My soccer team mates schedule Monday evenings to sprint up and down a steep slope of tarmac road. Repeat until failure.
rigorous regime enhances strength, stamina and explosiveness, which are
good things for soccer players. That being said, the uphill dash
inflames the leg muscles with hot pain and bakes the lungs alive. Often
it feels like there will never be enough oxygen in the world for
catching one's breath with. (That is just three minutes into pulling on
sneakers.) The routine involves chasing cars and motorbikes uphill, with
a resolute intent of beating them to the top. (A few drivers glance at
their rear-view, take us for some bungling carjackers and floor the gas
pedal.) (Most Chinese motorbikes can easily be overtaken while sprinting
uphill. Their riders absolutely HATE it.)
the end of "loading" (we call it that), your speech and heartbeat echo
discordantly within your own skull, so you avoid talking until you're
sufficiently rehydrated. And you are supposed to walk home. The journey
home is fraught with impromptu muscle pulls, the inevitable consequence
of repeatedly charging to the top of an indifferent hill.
my way home one dark Monday dusk, I met one of my friends on the
sidewalk. She announced her presence by grabbing my hat off my
absent-minded head. I spun to the challenge, half expecting to have to
chase a street kid down the middle of the road, only to come face to
face with her laughing visage.
saved your seat and you didn't show," she said pulling my hat on her
head. I always fancied it to be a hat for the artistic types; and it
blended nicely with her soft feminine features, but it clashed
irreparably with her formal skirt-suit. She'd been working all day. I
felt like a relative bum, especially considering what time I woke up.
I also felt naked, my unkempt hair being on display in the middle of
town for all the world to see. My fingers were itching to grab the hat
off her head but she was smiling and holding my stare while she awaited
my excuses with a cynical smile.
went to church somewhere else." My ear drums rang with internal echo.
Dehydration. Talking was too much work. I wasn't even sure I didn't
smell sweaty and soccer-socksy. RT if you know the smell. "Can I have my
"No!" she giggled, shaking her head. "I bet you didn't go to church at all."
gone to Nairobi. My hat? Before someone I know sees me." Spasms of
soreness glowed like coals embedded into my skeletal frame. My lower
back felt like something was broken in there.
"It's mine now." Her smile crept wider. Her eyes said she was serious. My heart sank.
A steady stream of pedestrians walked past us, around us, back and forth. Touts called out destinations from matatus passing on the nearby road. I could grab the hat and run...
A fortuitous breeze cooled my head. I breathed the fresh air. "Can we sit down somewhere and discuss it?"
"Good idea! I'm starving."
later, as she was having fries and I was draining my third bottle of
water, the flow of conversation ceased abruptly. A muscle pull erupted
deep in the core of my right hamstring.
Spontaneous hard words escaped my lips.