So now, in honor of both the Olympics and the release of my friend Lara Zielin's new novel, The Waiting Sky, here's a short story titled Marathon.
She can see the finish line. A gleaming strip of yellow, just like the tape the cops attached across her shattered front porch. But no words to mar the color this time. Just yellow, a bright band of yellow crossing her vision, getting closer with every step.
She concentrates on breathing. Slow. In. Out. Not fast, not anxious. Purposeful. Steady. Just like when she huddled in the corner of the apartment, watching, trying not to breathe, trying not to make a sound, trying to become invisible.
Closer. She can feel the sweat of the other runners, their moisture, the sound of their feet pounding the ground, even though she knows the closest is still hundreds of yards behind. She can sense their presence, just like she still feels the wind, so long ago yet still so close. So loud. Like a train. A rumble. A howl. The wind, the shattered glass, the birthday cake sliding onto the floor.
She shudders. Stumbles. Wipes the stinging sweat from her eyes. Concentrate on the yellow. Concentrate on the cake. On the door bursting open and the howling wind and the flying debris and then the stillness, the eerie silence, and later, so much later, the hands, so many hands, whisking her away and that last glance of her mother, still on the floor, forever on the floor.
She sees the tape, the yellow tape, but now it’s too high, it’s not right, and she recognizes the feel of the pavement on her legs, on her chest, and she looks up and she can’t move and she wills her legs to move but she remains, shivering, watching the tape and another pair of shoes rushing past and the fluttering ends of the tape and she closes her eyes and tries to forget.