations to any or all of the five senses.
I saw one woman watering the plants that edged her front lawn. She looked tired. The green plastic watering can she lugged beside her looked ready to fall from her grip.
I took a right that I had not planned on taking. The sign at the top of the road was carved into a large wooden rectangle. It said that the road would take me to a park. I decided that was my destination.
The road was hilly, and the shoulder was narrow. It was not a busy road, but when a car approached me, I had to run in the dirt. My legs brushed against tall grass that tickled. I wondered about ticks.
I watched the license plates. Most seemed to be from Maine. I was surprised. It seemed like the type of road that would attract tourists in the summer.
The trees gave intermittent shade. When I left their canopy and re-entered direct sunlight, the cicadas seemed to increase their volume. Perhaps they were telling me to run faster into the next shadow.
I passed a lot with a “for sale” sign at the edge. The sign advertised water access. I still could not see the water.
I ran up and down another hill, turned several corners. A house was under construction, the frame nearly done. Through the outlines of the living room, I spotted it.
I came upon a trailer park. The trailer closest to the road, with the nearest water views, had hung a hammock. I could not tell whether one side was pegged to a tree or to a shed that had lived many lives.
I entered the park. An RV driver was registering at the office. The road turned to gravel and then quickly to packed sand. I smelled sunscreen.
A thin strip of beach appeared to my right. A woman stood with her hands on her hips, a messy bun at the nape of her neck. The young children she was watching had wet hair. I could tell, even though I was behind them, that their mouths were wide open and smiling.
I crossed the parking lot and arrived at a large playground. Around its edge sat dark brown picnic tables hosting lunch. Now I smelled hamburgers.
A sailboat passed. A swing creaked. A screen door slammed.
I followed the path out of the park, wound around corners and heaved up hills from the other direction. My legs felt heavy, and my breath was shallow. I stopped and felt my face beating red, my freckles popping from my skin. I drank a bottle of cold water, changed, and returned to my desk.
I was done running for the day.