This weekend has turned out to be an important one because I went to get my teeth checked. I have spent half my life in a dentist’s chair. This time though I had a beautiful smile not just thanks to my uncle but also because I rediscovered a lost part of my identity. Maybe all these days I had issues with my smile not because my teeth weren’t at their best but simply because I wasn’t happy enough.
I was eleven when I made my first visit to the dentist’s since then there’s been no looking back, I’ve had it all, the braces, the discomfort, the retainers, extractions and you’ll be surprised, I am still not done. While I lucked out in a lot of areas of my life, my teeth have posed a huge barrier to my progress in my life. Sometimes it’s a broken tooth, a tooth growing where it shouldn’t be, multiple extractions and so on.
The teeth though gave me an excuse to spend time with my family, outside of the three people I see on a daily basis- my grandparents, cousin, aunt and uncle. I rarely stay over and spend time at their place because I was in another state for quite a while and then I was outside the country. I think every time I come back and my cousin remembers every detail I have ever told him, it gets reaffirmed that I am not forgotten and I think that’s what I am always nervous about.
Yesterday I went to the track, with my cousin and aunt to work out. It’s been one and a half years since I was on a track standing at the starting line and clocking my time as I ran. I began running before I could talk. My Mum says that’s all I loved doing as a kid and that stuck with me until I was an adult. As I grew up the distance I ran increased. I wouldn’t say I am the fastest or anything of that sort, but I know that I can run six kilometres with ease and can make good time.
I have run on roads, in city traffic, in parks, in rain, in the cold and in sweltering heat, and surprisingly after the first snow too. But it’s on the track where I feel the most alive, and I like it most in the early morning or just before the sunset. I’m a shy person I feel conscious running on streets or working out with people, I don’t work out to show off and I like to do it in the quiet of my mind and always go to places or gyms with fewer people.
On the track though, I become a different person, there isn’t a shred of a thought about anybody else or me. Before I know it, I’d have clocked a distance I didn’t expect, because my thoughts suddenly disappear, there’s nothing on my mind, just my breath and me and my feet that seem less like mine and more like someone else’s. I have trained as a long-distance runner and have trained as a sprinter too, each one demanding different requirements of the body.
Yesterday I returned alive and when I was just about to sleep I could still recall the track. The feeling doesn’t leave you. The body never forgets. I came to get my teeth fixed, I think I fixed my soul instead. I am jealous of kids, who can run without ever feeling any sort of pressure, whose bodies will adjust to whatever they do while us adults are forced to accept our limits. I want to tell my cousin, that he should run as fast as he can before he doesn’t have the time left to run when he grows up.
When I was a kid I wanted to run out of reach of all that scared me, I’ve spent my life running away from what I didn’t want to confront. Running made me feel like I could never be caught, maybe if I ran fast enough I’d be able to escape the fear of the past and the present. Yesterday, something shifted inside me, I found myself running away from the future, all my life I’ve been in a hurry to grow up, but not anymore. Who knows what will stop me from running tomorrow?
For now, my legs are able to carry me and the track complies with my feet. For now, my lungs are able to keep up with my breath and my heart beats in tune to my step. Tomorrow when time steals my willpower and my muscles retire from their youth I might be that person sitting by the track telling whoever who’ll listen about my days as a person who loved running, somebody who raced against time only to be the one left behind.