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A Girl Who Runs

a lipogram suppressing the letter “e”

I am a girl who runs. Not out of vain ambition (“Run 5k’s, cut 5 pounds!” crows my mom) or for a physical goal (“It’s a full body workout, you know,” booms my dad).

An addition for accuracy:

I am a girl who runs away.

I was just 11, I think, for my first run. I’d sat on my bus as I usually did: staring out a window, ignoring a boy. This particular boy had a habit of rolling a coin down our bus (“Don’t you want a coin, ‘Ju’ girl?”), and of pulling back his skin in a particularly obnoxious way (“Oh right, you can’t find it by looking through your slits!”). At 11, I was too shy to think about confronting him.

At 11, I was also too anxious to think that I had nothing to fix. I had a craving to play God that day, so I could go back and right my naming and my skin. That was my first spiritual affair, that day on that bus with that boy.

I got off that bus angry, and I didn’t know what to do but pound my fury into asphalt roads, up and down until dusk could stop my racing body.

I ran a 15k during finals my junior fall. It was not my plan to do so — at no point prior had I run that far without stopping, and at no point prior had I put my body through any training for such a trial. But following days of too much schoolwork, days of typing through lunch, days of night blurring into day blurring into night, I shut my laptop. It was 6:30 am.

Music pulsing into my brain, nylon tight against my skin, I ran downstairs and out of my dorm. It was dark out, with sunlight just starting to tint tips of buildings, drops clinging to gray grass, colors still awaking. I ran past Dunbar Hall and Thompson Gym, I ran along Court and down Gilman, I ran through our track and our stadium. I ran a 3k trail loop, and I ran it again, I ran until I ran out of land, so I ran into a pond. It was cold, and my Asics got muddy, so I ran back to roads, to asphalt and sunlight. I ran until that mud could dry to dirt to dust, until my right foot hurt, until my right foot didn’t hurt, until my iPod had run out of music, until I had run out of frustration. It was 9 am.

I took a bath, bit into a banana, and sat down in front of my laptop.

I was with my family not long ago, away from school, back in suburban comfort. It was a day I can’t fully paint, a mammoth of a day, too colossal to carry, a day on which all I could touch was damp. And I lay in my room, scanning for anything bright, avoiding that tiny vial of pills that my doctor said would numb my mind, that tiny root of my mom’s disgust and my dad’s dishonor.

I ran from that vial, out of my childhood room with its pink walls and crayon drawings, out through my maroon door and onto familiar roads. And just as I did at 11, I ran around my block, pushing until I didn’t hurt, until I was numb, not from a pill but from wintry air and icy blacktop. But I wasn’t angry with a boy, or with school, not this day, not now.

I don’t know who, or what, I’m angry at now. But I’m always angry, always full of frustration, always carrying a sharp dissatisfaction with my world, always in pain. And I always think I could find out why, find out how to stop it, if I could just think about it. But I can’t bring my thoughts to that point, I can’t push my mind into fully analyzing this unsought indignation.

If I try, I always find first that I’m not angry at anything solid or truthful, that I am in fact angry at nothing at all. I am just angry. I am lucky, for I don’t carry anything abundantly hurtful to warrant my injury, but I am narcissistic for claiming my right to this agony. And I am stupid, for I am in pain without causation, and I am stupid for hating this stupidity. And I am angry again, angry at my stupidity, furious at my fury. This grows and grows, until it is too much to harbor. And I stop thinking.

And I run, far and hard, and I don’t stop. Not until the pain, within and without, dims to black.

By Rebecca Ju. 


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