Sobbing, Eric continues to run. And he keeps on running. This is it he thinks, after making it past another mile or so. I can’t go on any further. I have to stop. His body is caving in, hunched over and ready to collapse. He wants nothing more than to sink down into the asphalt and let life trample over him. But he looks down at his feet and realizes that he’s still moving. Left, right, left, right, left, right. It’s all he can do just to put one foot in front of the other. Even then, he keeps his head up and his feet high, determined to keep on running.
The tears have been pouring down in waves, turning the road ahead into a complete blur. Everything seems to sway before him like the ocean. He’s not sure if he’s running or swimming. Whatever he’s doing, it’s not working anymore. Running used to be his therapy, his way of shunning the world so he could concentrate on the path in front of him. He never liked to talk about his feelings. He just wanted to run. The ground below never bothered to talk. It simply allowed him to stomp out his anger, his grief, his sorrow. This time, however, he feels something weighing him down, like an anchor that will never truly let him soar.
Yesterday, his wife came and handed him the divorce papers. She may not legally be his ex-wife just yet, but it sure felt like it. It didn’t surprise him to see the lawyer by her side. He expected as much. But nothing could prepare him for what was to come next. Sole custody of child, he read. No joint custody, or any mention of visitation rights. That’s because she planned on moving far, far away, to start a new family without him. How can I agree to that? Does she expect me to disappear from my daughter’s life? Eric recalls that it’s been weeks seen he last saw his daughter. Perhaps I already have. Eric ignores the possibility, driving his feet even deeper into the ground to try and outrun it. But after darting through countless lawns, streets, and blocks, he starts to realize that maybe he deserves what’s coming to him. After all, he was the one who neglected them. He thinks about how sad it is for him to realize how precious his family was to him, after having lost them.
He makes an unexpected turn, leading to an uphill road that stretches far beyond his reach. He embraces the challenge and starts to pick up speed. His legs are tightening, heart is pumping. His lungs are breathing in fire as his body courses with rage. Life seems to fall behind. All that matters is the road ahead, and the air brushing past him. He’s finally free, flying over the world and climbing higher and faster. He stumbles a bit as the road grows steeper. Unwavering, he thrusts himself forward once more, ignoring the fact that he’s slowing down. Life comes roaring back again. His legs give out under the pressure as he collapses onto the pavement.
The ground welcomes him with open arms, biting at him with a cold hatred. The pain itself is somehow familiar. He’s been living in agony for so long that it doesn’t seem to hurt anymore. To Eric, it’s oddly comforting. If I stay here long enough, will anyone bother to notice me? Will anyone even care? He turns himself over to face the sky, grey and overcast. Clouds loom up above as if hinting at the storm that’s soon to come. He smile bitterly, knowing full well that there’s nothing he can do to stop it.
Out in the distance, he hears someone crying. He looks around, but he sees nothing. Only a place covered in silence, and a world sinking into darkness. That’s when he realizes that it’s just him, alone, crying in the middle of the street. The silence is deafening, the darkness blinding. He starts to shiver from the cold now surrounding him, consuming him whole. Soon enough, his body ceases to feel anything and becomes numb with the pain, and the regret. He cries because his wife fell in love with someone else. He cries because she replaced him not just as a husband, but also as a father. He cries because he realizes he may never get to see his daughter again.
A light beams down on his forehead, warm and soothing. He looks up and sees the clouds, and the sun peering over them. Slowly, the sun traces a path along the edges of the clouds, transforming the sky into a symphony of light. Mouth open and eyes wide, Eric keeps staring at it until he sees something else entirely – a memory.
He’s running again, about to reach home. He’s only a few blocks away. He can make it. But the heaviness in his heart is weighing him down, halting his stride completely. Just up the road he sees a little girl on her bike, pedaling towards him. Mikayla? His eyes well up with joy. It’s been so long. Upon reaching him, she starts to circle round and round. Just keep running dad, she says. You’re almost there. You’ll make it home. I know you can. The memory fades, but the words linger in his chest, pulling him upward.
Rising to his feet, Eric takes one last look at the gathering storm. He has yet to see the worst of it, but he’ll make it through. Because Mikayla knows he can. He should too. Eric takes a step forward, followed by another. Followed by another. Slowly, he lifts his knees up and begins to find his stride, taking his time, getting into a rhythm. Determined, Eric continues to run. And he keeps on running.