I’m a runner.
I’ve always run when I stop to think about it; across soccer fields, down back roads, through the woods away from ornery bees. My default state is up and moving, feet slapping, heart pounding, lungs huffing, but brain happy. As I’ve gotten older, running has become more of a maintenance routine; an active (and sometimes painful) caloric counter to all those beer-borne carbs.
I rarely talk about my running because there’s little in life I find as boringly self-serving as telling people how and when you plan to sweat. It’s just a thing I do and have always done, and I’m not a competitive racer nor certified trainer, so I don’t see much point in bringing it up.
But today’s story requires the background information that from time to time I peel myself away from the keyboard and the kegs, and punish myself in the name of health and vanity.
Last Tuesday, while I was running, a woman hit me with her car.
I use the verb “hit” here quite literally: she drove the hood of her Honda into the flesh of my legs (I’m relatively uninjured, if anyone is worried). I could forgive an accident, an end-of-the-workday bump caused by fatigue or distraction. I would have dusted myself off, showed her I wasn’t badly hurt, and probably just admonished her for not paying attention to her surroundings. But I didn’t even get the chance, because upon realizing she’d hit something – probably another human being – she drove off.
I sat in the thin grass median, elbow and knee bloody from their recent first date with the sidewalk, incredulous. She just drove off. Didn’t look back. Rode off into the winking evening like a bandit on the run.
I wanted to be mad, but all I could muster, covered in sweat and shock, was sadness. Faith in humanity bruised and bloodied, badly.
The rest of the week was sore and soldiered. My sister’s wedding was only a few days away, the whole family had a lot to do, and I had already pledged my help. There was a house to decorate, tables and chairs to move, photos to take, beer to tap. I did what I could without playing up the pain, resting when I could, sleeping when I needed to. We made it through; the day of the wedding all beautiful and bright. We got to be for one shining evening; be joyous, be teary, be celebratory, be there. It felt fantastic to sit and bask in a moment of pure emotional self-indulgence, where that night, that party, those people made the rest of the world disappear into the sidelines of unimportance.
Now I sit, in the wake of the wedding, happy and tired and introspective. I still haven’t fully gripped the potential seriousness of the car-hitting situation. Everyone seemed outraged enough for me, and I feel lucky that I wasn’t more severely broken. I’d been too focused on what needed to get done to dwell on what happened, too hell bent on then to devote any time to the now.
I realize that’s been my life of late – run, running, ran – forward progress or bust, almost no stopping to catch my breath or rest my legs. Sure, a woman hit me with her car and didn’t stop to see if I was OK. But her actions did at least stop me and my relentless charge against time, forced me to accept that sometimes in life you’re going to get hit by random chance, and random chance won’t pull over to the curb to swap insurance information.
In a very strange, roundabout way, I appreciate her for being oblivious and selfish; she showed me that I may have been doing the same in my tunnel visioned obsession with “what’s next?” which isn’t fair to those I love, and definitely not fair to myself.
So, thank you, random woman in her random black Honda, for hitting me. Thank you for showing me the depths of human selfishness, and how painful that selfishness can be when left unchecked, unacknowledged, unchallenged. Thank you for swinging into my life with painfully impeccable timing to allow me to put myself aside and celebrate a fresh start for my sister and her husband. Also thank you for not breaking me worse, because that would have made for an awkward hobble down the aisle.
For the rest of the world, a public service announcement: If you ever have the misfortune to strike something with your car, stop. Not just for the person or animal or fire hydrant you hit, but for yourself, too. You never know what you might find.