“In-two-three, out-two-three, in-two-three, out-two-three…” My lungs filling and deflating, feeling strained. The heart hasn’t beat this hard in a while. Every part of me hurts in this moment, but my feet keep moving. Somehow, they keep moving. One foot in front of the other at a pace that is uncomfortable for me, they keep moving. That last stop was pure bliss. Flowers everywhere, the smell of jasmine and gardenia wrapped around me like a caterpillar’s cocoon, embracing my naiveity and immaturity right where they were. The temperature there was perfect. At no point did I feel the need for a sweater, nor did I ever have to remove any clothing. The sun rose slowly, and I fully received every second of it as I lay in the soft, plush grass. I wish I could have stayed there longer. Or, perhaps forever.
But now, I’m here. I’m running through this city that looks like it’s being held together by school paste; old buildings cracked and covered with the pollution of our mistakes. Running down these skinny, cobbled streets of burgundy and ash, I glance up at the sky and wait for a sign. “Am I going the right way, Lord?“ Before I’m able to finish my tired prayer and look down, a broken piece of brick sticks out of the ground just enough to catch my worn sneaker and send me in a horizontal direction. The entire front of me burns from the friction of skin and hard surface meeting. Small rocks plant themselves into my chin like the stubble of a 5’oclock shadow. The sun’s beams hit the surrounding windows causing me to slowly open my eyes, every bit of defeat protruding from my expression. Laying prostrate and ready for this journey to be over, I feel the touch of another human’s skin on my arm. “C’mon, let me help you up. You took quite a fall.” Don’t I know it. Why I keep getting back up, I’m not entirely sure. But there’s a white line up ahead that I know I must cross over in order to find what I’m looking for. On the other side lies what I need the most. Giving myself that same talk as I’ve done many times before, it dawns on me that the person who helped me up is now running along side of me. That seems odd, given the fact that she’s never met me prior to the fall, but I guess I’ll allow it. She seems strong, but I can tell she’s worn too. Eyes never lie. Who knows, maybe she is headed towards that white line as well. Maybe we will cross it together.
Water… I need some water. A familiar face ahead holding a small cup sets a fire to my feet that causes my speed to almost double. Hydration is coming. It’s about to happen, my saliva lets me know. It fills my mouth and says, “Get ready for the refreshing.” As I close in on the familiar face, their smile alone is almost enough to keep up this stride, but alas, I drink the water. Not drinking the water would be foolish, especially at this point in the game. There’s only one cup of water, and now I have this new sojourner by my side. I leave some in the cup for her and pass it over. She drinks it down with her eyes closed, sounds coming from her that say, “Thank you, God. I can’t get enough.”
Waving my goodbyes to the old friend, I carry on. I mean, we carry on. Smiling at each other, the road seems a bit smoother now. My lungs, they feel as though the surrounding muscles have loosened their tight grip. The sweat slowly streaming down the sides of my forehead and face are like cooling springs. Still grinning, I try to tell myself that it’s ok to smile. Not every road is going to send you flying into the rubble. Some paths are dusted with grace. Will there be tougher grounds ahead? Yes. But for now, we glide easy.
Laughing until it almost stops us from carrying on, we see in the distance a lonely one. He sits idle on the side of the path, arms lifelessly draped by his side. His head hung low, we are close enough now to see tears permeating the dirt. Perhaps this road has not been as merciful to him as it has been to us. Understanding begins to seep into my heart as we come to a stop in front of this melancholy soul. My new friend and I glance at one another, and without even speaking, we know what we ought to do. Sitting next to him, we remain quiet. Perhaps to have nothing else in common with him other than to simply be humans together, we remain seated for a while. His small, sniffled cry turns into deep weeping, and we continue to sit. He manages to finally muster up the courage to say, “I can’t go on any longer. My feet are too weak.” He doesn’t say another word, or maybe we don’t give him the chance to. I pick him up and she helps me sling him over my back, and we continue on, taking turns carrying the wounded soldier.
Dusk is approaching, but I know we aren’t going to stop for the night. When the sun sets in this place, the path gets lost and we are left to the woods, where every evil thing awaits to devour us. They sit in hiding, with their mouths open like venus fly traps, hoping that we miss a step and fall right in. But not tonight. Oh no. We are going to plow right through the darkness and into the mornings light, because that’s where rest is waiting.