Years ago, at the end of every run, I wouldn’t be able to feel my legs and I would piss myself. This went on for a few months. I told my dad about it and he seemed unbothered, so I adopted the same attitude. I thought, I guess this just happens when you push yourself too hard. This didn’t stop me from running, but eventually the pissing did stop. Now I think any mysteries of the body are eventually quelled with running.
The mechanics are simple enough—a series of smaller joint movements make up a larger movement. This is the kinetic chain in action. I think about how when we move in space our bodies share our secrets with anyone willing to look long enough—the laboured breathing, the reddening of a face, the opening of a stride, the slight limbering of muscles, the sudden tensing, the deep release. These are simple narrative images that hold my attention. This is the act of running as an intimate performance.
I think, How is this a social phenomenon? How is this something we do in public? How do we show people what’s going through our head so plainly? The next time I go for a run, I do all I can to shorten my strides, to hide my face. I’m terrified of what someone’s going to see.
The only other person I used to run with was my dad. These runs were paced slower than my usual ones, but much steadier, sort of like a flat shuffle. We wouldn’t speak, just tread beside
one another. Our route was usually the same: down Durham, up Central, cut over to Plainfield, down Morris, down Grove. If I wanted to stretch our time, I would ask for the longer route, past Middlesex and onto Woodbridge. This would give us at least another thirty minutes.
Being that close to him for that long was unnerving. It’s some- thing I never got used to. At the start of every run, our eyes would dart around one another, a worry creeping in. My strides were forced and erratic, as if my body was being asked to perform the most unnatural thing. Eventually though, about halfway through, it all began to ease and then melt—the run quickly turning liquid. Our limbs would lengthen, our pace was almost perfect, and everything began to make sense. This was it! This is where all communication dies! Right here! In the middle of a run! I think, I can do this! I think, I can really do this!
The first mistake is to look over at your running partner without warning. You have to let people experience the world alone. You have to ask to be let in. If you look too soon, you’ll see some- thing you wish you hadn’t. But I didn’t know this, so I looked. One single tear had made its way down the right side of his face, trailing down to the corner of his mouth. He could lick it away if he wanted to. I couldn’t help but stare—it was surreal. Thinking about it now, I tell myself it could have been sweat or snot.
The first mistake is to look over at your running partner without warning. You have to let people experience the world alone. You have to ask to be let in. If you look too soon, you’ll see some- thing you wish you hadn’t. But he didn’t know this, so he looked, and I say, Lately I’ve been reading about the science of crying. I’m crying a lot these days. Did you know that the film of tears on the eye is a com- plex system, consisting of three layers, and the specific composition of tears may depend on where you have been in the world that day. And yes, sim- ple enough: tears are a way to keep the eye moist, but they’re also a way to be seen. One thought is that the higher protein content makes emotional tears more viscous, so they stick to the skin more strongly and run down the face more slowly, and the production of these tears outpace their drainage, so the excess just spills from the lower eyelids.
An ‘I’ walking straight down the face of it. And as you grow older, the acoustic aspect, the howling and moaning and wracking of the body becomes less important, even if these salt ions are magnetic. This is the beauty of crying though, you become quieter and quieter the older you get until you can really weep heavily in the library or any smaller space, like a wake, or an exam room, a closet, or the back- seat of a car.
We finish the run. We look each other in the eye and now I’m scared I might start to tear up. I turn my head quickly. We quietly untie our shoes together by the front door. If he ever saw this, he never mentioned it. Later that night, I read online that Charles Darwin believed monkeys and elephants wept. I search for videos to see if this is actually true. Touching Footage of Elephant Cry to Dead Best Friend. Mother elephant cries for her baby! The Depths of Animal Grief (A List). I wonder what my dad would think if he saw these videos. Would he say, If I were an elephant then maybe I would cry for the lack of our elephant father/daughter relationship. Would he say, I am the emotional tears in that long list of animal grief.
This morning I go for a run after a few days of crying. I think, If I were somewhere hotter, some part of me would slowly evaporate under that heat and I would be a body made of no tears. Some part of me thinks this would be easier.