The Edges of Possibility
I walk to cope with everyday pains
In my earliest memories with my grandparents, we were on the move, walking the mile from their home in Manassas, VA to the rinky-dink mall where they bought me many McDonald’s Happy Meals. In the food court, I’d roll my new toy car over the table’s surface, a bent fry in my other hand, and feel accomplished, like we had traveled the entire world to get there. Manassas was smaller then. All I knew was my family, that mall, the park with swings, that shiny slide that burned me on sunny days, the neon glare of the 7-Eleven’s signage from my bedroom window, and the sprawl of trees. That mile-long stretch contained all the edges of possibility.
I’ve walked so much since I was a child. Across New York, D.C., Philadelphia, Cleveland, Istanbul, and sleepy suburbs like Brecksville, OH without the safety of a sidewalk. In Brooklyn, I’ve walked from Bensonhurst to Midwood, to Bath Beach, to Bay Ridge, to the bottom border of Gravesend. On days when my depression was heavy, I caught the Q train after work and rode to Kings Highway, so far from where I lived for the opportunity to walk. I’ve walked from one end of Flatbush to the other, dying beneath an unwavering sun. I’ve looped all of Prospect Park, both alone and with friends, shedding all the layers of my heart to them.
I’ve walked past graveyards in the dead of night; beneath underpasses, up mountainsides. I’ve walked down alleyways, emboldened by the amber warmth of streetlights and a hint of danger.
One night, in high school, I took my dog Riddle on a long, meandering walk through our neighborhood, when a man approached me. We lived two blocks away from the hospital; he was on his way to see a friend who had been shot. He was drunk, reeking of cheap beer. He spoke in a steady stream of Spanglish. The gist was: Life is short and full of bullshit. So much carelessness and cruelty in the world. Leave it to the sad, drunk man to hit me with a mountain of clichés. Then he formed a gun with his fingers, pointed it to my forehead, said he could end my life just like that. That was the way of the world now, our lives and deaths in the hands of other people. I stood, nodding — aroused. When we parted ways, he took my face in his hands, said a blessing in Spanish, then kissed me in the spot where he had pointed the fake gun, his prayer a bullet.
When I receive upsetting news, I walk.
When loneliness roils inside of me, I walk.
I walk to nurse a broken heart. To shake off the film of alcohol.
On days when I’m feeling antsy, I will forgo delivery, place an order for pickup, and walk.
To find hookups, I walk — I hop off the train in a neighborhood miles from my own, open a cursed dating app, and tell the universe I want a little comfort.
After bad hookups, I will always walk home, not holding my head in shame but tilted to the side in swampy confusion.
Walking is very much a part of my writing process. (As is showering, to be honest.) I churn over entire drafts of stories in my head, imagining how the sentences would look on the page, then wipe them away, allow the words to be lost forever in the muck of poor memory. The real gems will stay. Everything else is frilly and negligible. When I return to the page, what I’m hoping to say comes out a little cleaner, and smoother. A little more layered.
There are the days when I can barely walk down the block. My legs hot, my feet like iron. Everything is swollen, my muscles expanding, taut around the bone. Stairs are a chore. Moving through the world feels like wading through molasses. One day, the pain paid me a visit and never fully left. Like a basement that floods when it rains, or the backroom of a house that becomes infested with ladybugs in late summer, there’s a clockwork to this. The pain is part of my foundation. I used to fight it or become incredibly depressed, and some days I still feel the familiar hum of sadness, but I’ve found that when I pushed myself too hard, I always regretted it. If this is my body saying slow down, if this is my body saying keep your ass at home and rest, then surely I should listen. I should stop pretending I understand it better than it understands me.
Oh, running? Absolutely not.