Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it. — Oprah Winfrey
I stood at my window, phone against my ear, and looked down at the street six stories below. “Straighten out your wheels and move back,” I said. “You’ve got about three feet behind you. Go, go, go, stop! Okay, now turn your wheels to the right and move up…a bit more…stop! You’re good, but don’t forget to curb your tires. You’re facing uphill, so turn your steering wheel to the left. Okay, see you in a second.”
David was at the sink, rinsing our breakfast dishes and putting them in the dishwasher. Once I was off the phone, he said, “How does she ever manage to park anywhere that doesn’t have you in the control tower?”
“Give her a break,” I said. “It’s hard for her to come all the way over here this early — she’s got to juggle her kids while getting all of her stuff together. It’s enough stress and drama to scatter any brain, and Jane’s a bit scattered to begin with.” David chuckled.
A moment later, Jane blasted through the doorway like pyrotechnics, chattering in a way that made me wonder if she was continuing a conversation she’d been having with herself in the hallway. “And you could have helped me,” she said, dropping her oversized purse, briefcase, and garment bag on the floor.
“You’re late,” I said.
Jane groaned. “Imagine having two gnomes following you around in the morning and thwarting your every move. I put out Bella’s clothes, but she refuses to get dressed. I brush Olivia’s hair, and ten seconds later she puts soap in it. It’s amazing I got out of the house at all.”
“I’m just giving you a hard time,” I said. “Take a deep breath, and let’s go work out all of that stress.” I put on my sneakers while Jane sucked on her inhaler. “You ready?”
“Let me just get my phone,” Jane said, burrowing into her big bag.
“Are you seriously planning to talk on the phone while you run?” David asked.
“I’m expecting a call,” Jane said.
David and I rolled our eyes in sync. “Fine, bring it,” I said. I turned to David. “Beh-beh, I’m not taking a key. We’ll be back in under an hour, cool?” David nodded, and I followed my sister out the door.
It was Jane’s idea for us to take up jogging. One day not so long ago, she looked up from her computer in what has become her side of my home office and said, “Let’s run a marathon.” I gave this a charitable giggle. “I’m serious,” Jane said. She jumped to a standing position and beseeched me with houndish eyes. “Come on! We can do a half one. When’s the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon? Like, in six months? That’s totally enough time to train.” There was a frightening fervor in her tone.
“No. Absolutely not,” I said, but not as strongly as I should have. Jane has the tenacity of a honey badger, a creature capable of shrugging off a swarm of angry bees as it burrows for its prize. I saw the flicker of victory in my sister’s eyes the moment my voice betrayed a faint waver of indecision.
“I’ve never run before,” I said. Jane launched into a full-blown pitch. She counted the years since she ran track in high school, reminded me of her asthma, and promised to let me go at my own pace. She didn’t stop talking until I acquiesced with a small nod, at which point she held her breath and drilled me with her gaze until I said, “Okay. Let’s do it.”
We walked the first block and then, tentatively, began to bounce in a slow trot. We spent a minute congratulating ourselves on our achievement, and then Jane rattled off an address to a salon at which she had an appointment that week and asked if I knew the cross street. “Are you kidding me? Do I look like Google Maps?” I raised my eyes to the sky and shook my head. Just then, the sun broke through the pinkish gray clouds and I was struck with an idea. “You know who’s sitting by a computer? David. You have your phone. Call him!”
Like a couple of dolphins that snuck into an office at SeaWorld to prank-call their trainer, Jane and I squeaked our demands through wheezes of laughter as soon as David picked up the phone. “David! David!” Jane said, slowing her pace to put more energy into her voice. “Could you tell me…could you tell me the cross street for…”
“Tell him to make us biscuits,” I shrieked.
“David! Biscuits! And the cross street!” Our laughter, combined with the panting from the exertion of jogging, left us gasping for breath. At this point, we were more stumbling forward than running; to all the people at the bus stop, we must have looked like drunkards staggering home from an all-night party.
Jane snapped her phone shut, and I slowed to a walk to catch my breath. As she had not moved ahead of me, it took me a moment to realize that Jane was still jogging. “Seriously? This is how slow we were jogging? I’m not even walking fast,” I said. “Oh, my God...how are we ever going to run a marathon? We haven’t even gone a mile and I’m exhausted.”
“It’s okay. We have plenty of time,” Jane said. “This is great. We’re here, we’re doing it.”
“Right. And we don’t want to injure ourselves,” I said.
We agreed to turn around and head back, lest we push too hard the first day. To end on a high note, we made sure to jog the last block back to my building. Jane found my name on the call box and rang David to buzz us in.
“I couldn’t hear a word you guys were saying,” David said. The look on his face was between irritated and amused.
“What’s that smell?” Jane asked. “Are those…did you?” We turned the corner to the kitchen to see the platter of freshly baked biscuits David had set out along with butter and four kinds of jam. “Oh, my God, David! I’m not worthy.”
David smiled. “I honestly couldn’t hear what else you said. What was that address?” When Jane told him, David deflated with a disheartened sigh. “Really?” He repeated the address, and we stared at him blankly. David searched our faces and shook his head. He set out two plates, passed us each a butter knife and a napkin. Then he sighed, smiled, and said, “You guys jogged right past it.”