Thursday, November 25, 2010

Strangers in the Rain

I'm convinced that the painting The Scream by Edvard Munch portrays a person with a sinus headache.
I know because that's how I've felt the past four days.
"Lie down and rest," Earl urges me in between work and attending kids' activities.
"I don't feel any better when I lie down," I admit. And it's true. Whether I veg out on the couch or cook dinner or sit through a basketball game, that pounding in my head, the aching in my teeth continue.
That's why I decided to meet my friends this Thanksgiving morning for a run. When I opened my eyes at 5 a.m., the familiar throbbing behind my eyes was there to greet me. I drank some water, swallowed some B vitamins and filled my water bottles. Whether the medicine or the sinus issues, I'm thirsty all the time. I didn't take any ibuprofen or Sudafed before I left. Sometimes the medicine makes me feel worse.
I did flip on the television to see the weather forecast. Rain and thunderstorms. 39 degrees.
I went anyway. Princess joined us for a run for the first time in ages. I didn't want to miss it. But I did ask my friends to just run around the lake with me and then I would go home. The rain wasn't heavy, but I didn't want to be out in the cold rain for a couple of hours when I was already sick.
We ran around the lake, catching up on each other's lives. While running through the dark rain, I didn't even notice my headache. Maybe it's the friends, maybe it's the distraction, maybe it's the fresh air or exercise.
I decided to go on a half mile farther before they turned away from the road and headed along the river. I hugged them all goodbye before turning back to the half mile trail.
"Sing," Princess urged, "so we know you're okay."
"I'll be fine. There are lots of fishermen back at the lake."
I ran through the increasing rain back toward the lake, and I did see a fisherman. He was loaded down with fishing equipment and called out, to me, a lone woman running along the trail.
"Excuse me. Can I ask you a question?" he called. He was tall and had a rain jacket on with the hood pulled up.
Everyone knows that if a man wants to ask someone a question, he should not approach a woman alone in the dark in the rain. What was he thinking?
I turned toward him but didn't walk over to him. I was ready to make a break for it. But I know I was stupid to stop and answer his question. What was I thinking?
"How far is this path around the lake?" he asked. He held a fishing pole in one hand, a lawn chair and other equipment in the other hand. He looked miserable.
"One point two miles," I said and started off again.
"Really? Mumble, mumble," he said.
"What?" I asked turning back toward him.
"That large?" he asked.
I moved away from the man, away from the lake and toward the parking lot.
The world is full of people doing strange things, like running in the rain on Thanksgiving morning, or fishing on Thanksgiving morning, or stopping people to ask the distance around the lake when a sign right by the deck clearly states the mileage. Strangest of all, perhaps, is feeling like the politeness of answering a stranger's question is more important than safety. I could hear my friends, my husband's and my parents' voices echoing in my head as I climbed into my dry car and locked the doors behind me.
But, for the most part, people are trustworthy and not predatory -- just strange, like me.

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