An illusion of running in place


This is 24.

The treadmill cheerfully beeps at me, as if we haven’t been on a year-long break, as if I haven’t been avoiding it for months. I enter my age, now 24. My weight, now 120. At this time last year, I tapped the numbers of 23 and 105. I remember my pale reflection in the TV as I watched “Boy Meets World,” subtitles and sounds swirling into a dizzy cacophony, one I couldn’t keep up with.

It whirs to life, and I cautiously tap the “up” arrow — a sneering icon in a year of downs. Five minutes pass and I am still running. This time, there are no glowing orbs in my periphery, little lights that tell me to slow down, slow down, slow down. Or black out. This time, I can breathe; full, borderline-greedy breaths. The starting and stopping, five minutes of running, 10 minutes of blurred lumbering as the treadmill belt whined with inactivity, they’re all gone.

Fifteen minutes pass and I am still running; I ignore the aches in my knees. After a season of outdoor running on paved and dirt trails, the hollow echo of my soles on the treadmill feels too consistent, each step the same.

But I am not stationary and it’s not the same, not really. I am freshly 24, I took the LSAT, I got into law school, I told my boss I’ll quit my job in mid-July, I broke up with bread and I drove a pickup truck. It is funny how a treadmill, how running in place, captured a year of dramatic change, of moving forward despite backward health.

Thirty minutes pass and I am done running. I tap the down arrow with clear eyes, a clear mind. The blinking lights and labored breaths have given way to a newfound appreciation for the treadmill, achy knees and all. The treadmill beeps, begging me to come back; I think it secretly missed me, too.

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