I get back to the house, shoulders thrown back, I unzip my sweatshirt and slow to a walk, cooling down. Slam the door on the way in, and when I get to the bottom of the stairs, I can feel my heart thump. I feel alive.
I had a bad feeling about tonight’s run. Probably just nerves. It’s been a while since I’ve run, longer since I’ve taken one at night. But I bring my new tazer anyway. It’ll probably pass for a flashlight. No reason to scare the neighbors.
Wearing black on the bottom, navy on the top, with a little reflective tape on my feet- I need the flashlight just so I can show cars where I am. ‘Try to hold the light steady on the ground in front of me as I walk down the front steps, break into a jog, avoiding the cracks in the pavement, getting my feet under me. It takes half a block to find my gait, and then my feet feel sure, like paws gripping the ground- that’s it. When I’ve got my breath I feel fine, but as soon as I get on the track the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. The blood rushing in my ears makes it hard to hear. Is that my own footsteps echoing back at me, or someone following me? Was that scuff of the gravel a noise I made, or not? A dog barks, and my shoulders jump imperceptibly. I’m on edge. I stop. Take a breath. Turn around and just look. Heart slows, breathing quiets. Nobody but me out here. I turn the flashlight off and activate the tazer. It has a red LED that stops killing my night vision. I turn it over and point the light at the ground, start again. Now I don’t hear an echo of my footsteps. I pick up the pace up the steep slope, as always, and my blood is rushing in my ears again. I can’t hear, and I feel vulnerable. Can’t hear, can’t see. I don’t like this one bit. Almost run off the path. Turn the flashlight back on, startle at some playground equipment that looms. Almost done with my first pass of the track. It takes two. Flash of brilliance. I’m going to run the second lap back the way I came. If there’s someone behind me, I’ll run right into them. Better that way anyway. Now feeling like the hunter, my pace quickens, and my teeth show. Flashlight shining, I take the second lap quicker than the first. No stops, precious little slows. And the uphill I take at an absolute sprint, grinning like a demon.
Red light on for the second half of the second lap. I know this ground now. This is my house. My track. Just try and take it from me. I dare you.
I turn on the flashlight as I come back to the road, to let the cars know where I am. No sense alarming the neighbors.
I come into my home parking lot, shoulders thrown back, and unzip my sweatshirt.