Red letter day and I'm in a blue mood
Wishing that blue would just carry me away
I've been talking to God don't know
If it's helping or not
But surely something has got to got to got to give
Cause I can't keep waiting to live
How far do I have to go to get to you
Many the miles
Many the miles
-
Many the Miles by Sarah Bareilles

Chapter 5 - Miles

You are more tired than you realize, because as soon as the taxi begins moving you fall into an uneasy sleep.

You're running. It's early morning; the sun has barely risen over the tops of the trees that line the road. The air is crisp and cool, wicking away the sweat that beads on your forearms and drips from the tangles of your hair down the back of your neck. Your breathing is hard but steady, your pace is brisk but not frantic.

The trees become more sparse as your feet pound against the light gray pavement. The worn concrete gives way to smooth blacktop and the trees are replaced by telephone poles. You're running faster now; the yellow lines in the road flash like the shutter clicks of a camera.

Running faster still, the telephone poles take on a warped appearance. You can't puzzle out the difference, but something about them is wrong. You pick up the pace, wanting to get away. You're running full out now, fleeing.

The familiar twisting of motion sickness pulls you from your dream. The taxi has stopped; you're home. Grateful the ride has ended, you hand the driver a few bills and walk slowly inside. Another few minutes and the nausea of your dream would have become an embarrassing reality and you've suffered enough embarrassment tonight to last you several lifetimes.

You rummage through the cupboards in the kitchen until you come up with a box of Saltine crackers. You shove aside several small yogurt cartons in the refrigerator until your fingers glide over the smooth plastic of an abandoned Gatorade lurking in the far reaches of the middle shelf. You take your snack into the living room and sink into the plush micro fiber love seat, dragging a throw blanket over your shoulders.

You nibble on the crackers and sip the drink carefully while you cry. You wouldn't normally indulge yourself in crying over him, but you think today qualifies as an exception to the 'no more tears about that bastard' rule. You earned these tears.

You cry, silent painful tears, until there is nothing left. You close your eyes to rest, and sleep overtakes you.

Your lungs burn, but you run faster. A painful cramp forms in your side. Your legs feel heavy and you stumble. Your knuckles scrape the blacktop as you scramble to keep your feet under you. You panic, running blindly to escape what surrounds you.

You feel lightheaded and a roll of nausea makes your legs wobble. You stop, hands clutching your knees. Doubled over at the waist, eyes squeezed shut, you pant against your chest and try not to vomit.

You finally lift your head and stare. You can see the tree line where you were first running, miles in the distance. You make a slow about face and look ahead. Miles and miles of the dark road, paralleled by an endless queue of poles. You could run for years and never escape them.

You wake slowly. You brush stray cracker crumbs off your lap and guzzle the last of your Gatorade. You stand and roll your shoulders and neck to relieve the stiffness that has settled. You fold up the blanket and drape it over the back of the love seat. You take the box of Saltines back to the kitchen, tossing your empty Gatorade bottle into the recycling bin next to the refrigerator. You lean your back against the counter and take a deep breath.

You grieve. You aren't done; you know that there will be many days of despair and nights of tears in your future. But you have begun. And just as you did when your husband passed away, you will survive.

It's time to move on.

You make a quick stop in the bathroom to wash your face before returning the living room, this time to the small desk in the corner opposite the tread mill. You sit down and open the right hand drawer, removing from within a yellow folder. Yellow for caution, yellow for things to be thought about. You open the folder and look over the dozen or so job offers you considered before deciding to remain in Princeton.

You give each set of papers a cursory glance until you reach the final one. The offer is from a small hospital in the southwest with a growing reputation for leading edge research. You stare at the pages for a very long time, reading snatches of the offer they've extended and allowing the words to bleed together into oblivion.

You walk a slower pace forward, your breathing at least under control. With so many miles to go, running will get you nowhere but worn out. You don't know where you're going, only that you have to get out of where you are.

You watch the blacktop disappear beneath your feet. You count the yellow dashes in the road as you pass them. When you reach one hundred, you stop to check your progress.

You stop and look at the poles. The warped poles. Warped with a crook at the top. Like a cane. Surrounding you, encompassing you, obscuring everything you can see in all directions for miles. You don't know if you'll ever be past them. But you do know you're one hundred dashes further than you were before.

You shake yourself out of your daydream. You've been sitting at the desk well over two hours. Your back hurts. You stretch and rub tired hands over your face. You blink repeatedly to relieve the scratchiness in your eyes, but to no avail. You close the folder, placing the now well-worn pages on top of it.

Time hasn't helped you in getting over him. Maybe miles are what you need.

You check the locks and flick off light switches on your way to bed. You change into your softest pair of flannel pajamas and climb into bed wearily.

You ignore the phantom wooden knock that haunts you as you fall into sleep.

You're done with dreams.