Tuesday, June 18, 2019

I Lost More Than I Gained 

“I could tell you the temperature and wind speed by feel. I knew the humidity index by my sweat. I knew the date by the moon.”
I use to have a bad habit of coming home from work, lying down and having a solid nap. I’d wake up, weigh myself, then feel guilty and go for a run. By the time I got home and showered I’d be eating supper sometimes as late as 10 PM. Then I’d go to bed and sleep like a baby. Sleeping well was the first thing I lost when I stopped exercising but it wasn’t the only thing. It’s been ages since I’ve run regularly and in the meantime I gained weight and got doughy. Like 20 lbs doughy. I’ve since realized I've lost more than I gained.

When you run all the time you get to know your neighbourhood. I knew every pothole, every stage of every construction project. I recognized other runners who were regulars. I knew if I was ahead or behind schedule by who was sitting on their porch. I knew when the SPCA volunteers would walk the dogs in their care. I even knew those dogs. I knew cats that prowled and scurried from shrubs or beneath cars. I knew what flowers bloomed when. What trees budded and for how long. Because I often ran at dusk, I had a sense of how the moon was waxing or waning. I knew the mix of smells, mostly sour and urban, but some sweet and floral. I knew which neighbourhoods smoked more pot than others from the pungent acrid smoke that followed the men on their evening walk. I knew the sounds of kids and the names that would be yelled across the park. I knew which birds to avoid in the Common - trust me, do not turn your back on a redwing blackbird. I knew when the raspberries beneath a public art piece were ripe or that there were berries there at all. I knew which water fountains worked and where new ones were installed (the new ones have a spout for pets near the ground and a taller faucet for refilling water bottles). I knew when ball games were played or when local teams practised. I knew which sidewalks had heaved in the spring and which had crumbled in the fall. I knew which street lamps were faulty and which alleyways were lit. I knew when streetlights would change and could count the seconds accurately in my head (“1 Jeremy Irons, 2 Jeremy Irons, 3 Jeremy Irons, go). I knew when garbage trucks took which street’s waste. I knew which houses had well kept gardens and which apartments ordered a lot of fast food. I knew where the cabbies gathered to break and talk their native language.

I could tell you the temperature and wind speed by feel. I knew the humidity index by my sweat. I knew the date by the moon. I could tell you the next day’s weather by the clouds. I could sense who won the big game by the traffic on the Gardiner. I knew people’s private moments when they thought no one was near. I startled more than a few couples canoodling (poodle faking as a friend’s father would say).

I knew my pace by counting in my head. I knew how far I’d gone by my steps. I knew how to add 500m more, 1 km more, 2.5 km more by lampposts and stop signs. I knew my heart rate from touch. I knew my body fat from a pinch. I knew my weight to the gram by my lightness. I knew every street name, stop sign, no parking zone and house number. I knew where raccoons gathered, where rats were plentiful, where rabbits hid, where foxes, deer or raptors might be seen. I knew the time of night by the stillness. I knew the darkness because I ran within it. I knew where crackheads smoked, vomited and pissed. I knew where the prostitutes stood, bored and anxious. I knew where the cops slept. I knew when the seasons changed by taste. I knew when the skateboarders would land their jump or stumble from their boards. I knew when grass was cut, where drugs were sold, where dogs crapped and where drunks passed out. I knew the city better than the back of my hand because, honestly, the back of my hand isn’t that interesting.

But that’s all lost to me now.

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