Every parent has those days. When life starts to feel tied down by lost socks, late starts, long waits and detours. The kind of day that eats patience like a tornado, and spits out insults for fun. The kind that makes some white beach barefoot and burnt somewhere look like a perfectly acceptable career move.
And after weeks like that, no matter how bright the nightlight at home, a man sometimes thinks about what could be over the horizon, and feels the lure of another’s warm caress.
I’ve got that, bad. And I’m having an affair, with a star.
It started innocently enough. A few months back, I finally accepted that I’d reached the last notch in the belt, and the only six pack I’d likely see for at least a year was in the fridge. I thought about what I’d been eating. Looked for any sign of diet control. Couldn’t remember any exercise besides bench pressing kids. Time to burn pounds.
I thought I’d kill two birds – get some P & Q out of the house and see if my heart still pumped – by working out on the running path near home. My legs protested, my lungs ached, but I started, and worked on steadily pushing my distance further.
And for the first month, I burned, all right. With humiliation. Grey haired women stroked smoothly past me with grandmotherly smiles. Women with babies and diaper bags and prams flowed around me like a flood past an immobile rock. I was enjoying how every single person coming the opposite way would raise a friendly hand, and ask, ‘how are you doing’, until I realized, they were asking out of concern. Kids running high school track bounded past so fast I actually appreciated the breeze.
There comes a time when we re-view where we actually fit in the scheme of things, and mine came. Definitely not the Nike athlete. Definitely not built for speed. So rather than be iphone immortalized like an Amish farmer on the freeway, one morning I decided to take the back route, the dirt trails that wound through the hills, out of traffic. They were tough and steep, rocky, narrow, winding, but to my happy surprise, nearly unpopulated and a challenge I discovered I could master. Just what the doctor ordered. And that’s where the affair started.
Out on the dirt path, rising out of the wooded canyon, across a sloping hillside, into the wide open, I ran into star shine, into a blinding bright shot of sunlight. Sunlight reached out to meet me, and I stopped short, heart pounding. I don’t know how I’d forgotten what it felt like to be so hot, exposed, sweaty, and primally alive. Wide sky, empty land, and the energy of our neighbor star beating down. Strong, beauty like a pressure on the skin, irresistably tempting, but with a dangerous streak. It hooked me, by the cells, like an ancient craving.
Since then, my legs have hardened with some muscle, I count in miles, and I had to buy a new, shorter belt. And I can’t stop thinking about our next rendezvous; now, in the semi dark at the keyboard, when I’m on the road, or doing homework with the youngsters, and it keeps me going. I count time between visits. When we get together, I smile, and take an eyeful for as long as I can. A good romance is like that.