The Edge and Back
This is a short story depicting an event that occurred back in April, at the very end of the GWL attempt. I’ve spoken about it only with a select few people. I’ve processed it. I was never planning on writing about it. However, I’ve been having a tough time sleeping lately, and since I can’t go running right now a friend encouraged me to channel that energy into something creative. Writing like this is probably healthier than the alternative anyway. Enjoy!
Nighttime in Nevada brings a lukewarm reprieve to the scorching heat of the day, although it still leaves much to be desired, even in the spring. The equatorial temperatures of the southwest are something I never want to get used to. I miss my cold, snowy home in New England if anything for the refreshment I feel when the sun disappears below the horizon. At home, I could comfortably sleep in almost any weather. Not tonight. Even though Las Vegas was quiet, having been emptied by Covid, I was restless.
I tried to sleep, but my eyes couldn’t seem to stay shut. I had been gouged by betrayal, and I simply couldn’t put it aside. Instead, I found myself in that Nevada night, running down a straight, flat, empty street lined with lights, away from the center of the gambling capital of America. Normally this city is bustling with drunk tourists searching for a reason to lose their hard-earned money. Mercifully, it was now a ghost town. I ran away unhindered by pedestrian or vehicle traffic, accompanied only by the staccato rhythm of my footsteps echoing off the concrete.
Entering that paper-thin plane between thinking and meditation, I wondered vaguely how far I could go. For a while, that was all that existed; my footsteps, the road, and the streetlights that, like a persistent competitor, I couldn’t seem to shake. In this plane, I could stuff away the emotions that threatened to overpower me. Although not a physical “place,” this is my home. The mindset I get into when I’m running is a fortress that protects me from my demons, but it can only exist as long as I keep running. Those demons will be there waiting for me as soon as I stop. They are tied to me like a shadow, a constant, unwelcome running partner.
The skyscrapers and parking garages turned into strip malls, which gave way to gated neighborhoods. I fought against my limits until I couldn’t run anymore, and I started walking. I’d gone 9 miles, and it was somewhere on the other side of midnight. I was finally getting tired, but the biggest challenge loomed as my footsteps slowed.
As I walked I spoke out loud to my pain. There were so many things to say. Why did I feel this confusion so deeply? It’s not like I’ve never been deceived before. How could two people who called themselves my friends lie to me for weeks? How could they talk and laugh with me like normal? Nothing made sense. Only the motion of putting one foot in front of the other rooted me to reality.
I stopped walking and stood at a lonely intersection. A few streetlights remained but beyond them somewhere total darkness awaited. Staring outward at the desert, I heaved a sigh. I could keep going, past the streetlights and the buildings. Sure, I couldn’t run anymore, but I could walk for now. Once my legs gave out I could probably still crawl. The sun would come up, and I’d be dead before noon. A victim of exhaustion and exposure. I stood there at the brink of the city like I was standing on the edge of a cliff. I had gone this far. I could turn around and make it back, or I could take one more step and…what? Die? What would be the point? What was it all for? Two people, who never cared about me? No matter how terrible I felt, it would never be worth it.
I looked down at my feet and turned around. Muscles stiff as boards, I began the long, nine-mile hobble back to the Airbnb. The journey back was more difficult than I expected. I alternated between walking and running. I drank water from the sprinklers that fed the decorative plants around the entrances of the gated communities. Somehow, I recognized a few landmarks that told of my progress. As the world turned the corner of 4 in the morning, I was nearly sobbing while stumbling down the city streets. Occasionally I’d trip, and didn’t have the strength the save myself from hitting the ground. It was one of those runs that you think will never end.
Choosing to step away from the edge was easy. Actually doing it was a true test of endurance. I was crying, crippled, bloody, and bruised when I arrived at the doorstep of the Airbnb around 4:30 in the morning to find it locked tight. Too tired to care, I curled up on the porch and fell asleep.