hello yesterday

‘Hello, old friend,’ I murmured as I stepped onto the track. ‘It’s been a year since I last saw you and it feels so good to be here again.’

The wind whistled all around me in reply as I entered my rhythm and began my run around the park. I always start off at the zero mark. I like to know how far I run and how fast I do it. It helps me get that sense of achievement when I cross the markers one by one.

At first, I imagined that after I resumed running again, I’d begin my post with ‘I nearly died today,’ but surprisingly, I managed to finish 3km before I slowed down to complete 5km, my target for tonight. ‘That’s not so bad,’ I thought to myself, as I began dancing a little in the quiet of the night.

The Gossip played in my ears while I watched the people that passed me by. I didn’t recognize a single one of them. The scenery too, had changed. Some of the beautiful trees were cut down, to make way for a new road and I missed that cloister of greenery.

Running around the park gave me flashbacks – the first upward hill where a friend knocked into me because a frog jumped into our path; the playground where I sat on the swings under the stars; the dark benches where I was accosted by a bunch of guys; the wall where the little girl jumped from; another bench near the end where I stood to sing…

‘How far I’ve come,’ I mused to myself.

Lightning began to flash across the sky as I walked the final round to cool down. It was a perfect ending to the perfect start.

*

‘Hello Nachan,’ a deep gravelly voice said to me over the crackling phone line.

‘Daddy?’ I asked. I was surprised.

‘Yes, how are you?’

‘I’m fine. Is everything ok? How are you?’ The last time I spoke to him, he told me about his heart attack and new venture to start a farm. He rarely called me and in a way, I wondered if something bad had happened.

‘Oh, things are good. I just wanted to tell you that I finally sold off my company so… there’s nothing left back home for me to return to.’ He said.

‘You mean… you sold off everything back here? There’s no reason to come back?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Unless it’s to visit you and Michan, of course,’ he chuckled.

My father. There are so many unsaid things, so many bridges to cross that sometimes, the silence is more comfortable. The less we talk, the less likely we are to begin an argument. I miss him though. I miss his cheeky jokes, his love and concern… I miss having a father I can run to.

The last comforting hug we shared was when I was 14. I had a terrible quarrel with a friend and he found me sobbing on my bed.

‘Nachan, are you okay?’ he came over to sit by my side. I didn’t reply.

‘You quarreled with your friend? You want to talk about it?’ he asked. I shook my head.

‘Okay,’ he replied. Then he reached over and held me in his arms while I cried. Our only hugs since then were to say goodbye. Over the years, I’ve gone through far more painful experiences but he was not there. He too, went through massive challenges in life but never once picked up the phone to call me. I wasn’t there for him either.

‘Let’s catch up for dinner soon,’ I said.

‘Sure,’ he replied. ‘Just let me know when.’

He hung up and as I replaced the phone in its cradle, I sat there for a while. Quiet.

My father. He used to be my hero but I don’t think I ever told him that.

*

‘The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye, the story of love is hello and goodbye… until we meet again.’

– Jimi Hendrix

We sat there talking over lunch – like we used to – Macho Man and I. Since my move, I’d only caught up with him twice and although I don’t often admit it, I missed his company. In a mad world, he was one of the few who seemed to have similar viewpoints as I did, although we wisely didn’t always share them.

Since I’d moved away though, it felt as though the laughter came more easily, our thoughts about our journeys more honest.

‘Next Thursday again?’ I asked.

‘Definitely,’ he answered.

*

Does saying goodbye make the hellos sweeter? And if so, do we need the distance to feel closer?

It’s a bittersweet thought.

running

Don’t mock me.

The weather has been terrible – hot, humid, druggy – and I just could not find it within myself to leave the house to exercise. I have a mat, two sets of dumbbells, an exercise ball, a stationary bike and a trampoline in my house. So weather aside, I knew my reason for not exercising was just an excuse. I was running away from having to start… running.

Feeling severely lethargic, I was tearing off pages from magazines to fill my scrapbook when I chanced upon a recommended website. ‘Rated as the best online tool for diet and fitness!’ it proclaimed. Well, no harm trying… I thought to myself.

I joined the program. Like I said, do not mock. I really need all the help I can get.

But if you see me doing weird leg lifts on my chair during lunch, jumping and stretching… be a little understanding. Cheer me on. I’m taking baby steps in preparation for my eventual step on the track again, the mountain in October and maybe, just maybe, a marathon in December.

I will run. Just not today.

*

Running has always been more than an exercise to me.

Years ago, it was a symbol of survival.

I was facing severe challenges in life then, and short of cutting myself, I knew I had to find an outlet for the raging turmoil. I laced up and hit the track. The struggle for breath and the dull ache in my legs were such a beautiful release, a tangible battle I preferred to the unsaid fights in my mind.

I began running at least four times every week. Sometimes, more.

With amazing clarity, I can still recall a particularly difficult night when I seriously considered giving up the fight. I was ready to run away. I need to think, I thought to myself…

I walked to the tracks and began the journey, all the while crying out to the skies, hoping for a release, trying to find an answer, when the running grew difficult. I was entering my fifth round (longer than I’d ever done) and I heard the words rise up in me, ‘It only takes one step. Put one foot ahead of the other. Ignore the elements, the pain, the struggle, it won’t kill you. Keep putting that one step ahead of the next and you’ll get through.’

And I did.

That night, I finished my first ten kilometers.

That night, I chose to be a survivor in life.

*

‘It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive – or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.’

– Haruki Murakami

I think I’ll hit the tracks tomorrow.

It’ll be good to meet my old friend and companion.