Darkness envelops me like a blanket, and I burrow deeper into it, into sleep. It feels like warm, dark chocolate. But as I rise up from its depths, I remember I have things to do and the day’s a-wastin’. I reach out, fumblefingers inching across the bedside table in search of a strip of plastic vials, each containing a single, refreshing dose of artificial tears. Eyes closed, I tear the vials apart and twist off the cap, then carefully pry open my eyelids with my fingertips and squeeze a drop or three into each eye. I make my way, half-blind, like a mole-rat, to the bathroom. I pull my hair back, brush it smooth, bind it with an elastic band. I don’t bother with make-up; if I ever bothered with make-up, now is not the time. I step on the scales. It isn’t an obsession, any more than brushing my teeth twice a day is an obsession. It’s just part of the routine. The scale, a Fitbit Aria, calls the mothership to tattle on me.
I pull on a work-out cami and a t-shirt, and the faded California Crazee pants that are almost, but not quite, too big on me. I slip into men’s New Balance running shoes. My reflection in the mirror, at 6:30 AM on a Saturday, reminds me that I am perilously close to becoming a “People of Walmart.” I don’t go to the trails to look good; I go to work: to walk and to sweat. My reward for this lack of primping is to hit the trails almost as soon as they open, before the morning sun has a chance to warm the oven up to “broil.” The first lap is easy. I have company: my Fitbit pals and my Write Tribe WhatsApp group. Vinay Leo R. (@artofleo) makes jokes about not exercising; I taunt him and hope one of these days, he’ll join me. I share the sunflowers with them along the way and hope the photos are worth the download.
The second lap, nearly two miles in, is a bit harder. Sweat drips into my eyes; I wipe them on the hem of my shirt. I should bring a towel. At least I brought a couple liters of water. I take one with me, and leave the other in the car. After two 1.7 mile laps, I exchange the empty bottle for a fresh, full one. Not so fresh; neither is it cold, sitting out there in the heat, but it tastes cleaner than what comes out of the drinking fountain by the restrooms. I ration it out: half a bottle per lap.
For some reason, lately, the sound on my phone goes crazy when I hit the back side of the lake. The volume goes up and down of its own accord; Google Assistant pops up, repeatedly, to show off what it can do – though I’ve yet to find anything it can do that is useful. It refuses to go away. I start fiddling with permissions. If I lock it out, my whole phone may be rendered non-functional. I’ve been warned. I deny it permission to use my microphone. This will later prove to be a futile gesture with mildly annoying consequences; I’ll end up undoing it hours later. My phone is a tool. A total tool.
The camera, too, is possessed. I tap the photo button and it gets stuck in “burst mode,” snapping over 100 pictures of a color-faded, wilting wildflower that’s past its prime and probably didn’t warrant a single shot. Mental note: never undress with the camera in the room.
I restart the thing, but this is the third time, now, and I’ve never known the phone to malfunction anywhere but this one spot. It’s not overheated. I am.
I pray for rain.
It’s barely 85°F, and I convince myself I have it in me to go one more round. That will be seven miles; I’m not up for ten. Maybe in the fall, when the weather turns cooler. I’m fading faster than the pink and yellow Lantanas when the heavens open up with cooling rain – a brief, but welcome deluge – a sunshower! Yes, it’s pouring rain and the sun is still shining brightly, reflected in the puddles that steam along the hot, asphalt path. I walk slowly, with outstretched arms, grateful that my Fitbit and my Galaxy s8 are water-resistant. I soak up the raindrops like a greedy patch of moss. The flowers open, releasing their secret scents, overpowering the swampy smell of dead and dying things, decomposing in the sweltering heat.
Refreshed, renewed, I make my way back to the car. But not before capturing another video of my friend, the heron:
I remember to flip my phone onto its side, so @Mitch_M doesn’t give me a hard time for recording video in portrait mode. I think of my friend, Dr. Taher Kagalwala (@DrTaher), a pediatrician and writer who loves birdwatching and whose blog deserves more visits. I hope he enjoys my occasional photos of birds in Texas.
I fix lunch: a simple sandwich. Afterwards, I walk to the grocery store and stock up on bananas, peaches, nectarines, salad greens, cucumber, grapefruit – it wouldn’t be like this if I hadn’t spent hours walking. My inner couch potato prefers salty chips and chocolate. The parts of me that walked seven miles this morning do not want to work that hard again, soon.
I spend the afternoon blogging, reading others’ blogs, and leaving comments until my brain feels broken. Seven miles may be too much, though I rebel against that with every fiber of my being – for someone who once walked 20 miles in less than seven hours, jeans frozen stiff on her legs for at least five of those miles, it’s an admission of defeat. Don’t ask me how long it takes me to jump up off the floor from corpse pose, these days. Hell, if I looked like “People of Walmart,” earlier, you should see my impression of a corpse. Entirely too convincing, thought it may be my ticket to a small role on NCIS or Criminal Minds, one of these days.
I put a cup of rice and two cups of chicken broth into the rice cooker and turn it on. As the oven preheats, I season boneless, skinless chicken thighs with pink, Himalayan sea salt, cracked pepper, garlic, and fresh, creamy butter. While that cooks, turning golden brown and filling the house with its savory aroma, I turn this afternoon’s produce haul into a crisp, cold, tossed salad. My husband is visiting distant relatives in a distant town; my son arrives home in time to share a meal, and we watch anime together for a while before calling it a night.
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