No lady no!
They’re repaving the roads in DC. They’re always repaving. I’m running in a quiet neighborhood and suddenly it’s loud. Trucks, orange cones, grinders. And twenty men in various stages of bored.
If no one was looking, I’d run through the freshly poured tar, let it stick to my shoes until it pulled me down and made me the tar monster, haunter of Sixteenth Street Heights. But there are twenty men looking, so I turn right. It’s not my path. I have four set running paths and this is supposed to be one of them, but now I have to turn to the right. And when I try to cross the street further down, they yell, “No lady no!” And tell me to go even further out of my way. I wish I could say, “Excuse me, sirs, but I’d like to turn my brain off.” But I go even further out of my way instead, jumping over shoe prints in the sidewalk concrete, to run along a major thoroughfare, where they’re painting the streets red.
They’re painting two lanes red, to be specific. I’m not sure why. The outer lanes are red because buses are drawn to red? Like a bull in a rodeo? The red paint smells from three blocks away. It’s a thick, chemical smell, toxin mixed with poison. It’s overpowering. A pickup truck is stacked with a hundred barrels of chemical red powder. I hold my breath, making the occasional tiny gasp. After the emotional turmoil of hypochondriatic silicosis, my lungs are precious to me.
So I run home and try not to trip over a mini-soccer ball. It’s easier these days. The number of balls has shrunk from twenty to five in two weeks. The cats love them. They’re golf ball-sized squishes, perfect for tiny kitten teeth to stick into and carry around, to bat and hot-potato jump around. To sacrifice them to their claws. They’re getting good at fetch. To the point of annoyance. My morning writing sessions are constantly interrupted by a tiny mew and a soccer ball at my feet. I understand: they just want to run, like me. They want to chase a flash of color, then chase it again. But the number of balls keeps dwindling. Where do they all go? I’ve looked underneath every couch and in every terrifying space you usually ignore, underneath the refrigerator, behind the shoe rack. The ones that remain are becoming pockmarked with decay, tiny rips of teeth and claw.
Did you know asphalt roads must be repaved every ten years? Did you know that they’re made of coal? And held together by oil. Asphalt binders and bitumen. I should’ve realized, given the sticky tar of new roads, but no. And yet. It’s what’s under our feet every day and we don’t think of it. They’re hiding it under red.
Did you know that brick streets get fewer potholes? They don’t last forever, but they do last much longer, and you can replace a single brick without repaving the entire road. I learned this from a blog about a mom with two cellos on the search for an electric car. The last time she posted was fifteen months ago. I hope she’s found her cello-bearing EV. I hope she’s still alive.
There’s so much maintenance required with being alive. With keeping things the same. Oil surrounds our apartments like rivers. Oil roads that must be re-oiled every ten years or less. The other day I couldn’t find matching socks before my run, so I wore one thick sock and one thin sock. It was fine until I sweated and the thick one soaked it up and expanded until my foot was trapped in a pincer cage. Every step was painful. But a body must run. It must keep moving to keep the blood flowing, the lungs expanding. A body sweats and must be cleaned. Kittens must run to catch a ball, then run again. Their soccer balls must disintegrate and disappear. I purchased another set of twenty. A body gets older and requires even more maintenance. It’s all so overwhelming. Why make the bed every day? Why make and remake it? Because you have to. Because if you don’t make the bed, soon there are clothes strewn on it, and on the floor, and in the bathtub. Because you get to. Because you want the day to be nice. Because you are allowed to pick up the blanket and shake it out like a flying carpet, and trap your kitten underneath. Because even running on a paint-toxic thoroughfare is something you can enjoy because you’re alive.