Monday, November 9, 2015

Hello, darkness, my old friend

Last night, I ran down the stairs without turning on the light and...missed the last step. The *pop* my ankle gave as it turned under was substantial enough I was concerned I'd broken myself. But no. Just a sprain. The swelling has dropped from grapefruit size to golf-ball size in the past 24 hours, but I'm still hobbling around at a slow-walk, cursing the dark and the stupid winter season it brings with it.

In an effort to shut myself up, here's something that I wrote a couple of years ago that's much more generous toward the darkness that comes with this time of year...

That winter, I started running at night, after the sun had gone down.

I liked it because it was easier to be alone that way, and running was an “alone time” activity for me. Yes, I lived alone, but in my apartment, there was my phone and the internet, not to mention the alluring distraction of television or iTunes, and people could get to me. On a run, I was liberated. And after years of feeling liberation in the early morning, I discovered something even more enticing awaiting me at night.

I couldn’t see as well in the dark (obviously) and that was what made it so nourishing. There was no temptation to read every street sign, or to look ahead to see how far I had until the next turn. When I couldn’t see everything that was ahead of me my runs were less cerebral.  I didn’t narrate to myself as I went or worry about offending someone walking a dog if I passed without offering a greeting. Personal interactions are different in the dark, at night. We know this from more intimate exchanges, but it’s true of fleeting encounters as well. In the daylight, there’s a pressure for vocalization that doesn’t always exist after the sun sets. If a runner passed me at night, I could feel that shared connection to humanity merely by silently recognizing the presence of another member of my species being in proximity to me. That same runner in the daylight needed a “hello” or “how are you?” and the forced smile that went with it; the connection was reduced to shared social etiquette.  

Liberation came easier when I wasn’t making eye contact with every driver who came barreling down the road I happened to be running on, too…but I stayed off busy roads anyway. Not just because even in reflective clothing and wearing a flashing arm band a night runner risks being hit by an oncoming car even more than a daytime runner.  

But because a busy road is a constant reminder that the darkness is only an illusion, and you’re not nearly as hidden as you hope you are.


  1. I was worried about you when I didn't see you yesterday. Gonna assume it was this. Since unlike me, you seem to actually not abuse your sick time.

    1. Ha, yes, I was essentially immobile yesterday, so I'll take today's limping as a huge improvement! (This is a total reversal of our usual roles, with me being the injured one and all... :))