Time Runs

Katie yawned, driving on a wooden bridge suspended over an ever-changing body of water, she regretted not getting the eight hours of sleep the pediatricians of America recommend for people between the ages of twelve and twenty-one. Her headlights were the only ones in a ten-mile radius, illuminating the road ahead of her in likeness to a midnight search party. Four o’clock was far too early for any sane person to be up, never mind sleep-deprived teenage girls behind the wheels of motorized vehicles. Passing the empty harbor master shack at the end of the bridge, she signaled into the safe deserted parking lot. Turning off the ignition, she dimmed her headlights and shut off the radio. Pulling a blanket from the behind her, she curled up in the drivers seat and looked out over the bay. It appeared eerily similar to the bay during the day, save the light and absence of sun bathing sight-seers. A brisk wind picked up outside, causing the beach grass to sway in the breeze. One morning a run would not be welcome – and of course, here she was. Waiting patiently in her still sandy from yesterday running shoes, and shorts she now regretted choosing over pants. Why did she agree to this, again? Oh, right.
Eric, the morning bird, spoke only rave reviews of the elusive lighthouse. ‘It’s probably too early, you’ll want to sleep in.’ He had said.
‘No, I’m up early anyway.’ Katie had responded.
It wasn’t a lie, Katie rarely slept in past eight o’clock, and she was always up before nine. However, three hours of sleep suited no one, not even the insomniacs of Massachusetts.

She pulled the blanket up closer to her neck and relished the warmth for the last moments she could. Frankly, she could never truly understand how people were able to stand the weather around here. Even in the summer, cold somehow found a way of sneaking under her skin. Cranking up the heat in the car, she laughed to herself. It’s the middle of August, what is she doing.
Examining the old bridge, she viewed emptiness. Along the coast of the bay, no one. As far as the eye can see, nothing was anywhere near her. The birds, the crustaceans, the rocks, and the foliage spoke silence as she sat in her car, here far earlier than needed.
She thought it strange how only a few months ago Eric was an insignificant part of her life, a small blip on her radar screen. Jogging by her at practice, or just another body taking up a seat behind a ceramic desk. It’s strange to think, even now, that he at one point was a faceless name in her memory, something at one point she had been able to live without. How often had she passed over the boy in the library, typing furiously on his computer. How could she not have known his favorite color, his best memory, his dreams and aspirations? Eric, the boy genius, cleverly disguised as an ordinary creature. She must have acknowledged him before the spring, there was no other explanation. How could she not of? He was on her track team, walked through the hallways, and was discussed fairly often between the girls over lunch. She couldn’t seem to remember the first thing he said to her, but she could remember the first thing that stuck.
“Are you that cold?” Spring track meet, huddled under a blanket much like she is today, trying to salvage what was left of her body heat. There he was, in a skimpy uniform no man of the track persuasion should be allowed to don. Smiling.
“It’s cold out.”
“I’m from a cold place.”
She didn’t ask. But, she cared. Sitting in the middle of the field, she politely asked the questions she already knew the answers to. Nodded in all the right places. Tried to convince herself that she was inquiring about his interests as simple human etiquette. But, even after ten minutes, she wasn’t able to fool herself. She wanted to know the names of his grandparents, why he was so friendly, the secrets he wouldn’t tell anybody. Everything.
He shivered.
“Maybe you should put some clothes on.” She had suggested.
But she didn’t mean it.
She just wanted to hear his voice.

The sky was still a dark grey as four forty rolled around, showing no sign of abating. Sunrise was supposedly at five thirty, which meant the pair would have to pump how a little faster than seven minute miles if they were to get there in time. She seriously regretted not doing some speed work prior to this trek, not like it was anything she couldn’t handle. But Eric was no novice when it came to distance running, and her pace, regardless of her status on the track team, would be a brisk jog if that to the sub five boy she would be accompanying. Holding him back, as usual.

They were just good friends. He was a ‘nice guy, a really nice guy.’ A direct quote, the explanation she gave to her girlfriends when they asked. ‘Seems to be more than a nice guy, Katie.” They nudged. They did that often, whenever a guy looked at her or they somehow got a shady ‘inside scoop’ she was being crushed on. A guy from the soccer team. The drama department. A strange stoner she had never met. The never-ending game of setting Katie up with mystery men had become a pastime to the lot of them.

‘Maybe you should jump back into the dating game.’
‘I’m seventeen, not thirty. I’m taking a break.’
‘A two-year long break.’
‘So?’
‘So, I’m just looking out for you! When you reject people for no reason, they think one thing and one thing only – chick’s a LESBO.”
“I’m not a lesbian.”
“When was the last time you kissed a guy?”
“Yesterday.”
“You and Eric hooked up?!”
“Yes.”
“Really?!”
“No.”

There was something different about him, that was for sure, something that she didn’t really see in anyone else. It was as if he had an old soul – like he had been picked up out of a black and white Emily Bronte novel and thrown haphazardly into the twenty-first century. His mind was up to speed, but the rest of him was classic. The more she got to know him, the more she seemed to realize what she had been missing.


‘Hey. Wait up!’ Please have it not be Newman. Please have it not be Newman.
“Oh, hey!” she turned around, halfway up the stairs in the library. To see Newman. Of course. She fixed her books and hoisted her backpack up on her shoulder.
“What do you want?” He pulled up his jeans and flicked back his hair.
“You make it sound like you don’t want to talk to me, Claffey.” jump-stepping up the steps to where she was standing, he took the books from her hands.
“…Bones. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering –“
“Genius.” She took it back, hitting him over the head lightly.
“Right.” They both ascended to the second floor, heading over to the couches in the back of the young adult section.
“How have you been?” he asked, kicking his legs up on the table and leaning back over in his seat. Katie couldn’t help laughing at him – and feeling bad for him simultaneously. Friendly to a fault, and drug addicted to the second power. The two had met in the library the previous summer; Newman being the rebel without a cause with the quick-witted retorts immediately became the book club’s loveable sheepdog, mooching Twizzlers off the members when he zoomed by on his long board.
“I’ve….been.” Katie responded, opening her book to the first page and sinking down in her seat.
“You?”
“Likewise. You’ve been coming to book club lately?” he asked
“Um, no, actually. I’ve been busy” It was true, she barely had the time to breathe nowadays, forget about trying to juggle other responsibilities.
“Busy, huh?” leaning forward, he pulled the book from her hands, like he was telling her secret
“How busy are you Saturday?”
“Saturday? What’s happening Saturday?” She smiled; this must be one of the famous Newman parties she heard about in the halls at school, famous for their rendezvous with the police force on a regular basis. Not her thing.
“A good time, if you’re around.”
His smile was broad, fixing his jacket he leaned back and looked to his right.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Inches from her face she could smell the tobacco on his neck, the scent of axe, a horrific attempt at trying to cover the stench, permeating off his clothing. His fingers curled on the edge of her seat, and his lips parted questioningly.
“Oh, Katie. Don’t be so naïve.” Looking in her eyes, he bit his lower lip and bridged the gap of personal space that was held so carefully between them.
Half of her wanted to flee,. The other half wanted to stay. To pretend to be normal, at least once. She closed her eyes.
Then, she picked up her possessions, and ran out the door.

She didn’t stop running until she was over the other curb, and safely in the softball field. Sitting on a bench, she threw her things to the side and leaned back, letting her face catch the late April sun’s rays. She was an idiot. It’s one thing to politely say no to a boy. She probably could have cleverly slapped him as well, that thing is generally socially appropriate in those situations. However, it is quite another to run like your life depends on it away from a rightly confused boy. He was perfectly nice. Really nice.


“Eric’s a nice guy.”

Eric. She needed to stop. If that’s what was holding her back, she needed to fix it. How dare she let one boy control the brunt end of her sophomore year? She needed to nip this infatuation in the tail; there was simply no way in any far-out universe that Eric Mersey would ever consider you as more than a friend. The first step was acceptance; that would be the hardest. Eric was a senior, leaving for college in less than four months. As if he would want to get involved with anybody now, she didn’t have a prayer.
‘You’re a nobody to him, Katie. You don’t even exist on his level, you’re an insignificant piece of matter in his life, so stop making him ruin yours. You’re going to forget about him. You’re going to walk right back into that library, run back in, need be, and have crazy wild sex with Jacob Newman on the library couches. You’re not even going to regret it. You will be an insane, unforgiveable, off-the walls teenager, and you will love every second of it. You will forget about Eric Mersey.

“Oh Katie, don’t be so naïve.”

Her phone lit up her backpack, ringing frantically.
“Hey, this is Eric. What are you doing prom night?”

Time passes quickly. Too Quickly. Too Fast. You don’t even see it, you can’t even feel it. But sometimes, if you listen really closely, you can hear it breeze by. Katie never heard it. She chose not to be a masochist.


“Do you want to date or something?” Or something. Think, what could he mean. She ran faster, trying to rack through the options in her brain. Friends with benefits? Absolutely not, what is she, trash or something? Of course she wanted to date him. She had waited for this moment since he asked her to prom, since they had spent every night on each others couches, eating strange food and pretending they cared about the feature film, each one increasingly lamer than the former. She had her answer prepared. Of course a yes, why would she say no? He seemed to be everything she could possibly look for. Athletic, smart, quick-witted, kind-hearted. She had, for the first time, prepared for something. Except for the last part. “Or something”. She had not prepared for or something. She watched as he picked up the pace to. Biting his lip, she noticed the muscles in his arm flex quickly, and his legs tense up. It had been a long time coming, anyway. Maybe the whole asking-out-while-running thing was too strange? Was he even asking her out?

“Um. Yeah. Is this a business agreement?”
The words slipped out. Or something. Oh god, so lame. How could she be so. Freaking. Lame. He smiled,
“I’ll have my lawyer talk to your lawyer.”

The ‘or something’ had forever haunted her in an obscure, never-dying way. Not like the ‘or something’ mattered, or if he even remembered. Because right now the two of them were happy, and they finally had what they both wanted. Almost. Things always seemed to happen at the most quite convenient times, she thought. Maybe this was God’s way of punishing her for her past deeds, her past short-comings. Or, the universe was just lined perfectly against her in moments like this. From the time she noticed him to the time he decided he should likewise acknowledge her, time had passed. Time, not a very intimidating antagonist indeed, had plagued her most especially since the moment she set her eyes on him. Or perhaps, she thought as she scanned the horizon, it was later.

This summer had changed things, that much was certain. So long ago had it seemed like they didn’t know each other, that they hadn’t needed each other like they needed each other now. Turning over in her seat, she realized why she was here. Soon she would drive to the beach early in the morning, but she would have no one to wait for. She could sit in the parking lot, but no one would ever show up. Because in only a few weeks Eric would be leaving, and he would not be taking Katie.

Five o’clock rolled around, and she saw the familiar headlights in the distance bob along at a snail-pace across the bridge. They slowly made their way to the parking lot, pulling into the spot adjacent to hers. Eric stepped out of his car, dressed in his running wear and no sign of the slightest shiver. Up and down he looked like the epitome of pulchritude, unfair and unfit are mere mortals to stand in his presence. Green eyes glazed over with lack of sleep, he pushed his lips into the familiar half-smile to be socially acceptable.
“Hey” he rubbed his weary face and waved in the direction of her Odyssey.
“Hey, what’s up?” Katie rolled down her window, letting the breeze of the morning in.
“You’ve been waiting here long?” he breathed, voice still laced with the sleep he didn’t get. Resting his forearms on the window while leaning part-way into the car, he raised his eyebrows delicately in question. His perfect hair remained unfazed as the breeze grew even more erratic. A knot grew in her stomach, watching him there. So close she could smell his familiar, safe scent waft in her direction. The feeling in her gut increased, a sump pump wreaking havoc on her internal organs. The pain, she realized, would not go away. It would not get better, and it would only get worse. From here on out, looking into the future, she realized the inevitable. He would leave, off to new things and brighter horizons, and forget about her. Less than three inches away was the boy who five months ago she didn’t know, and as tears rose to her eyes, she choked them down. It was the right now, not the tomorrow. Right now, she was happy.

“Not long at all,” she said, swallowing her thoughts and forcing a grin.

“Let’s go.” To which she stepped out of her car, and into the present.





Join the Discussion

This article has 4 comments. Post your own now!

SkyLane said...
Oct. 14, 2010 at 3:05 pm
amazing(: you're an incredible writer.
 
EricMersey said...
Oct. 2, 2010 at 11:04 am

That was unbelievable. It brought back so many memories from my summer to the point that it was hard to finish.

You, LaurenBee, are a writing savant. I hope you keep working away at it because I know that if you do, you could be a world-class novelist and -- much more importantly -- you'd be happy following your dreams. 

 
JayKrames#34 said...
Sept. 24, 2010 at 8:39 am
This is really really good. My ex-girlfriend moved a year ago and this totally brought back all the feelings of sadness, but in  good way. Keep writing!!!!
 
JAugusta143 said...
Sept. 23, 2010 at 5:20 pm
This is really awesome, I looked through your stuff and its all phenomenal. Really, I'm a guy, totally straight, and I want to hear more of this story. My girlfriend left for college this past summer and this brought back a wave of emotion. I miss you, Chelsea <3
 
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