Running No More

October 14, 2007
By Ekene Obi-Okoye, Collierville, TN

As the leaves rustle below the slight breeze, I lie on the soft grass staring at the speckled sky. The night envelops me with a comfort like no other. I breathe in the aroma of the trees and of the pure essence of nature. I cannot do anything but gaze, for I know that in this moment, any word will upset the balance and shatter the equilibrium of beauty that the universe has offered me for this brief period. My eyes trace the path of the waves that lie before me in calm yet lively water. I drink in the scene as if it is sweet nectar. I can feel his breathing behind me and I remain still, ignoring his presence to savor the beauty before me for one last second. He places his hand on my left shoulder and I still do not look up or even move for fear of destroying the perfection before me.
He speaks but somehow his words intertwine with the wind. I hear them and comprehend and stand. I finally turn towards him and I am shocked by his lack of face. I ponder in my mind to question what I see, but before I can shrug of the thought or utter a simple sound, he answers.
"I have no face for the sake of myself."
My face betrays my confusion and somehow he knows this.
"I find faces completely irrelevant. They do nothing but hinder one's true being, one's true spirit. People hide behind their faces. They dress their faces up to look like something that they are not. I despise that; therefore, I have eliminated the issue altogether."
I smile at his foolishness and begin to walk away. I am not in the mood to deal with the cryptic message of a faceless phantom. I make my way on the street. I mark a steady pace, but within minutes some force begins to tug at me. I cannot understand it, but I suddenly feel a need to run. I pick up my pace to a powerwalk and then to a jog and then to a run. One two. One two. One two. I hear the rhythm of my feet hitting the asphalt and I feel a sort of freedom that I words cannot explain. My heart cries out in pain for me to stop, but by now, my legs have a mind of their own. I cannot stop them, I don't want to stop them. My legs make the beat for my thoughts. My minds returns to the words for the phantom. Hiding? What do I have to hide? I'm an open book, aren't I? I try to convince myself that his words can in no shape, manner, or form apply to me, but the more I try, the less I'm convinced and finally I concede defeat to the truth. I am hidden. I try to find sanctity behind a carefree smile, but the truth remains that I do care. I do want to be heard. I do want to be loved. I reminisce about the many instances that have withheld myself for the sake of the world and because of fear. Fear of being hurt.
And still, I continue to run. One two. One two. One two. My mind concocts home videos of my past relationships. I see how I always stopped before I got too emotionally attached, how I refused to go beyond a certain level of affection, and how anything beyond that level was a danger zone, because beyond that I couldn't control it. Control. And still, I continue to run.
Then I see the phantom before me, always the same distance away. But now he has a face. The only face that can make me smile simply at the sight of it. The only face that can make me comfortable and safe just by being there. The only face that could make me want to throw away all my reservations.
And with that, I stop running. I drop to the ground and he comes to me and sits beside me. All is silence, except the beating of my heart.

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