jolie laide

jolie laide

I started this when I lived in Brooklyn and struggled for grace in a city that grants moments of beauty and ugliness breathtakingly close to one another. Now I live in a place where things are a different kind of ugly and the beauty is pedestrian. I struggle with that.


Brooklyn is on a terminal moraine. That’s the land mass formed when a retreating glacier leaves its dump of rocks and gravel at its furthest southern point, its terminus. And the grim fact of living on a terminal moraine, in a neighborhood with the word “hill” in it, is that I can’t avoid going up and downhill when I go for a run. Every run starts at the bottom of a long slow hill, and continual upgrade that lasts one mile.

So to keep my heart rate down for the first mile I go slowly, tiny steps, taking the incline one small bite at a time, chewing thoroughly, trying to keep the pace down to 6mph. My body tells me it was made for sprinting, for long jumping, for high jumping, and to go slow is something closely akin to torture. At this pace I don’t even pick up my arms, just let them dangle at my side as I noodle down the pavement, barely shifting one foot in front of the other.

But on the way back sometimes I play a game. It’s the Can You Get Home in 7 Minutes Game. This game means I am running the last mile home in something approaching 9mph, and if you have never tried this, well, you should. At 9 mph I am picking my feet up high, to make sure no upheaved concrete grabs me, no uneven stones cause a stumble. I am picking my feet up so high I am no longer running on pavement, I am running in the air, I am even with the tree canopy, if I stretch my hands out they will brush the winter dead branch ends on one side, on the other they will trail the brick top story of this rowhouse.

I am not stopping at the end of the block, I am flying through the intersections with a quick left right left look, neck arched for the fastest peripheral view I barely have time for. It’s reckless to stream through eight lanes of screaming traffic but I am no longer a body, I am a collection of electric points, I am a constellation of stars, I am the tiny bright pinpricks in the black velvet sky and part of me anticipates, even welcomes the idea that I could be hit with one of the huge pieces of metal hurtling down this street, for if I were I would truly fly, the impact of my body would star your windshield, I would be cracked open like a glorious constellation, the shine and glory I hold inside me would explode over this street like fireworks and I would be gone before I ever knew I had to come back to this earth, this asphalt, this terminus.


Blogger Dr. S said...

Brilliant, and beautiful.

But don't get hit. There are better ways to crack open and constellate. (I know you know this; the pedagogue in me feels the need to reiterate.)

1:44 AM  
Blogger ttractor said...

no, I won't be so reckless. But sometimes I feel so full, everything is so close to the surface, and running hard gives me such release, I wonder what it would be to push just a little more.

Thank you...and happy sabbatical!

7:52 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home