Wednesday, May 17, 2006
photo by Jake Lukac
All morning, I've been looking for a quote about running from the novel that is currently keeping me up at night: Joanne Harris's GENTLEMEN AND PLAYERS. It's a suspense novel about a dangerous game of wits between an aging Latin teacher at a private school for boys, and a bitter young prole who is determined to get revenge against the place that has excluded and humiliated him.
But it also pits the sixty-five year old Roy Straitley against the most merciless adversary of all: old age and obsolescence. In the quote about running (which I couldn't find) Straitley observes that boys always run; he wonders when he stopped.
After I read the elusive passage a couple of nights ago, I dreamed of running all night. Not the kind of running adults most often do--dutiful for-your-health jogs through the neighborhood, or driven, never-enough-time scrambles. No, my dream running was the kind done by boys, as Straitley observed--and by girls, too. Pure exuberant movement, simply because you absolutely can't wait to get to the other side of the room or the other side of the field.
When I awakened in the morning, I immediately fingered a little white scar that I've had since I was four. I know it's impossible, but I swear I remember running up and down our narrow knotty-pined kitchen, running joyfully and repetitively simply because I was so happy to be inside my body, so happy to possess legs and breath and life. On the day I got the scar, I'd run so fast that my hand plunged through the front window, in a small but memorable explosion of glass and blood.
Like so much else, my scar is faded now so I painted it red so you could see it. Painted it red so I would remember Roy Straitley's questions: Wasn't it wonderful to run just for the sheer pleasure of it? And why did we ever stop?