Short Story: The Runner

woman looking at sunset Photo by Pixabay on

by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Contributing Editor

It was a spring morning. I was going on my run through the hills of my neighborhood. I live in a quiet part of my town, with lots of trees and the lower Hudson valley mountains surround us by the landscape of Bear Mountain – beautiful green mountains peppered with boulders of every shape and size, with a lone eagle or hawk soaring above. 

I always loved running or walking through this natural beauty, sometimes taking my dog along, but for some reason this morning I was deep in thought about the recent occurrences of the past year.  A year we would never forget, the year of the pandemic.

As I ran among the tapestry of the mountains someone called out to me. I have very rarely seen or heard anyone so close to cause me to slow down my pace along the foothills. There was another path I came across between the boulders and so I continued, slowing down until I saw the perfect spot so that I could sit down and find out who it was that so fervently had called out to me. When I sat down, I could sense that someone was nearby.  

I looked up and saw you approaching at the curve of the path.  Time stood still for that moment. I felt a shot of my own imagination.

What are you doing in my neck of the woods?

I had no idea you lived around here.

How are you?  It’s been so long.

It has, I’m good, great, and you?

And so, the pleasantries were exchanged, and the pretenses began to fade.  The façade I tried to show began to melt away. I recalled how all we ever wanted to do was to fuck each other’s brains out. Stop, I told myself!

You haven’t changed.

Ha! I now have curves, we were so young, I was blonder and thinner, but you seem to have aged well.

Has it been that long?  You are still beautiful, that same wild hot lover that taught me all about the spirit and angels.  Are you married?

Charm has no time frame. The questions, and the history I thought to myself as I took in a slow deep breath, I could feel my heart beating faster.  I should end this now, before it goes any further, I was beginning to feel an awkward sense of pressure that was exciting, as I imagined us naked.

My imagination overwhelms my senses. I have always been fascinated by the tales of angels, of the afterlife, the miracles of nature. You recalled that part of me. Angels visit us in so many different forms, sometimes it’s just in a presence that one feels, other times as an ethereal being, a bright light, a whisper as they make themselves known.  Beliefs are so personal, I know. I sense we can encounter nature spirits, to reach out from the energy each of us possess.  The key is to be open to what spirit has to offer us without any expectations or preconceived ideas. We are required only to have our own understanding of this gift while maintaining contact with our physical environment.

And then I noticed! You had a prosthetic right leg.

What happened to your leg?

You told me you were there on 9/11.  You were a New York City police officer, caught at the scene during that horrific day. Your memory was not good, but you remembered hearing voices, and then you were lifted from the surrounding debris.  I, too, worked down at the 9/11 site.  I was an Emergency/trauma nurse for many years.  I had been called away the day prior to that day to a statewide meeting in Albany.  Both of our lives had been affected in a different way. 

I asked you so many questions about what happened to you, your life, and you answered me in such a calm fashion.  Your courage impressed and amazed me.  We talked about the things that we had encountered in life. And in escaping death, the differences in our lives as they were presented.

Your smile allowed me to see that through all the pain you had endured, you were at peace.  I felt your peace as if it were mine.  I thought about years gone by when we were lovers.  

You remembered how we met, that first time.  I was on my way to the ladies’ room in a popular night spot, the music was loud, you grabbed my hand as I squeezed past you.  I tried to shake you off, but you were not letting go, and we both laughed at your audacity, and then I let you pull me into you. I asked you your name, I told you mine and then you kissed me, full of passion.  I could not resist you. The rest of that night was spent in the back seat of your car, you pulled off my panties, and I opened your jeans.  We fucked…until daylight. 

Our affair was complicated. We fought and played. When you moved in with me, I thought I loved you, and in many ways I did, regardless of your wild nature.  We were never going to get old, whatever it took – the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.  Our friends called us by the name of the Eagles’ song “Life in the Fast Lane”.  

Such memories we shared.  It was fun to see you, to remember those times.  I asked you if I could touch your prosthesis and of course you let me.  I wanted to outline what I missed most but you grabbed my hand just like that first time and pulled me into you once more.  Our kisses were deep, filled with such longing.  I climbed onto your lap.  Fuck me like it was the first time, I whispered.  We both gave into that ecstasy we knew from so long ago.  Every kiss had such a raw intensity, every thrust changing my breathing, just stopping long enough to intoxicate my mind until we reached that point of no return, and I felt your heat inside of me.

When we both dressed, we did so slowly, savoring every moment, touching each other, teasingly – reaching for the warmth of that place that a couple only knows. When we said goodbye, you dried my tears with your kisses and then you smiled at me and walked off.  I knew I would never see you again – you were a gift.

The abruptness of the September 11 attacks was unnerving and surreal – a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamist terrorist group known as Al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Two of those planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  

Approximately 3,000 people perished. You were among them.  You were a casualty.