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How To Run At Night

Location: Suburbs

Time: Sunday, 11 p.m.

Walk down your driveway with the intent of observation. You are sober. You chose a nighttime activity that sharpens your mind rather than erases it. Don’t recede from the world. Watch as it recedes into you. Swing your arms as it funnels into your ears. Pull tight your legs as it attaches — clings — to your skin. The rain is light enough to fuse with the air you breathe. It approaches you in particles. The sky above is as solid as the ground below. No rind of moon. No spray of stars. The sky opaque and rouged, as if blushing in the dark. The street opaque and streaked with enough light to keep you guessing. Leap from the driveway and land on your right foot. Ensure that your right foot is also in the process of springing as it lands on solid ground. Don’t use either leg as a crutch. Run toward the first street lamp’s beacon of sodium. The air is a briny mist. Run away from the house and its seventeen chairs, three sofas, bar stools. You are a body. You contain rivers and streams and creeks and eddies of blood that stay their course. You contain muscles that implore you not to use them. Muscles that approach your brain and beg him not to force them into action. After all, he is one of them. Where is your sense of solidarity, Brother? Move them against their will, and your muscles will remember their purpose. They are no longer in contrivance against your brain. They lose themselves in unity. They are the impetus that propels the blood’s current back upstream when it has already trickled down. All the world’s freshwater systems flow inside of you. Do not be self-conscious. No one watches you. Allow your legs to stride without predicting the stride beforehand or analyzing the symmetry of the stride afterward. Your brain is too busy playing puppet master to your nervous system to resort to common neuroses. Allow your brain to wander to the glorified past, the unlikely future, the comfortable present. Remember your intent of observation. You see your shadow disappear completely in patches of darkest asphalt, only to reassert itself spectrally in others. This is the closest you’ve ever felt to it. Amidst the darkness there is you and there are houses. Your shadow projects from you. The occasional square of yellow light projects from houses. The light comes from second stories. These are the second stories of the suburbs, the sleeping quarters. Through rectangular portholes you may glimpse other rectangles being glimpsed by people inside the houses. On some screens you notice the personalities of FOX News, on others the talking heads of MSNBC. Their pedagogical voices are muted to you, the night runner, just as your pedestrian footsteps are muted to the civilians inside their homes, just as their recurrent sighs are muted to the famous TV personalities. Small animals who scurry across the road are more aware of your presence than you are. You are once again attuned to the rain. Each drop pricks your skin like soft needlepoint. The sensation allows you to individuate your muscles, noticing which ones are sore, which are inactive, which muscles are overachieving and which are phoning it in. You remember a segment from NPR, in which a professional runner stated that the one thing he loved most about running was the way the body breaks down, the way it works itself into collapse, forcing the body to endow itself with new life from the scraps. You approach a hill now. The angle of incline is difficult to determine in the dark. Your body will react accordingly.

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