The Run

Written by Sulaah Bien-Aime

I can’t recall when I started running. All I know is that there was a need for me to run until I couldn’t stop running. I can’t tell you why I started running. All I remember was hysteria, chaos and at that moment, I saw people running and I started running too. When I was far away from the hysteria and the chaos, I slowed down, but I kept walking towards a place where the hysteria and chaos no longer existed or so I thought. Large looming cities with their high rises and skyscrapers turned into barren plains and valleys. I met other people like myself on this journey to nowhere. We spoke of many things. We spoke of our past lives in that place we called home, but we never talked about where we were going. Why we were running and where we were heading.

It was strange, this lack of accountability. I was used to waking up every morning at the same time. I remember each day getting on the train at 8:05 to head to work. I remember grabbing a cup of coffee at the nearby deli before heading to my workplace at 8:50. My day would start at 9 am and end at 6 pm. Those were my days. In the evening, I would watch television; eat dinner spend a couple of hours on social media and now all that I knew had been interrupted. I was now on a path to nowhere with no clear direction. It felt free, yet scary, like the walls of a house disappearing leaving you exposed to the elements. It was like a revolving door, rewinding, fast-forwarding only to stop long enough to reset and start again from that same starting point. We were moving then like we are moving now, but it was in a circular motion, revolving and infinite. Now, we are moving towards the unknown in linear formation if we can call it that.

I stopped for a moment, took a break surveyed my surroundings. The distance seemed so far off. As I pondered my journey, I saw another man in the far-off distance. He waved at me. I waved back. He was dressed in clothes that resembled the simple lines of the valleys and plains. His gait was less hurried. He looked as if he had been walking or running for a long time and in this process, he found a system or rather solace on his journey. The stranger stopped before me. We looked at each other. We nodded. In my mind, I wanted to shake his hand. It was what I was conditioned to do, but his body language told me, the nod was sufficient. We fell in line together. We walked.

I can’t remember how many days or nights we walked silently together. All I know is that we kept walking straight towards this never-ending journey. The past was a distant memory and as each day passed, I couldn’t remember why I ran, and the more I slowed down, the more I questioned where I was, who I had become, where I was going. I looked over to the stranger beside me. I cleared my throat. He looked at me. It was a long deep stare. I cleared my throat. Was it an invitation?
“Hi. I’m Matt.” I said. He looked at me without slowing down his gait.
“Hi. I’m Steve.” I was hoping he would have added more to the conversation. We continued walking. Every so often I peered into the distance, looking at the place in the road where the roads almost meet, but you realize as you keep going it never really winds down to a dead end.
“Say, Steve. Whereabouts are you from?” Steve looked at me. He shrugged his shoulders as if to indicate he wasn’t sure. I nodded. “I’m from New York City.” Steve shrugged again. I nodded my head.
I thought about Steve and I thought about myself. We were two beings on a journey to nowhere. The only difference between Steve and I is that he seemed to know where he was going and I didn’t or maybe he didn’t know where he was going and he just didn’t care and was just walking when he had to, run when he needed to and stop to take a break when the time called for it. With Matt, he seemed at peace with his role and what he needed to do in the event he was called upon to do so.

The more I hung out with Steve or rather walked next to Steve, I became increasingly curious about the man who walked with such clear purpose and no purpose at all. I found myself at times matching his pace or rhythm in the hopes of seeing his whole face instead of his profile. I felt if maybe I could look at him man to man, face to face, I could understand what I was doing here in the middle of nowhere with a stranger on a long journey to nowhere.
As I walked beside Steve, I wanted to try to understand him. I thought perhaps if I understood him, this would give me a glimpse into where I was and where I was headed. Instead, I was walking aimlessly with no purpose, trying to understand how or why did I end up here. I cleared my throat. “Steve,” I croaked. I cleared my throat and again. “Steve. I need to understand where I am? And I think you have all the answers?” I thought he wasn’t going to answer me and then he said, “There are some questions, you need to ask yourself, Matt.” Steve remembered my name. I thought it was great. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. There was someone who shared a common link with me. Someone who could relate to me and I could relate to them. I felt a bond with Steve. I wondered if he felt the same. “You remembered my name,” I said. Steve nodded and smiled.
“Did it ever occur to you that maybe this journey that we are both on doesn’t exist? “ I was more confused than ever. Do you know how long it has been since both you and I have been walking or did you ever wonder how long I have been running only to stop running?” I thought about what he said and he made some valid points. Matt kept walking and I wanted to know more.
“Did you ever stop to think that this was for nothing?” “Did you ever stop to think, why you ran, why you are here?” I thought about what Steve said. I was confused. Steve smiled and this time he looked at me. This time we stopped to face each other. He pointed to me, “Ask yourself? Why are you here?” Steve started walking again. I fell behind. He had a good point.
As we walked, it seemed like the plains and the valleys turned into big buildings and skyscrapers. The streets were bustling with people scurrying to their jobs. Everyone was rushing. Everyone was in a rush to get somewhere. Nobody stopped to take a look at Steve or me. I stopped. I finally stopped and I took in the scene around me. I realized that at that moment that I was back home again.
It seemed like the very same reason I was running and that whatever the hysteria and chaos that I was running from had seemingly disappeared. I looked around taking in the scene of normalcy around me, Steve looked at me and smiled again. He nodded and started to leave. I yelled at him to come back and all he said to me was, “We are never in control Matt. We’re just puppets.” As he said this, I felt my senses assaulted with the sound of police sirens, people bustling past me, seeing me but not seeing me and I realized the run never stops.
I thought about Steve as his unrushed and unhurried frame became lost in the crowds. Somehow, I feel like he had mastered when to run when to walk when to talk and on our brief journey, I realized he was never rushed and I thought perhaps there was something that he had learned along the way that I had yet to master. Perhaps it was free will.

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