Run for Your Life

by Kate Wisel

I was running fast down Comm. Ave. when I saw the bike-theft. Some kid in a hoodie had cut the lock. I didn't see that happen. What I did see was a concierge outside the Eliot pulling the bike from the kid like a tug-of-war.

By this point I was running in place. I could run ten miles now. From my apartment all the way across the BU Bridge then deep into downtown through the commons then back again. By now I had skater's calves, tight and glistening, like nylon. I was the only one who saw.

The kid looked confused, then quickly at me, pulling the bike back from the concierge. He was committed. He had already broken the lock. He yanked it hard and it bounced off the sidewalk as he hopped on, flying right through the intersection on Mass Ave.

There was a green light and I felt something terrible happen before it happened. I put my hands to my ears before he was hit. I watched the light turn yellow and felt the heat of the sun on my hair as the crash turned metallic, something skidding and crunched twisting through my ears.

By now there was a crowd, a kid on the street in the middle of the intersection, and the lady whose car he hit leaning over him. She was in an MBTA public transit uniform, which made me think the police might come faster, though the two are not connected.

The kid leapt up, as if by CPR, out from where someone could have outlined his body in chalk. The MBTA lady said "hey!" as he picked up the broken bike and spun it around, trying to make it go in a forward motion. The lady grabbed his arm and said, "Look what you did to my car!" The kid wasn't listening. He was getting ready to run.

The lady kept one eye on the kid as she paced with a phone to her ear. A couple men in business suits had wandered into the street, keeping a hand on the kid's shoulder, murmuring things to him as if they were already his lawyers. The kid squinted up into the sun, and I imagined him saying to himself "fuck!"

Like that, just as I thought, he spun out of the men's grip, like he was dribbling a basketball through their legs.

I don't know what to say about what happened next, other than it was automatic. I've been training for a whole year. I beat myself against my own time, every time. I don't miss a day.

So I ran, the same route I run anyway, the sidewalk all the way down Comm. Ave. It couldn't be a straighter line. From behind us, I heard the MBTA lady shout, "Get him!" and it blew like a whistle through my ears.

The kid had speed but I had purpose.

I was going to catch him. Our bodies would collide, into a fountain in the Commons, and I would keep him down in the shallow water, his shirt dark and ballooning from below.

He dashed through more green lights and I was getting closer, darting through traffic, past brownstones and Marlborough St, the trees flicking light off our heads. I don't know what to say about what happened next, other than it was unrehearsed.

I was getting close. Close enough to touch his tee shirt. Then, I saw the frame of someone who looked like my ex-boyfriend. He was walking towards us, five parked cars away down the sidewalk. He was wearing Birkenstocks and a button-down, his hair faded on the side in that new Nazi cut.

It was my ex-boyfriend. I knew what he would think of me before we made eye contact, his knowing green eyes all over me then gone, going the other way. I didn't stop running.

When he broke up with me, I threw tanning lotion at his third-floor window till he let me in.

I went to Cleary's on a Wednesday. I took seven shots of Maker's. I texted him I was pregnant. When he didn't believe me, I threatened to murder him. It only led to us having sex for the last time. I hacked into his email, showed up to his best friend's bachelor party and chased him down the street after he told me to never, ever call him again. I did call him again, after he changed his number.

Now I am running after the boy, a bat out of hell with nice calves, and it's the first time we've seen each other since last year.

I thought about stopping and explaining everything. This kid stole a bike. I started running last June. I'm not crazy. I'm trying to be a hero.

But I didn't know how to quit anymore. Even if I did, I wouldn't.

We've past my ex-boyfriend. It's easy to forget someone when you have a higher purpose. I was so close I smelt cotton on the kid’s tee shirt and the sweat on his neck was near enough to lick. I made one last leap. It's the leap I make when I'm a second from home, a final take that.

It was enough to get him. I'm not strong but the kid was tired by now, and I think he was kind of impressed. I held his waist as we caught our breath, like a dilapidated prom photo. We took deep breaths. The kid had his hands on his knees, and for a second, I wanted badly for him to look back at me.

I took a few steps back, hand on my hips, the sun making one of those swift rotations. Then I let him go.

BIO: Kate Wisel's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Drum, Mad Hatters’ Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Fiction Southeast, Compose Journal, Corium Magazine, and her poetry in The Altar, Contemporary American Voices, Philadelphia Stories, Neon magazine where she was nominated for The Forward Prize, and on Boston’s Red Line subway as the winner of Mass Poetry's "Poetry on the T" contest. She is the recipient of the Keach Prize at the University of Massachusetts Boston and was awarded a scholarship to the Wesleyan Writers Conference. She will be an MFA candidate at Columbia College Chicago in the fall.