“Gentlemen! Be gentlemen — and pee in the bushes! Let the ladies use the bathrooms.”
Oh, so that’s how I get to start my day: On the other side of the gate on 36th and JFK, in the midst of a foggy park that, despite this early hour, is already overwhelmed with humanity? Okay!
In the endless line to the portable bathrooms, my fellow marathon runners are in all shades and sizes. Many have just stepped off Michelangelo’s podiums. Others — are more modest, in size or definition. But all — are quite beautiful, and very, very human.
I slide in somewhere in the middle: I’m an a’right-lookin’ shawty myself, with a newly perfected ass, recently acquired from all my running and the running away; and that ass is significant enough to snap one of the drugged-out wanderers of this City into alertness.
(You think I am in love with myself? Oh, you bet yo’ ass I am! You bet your own magnificent ass — with which I am likely to fall in love, even if just for a second, as I watch you pass my life and never be inconsequential. And yes, I’m in love with myself — in YOUR likeness.)
“Damn! Look at that ass!” the tripping-out wanderer hollers after me, in a blip moment of sobriety from his stupor.
“Please, do!” I think. (Yes, I’m in love — with myself!)
And so, I slide in, somewhere in the middle, in between a stocky Filipino cutie loaded with some fancy running equipment (me: I travel light) and a handsome gray-haired player who in a few minutes would indeed be “a gentleman — and pee in the bushes”.
The man in charge of regulating us looks like an aging, forever inspiring school teacher I have never had in own my life; but heard so many of my comrades mention, in theirs. Let’s call him Mr. Chips, shall we?
And so, Mr. Chips carries on with his routine:
“Gentlemen! Unless you need toilet paper… You know what I mean?”
We laugh. My fellow runners are at ease, with the task ahead and apparently with the very task of living. It must be this City: It has taught them that — how to live well, and with a sense of humor.
At the bathrooms, the Japanese kiddo directing the line (now mostly consisting of women) does not take his job seriously either.
“This one is now open,” a fellow female runner points out when he turns to us, now basking amidst all these ladies, in different shades and sizes.
“Don’t know whatcha talkin’ about,” the kiddo delivers with a well-practiced deadpan. “And I didn’t see YOU — skipping the line and sneaking past me to use this one bathroom, NOW OPEN!”
We laugh again, and it suddenly becomes a bit of a free-for-all: The women start slithering under the tape while exposing their magnificent asses to the rest of us.
Mr. Chips greets us again, at the starting line:
“At the end of this thing,” he hollers through a megaphone, “we’re gonna hang the shuttle bus driver that made some of you late today.”
We laugh. We yelp. We are impatient and content with the task ahead. (Yes, it CAN be both ways. Just run a marathon — and you’ll find out.) And we all must’ve learned something about living by now, because this — this very moment! — is about how to do your living well.
There is no whistle that goes off; not any sort of fake gun shot to launch us: On a gentle count by Mr. Chips, we all…
I notice that no one dashes ahead, propelled by their ego juices. No one shows off; even though many, looking like they have just stepped off Michelangelo’s podiums, no doubt can kick ass at this thing. But they have done this before — these magnificent asses ahead of me, in all shades and sizes — and they pace themselves, for the task ahead. For the living ahead!
Because this is how you do some good living: You pace yourself, you measure your strength, and you do it in pursuit of your health. And if you’re in love with yourself — you’ll go far, and longer.
“What a way to start!” I think. “Goodbye, Mr. Chips. And thank you.”
I start my running music. Curtis the III winds up his track, setting the pace. My feet do their thing and not once do I fancy dashing ahead of more than an a’right-lookin’ shawty ahead of me with thighs so large, I can see their edges from behind. Instead: I stay on her ass.
“But bein’ a little off landed me on top of the charts,” Curtis mumble-sings into my ear. Well, you’d know how it is, Mr. “Metaphor for Change.”
I pass the a’right-lookin’ shawty, look back. She’s more than a’right: She’s a 10.
“Which one? Pick one! This one! Classic!” I start taking my orders from Eve ‘n’ G.
From behind, I come up on a baby-tall. I cannot figure out his age yet, but his glorious headful of Tom Brady-esque hair sends me spinning into my dreams of my future. His back is exposed, with some Zen symbol tattooed onto the left shoulder blade.
“Behind that — is his heart,” I think and slide underneath his elbow, on the left. For a bit, we run side by side: A perfect fit.
“I got somethin’ to lose, so I gotta move,” Kanye begins grunting into my brain, scratching off the last mildew of the departed lover with his perfect teeth. The African drumbeat kicks in. I start leaping.
Who knows just how long I’ve been running: I am not watching the distance markers. They’ll only psych me out. And I’m:
It’s all in the mind. I have heard a fellow female runner state that once. The game is all in the mind. So, I rein mine in: Don’t judge other humans, and don’t compete! This thing — is in the very doing of it: You against you. And if you do it for the love of you — you’ll go far, and longer.
This City has taught me that.
(But, um, how long have I been running? Anybody knows?)
(To Be Continued.)