The first time I saw her she was walking alone at dusk in the forest where only trail runners go. As I trotted passed she gave me a shy nod. I pretended not to notice her tears.
The next day I saw her again. Thirty-something with hair pushed under a cap, this time she was running the trail ahead of me. She smiled as I pulled along side her, so I gambled that she wouldn’t mind the company of a “mature” runner. She seemed happier, and I wondered about yesterday’s tears.
After some pleasantries, we ran 6 miles over sylvan paths through a sea of pines, lost in our own thoughts. At the end we shared the comfortable fatigue of a mission accomplished, as only runners can, and then went our separate ways. She headed to her car and I to my home near the edge of the forest.
Each day I awaited her arrival. She rarely disappointed. We became running partners testing each other with ever more challenging routes. Through the scrapes and bruises of trail running we developed mutual respect as athletes and friends. I couldn’t deny my affection for her and hoped she felt the same about me, if only a bit.
I volunteered little about myself preferring instead to be the best listener I could. We were different animals in that regard. She talked of her career and even complimented me for being the only male friend she had who listened without giving advice, or asking her to dinner.
She never spoke about her personal life, or why she was crying that day in the woods. But, I knew I’d hear the story when the time was right.
That moment came several months later as we slogged through a rainy 5 miler. Her words tumbled out like a waterfall. While on assignment in another city she met a guy who changed her life. He offered his heart, but she came home instead to pursue her career. By the end of our run she was in tears again and we both knew she had let the love of her life slip away. Tomorrow she would leave to find him ….and herself.
As we said goodbye in the evening mist, it was my heart that was now breaking. I watched as she walked to her car, a lone figure in running shorts soaked to the skin. But, instead of driving away, she stopped for a moment and looked back at me. When she motioned for me come to her, I ran as fast as I could. As I climbed into the seat beside her, wagging my tail, I knew that we would both soon have a new home and that sometimes dreams do come true….even for an old dog like me.
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Malcolm D. Gibson