the private school parking lot drooped with cars ticking in the midday heat.
each automobile boasted steel rims and faded paint, some highlighted by rust spots and scratches from forgotten fun days. inside the painted concrete hallways and scrubbed baseboard classrooms, children were growing. their maseratis were at home in the garage. their porsches were getting fitted for new, asymmetrical tire configurations, their parents were getting their nails done and hedge funds topped up. their teachers were believing in them, and worrying about the oil dripping underneath that red honda civic not quite in the shade by the episcopalian church.
private school parents used to pay good money to send their children to poor teachers so that both could give the best of themselves and the children would grow to be great. this really happened. for thirty-four thousand dollars a year, the children got to play and learn and mature and, at the end of june, leave with a certificate of completion for senior kindergarten. resident doctors pay less and leave with more. but for all of their money and hours, resident doctors do not get to spend more than eight hours a week with adults who are paid to teach them but end up loving and believing and supporting them. that was my job. and it was worth a million dollars a year.
i told the youth this very thing the other day. i told them that they were getting a million dollar a year session with me for free, and that the least they could do was show up on time for it. with coffee. black. and it occurred to me, in the saying of it all, that it was entirely true, came across as entirely arrogant, and that, as a fact, it was utterly useless. these are not the the facts that change lives. these are not the facts that shock and appall. these are the facts that inform my ability to get out of bed every day, my focus on the point of it all, my work, and, ultimately, me. so no one else has to give a damn, and no one does. but it was helpful to realize: i am worth a million dollars a year.
allan ran towards me with his trademark small steps and non-shoes. we were the only ones running on bathurst street, so i would have recognized him if for nothing other than movement more purposeful than a deliberate slog on sidewalk concrete. nevertheless, the sight of him threw my heart into sunshine, and i sped up and hugged him in spite of myself. allan and i don't hug.
we ran off of the sidewalk and onto the ice, a stalled glacier coating well-run backyard paths of the one percent. allan was alright. i was alright. we ran. i had asked him how he was, and received a non-committal, 'okay'. allan and i share things like i used to share things in high school: all me talk and no info in return. (i imagine i spent most of my formative youth like brian from the gaslight anthem, "bleeding" from an overemotional heart onto any innocent bystander, passerby, good friend, or beautiful girl. ugh, what an idiot!) we made our slippery way down the ice, peppering our (my) talk with the occasional near-fall or acknowledgement of better traction. i talked a lot. allan listened a lot. and the run began to work its magic.
somewhere out of the woods and back onto concrete, i told allan about what my running had become. it was the same thing i sought in the lips of women and the approval of parents and the eyes of people who know me. i searched and yearned for this throughout so many long bike rides and torturous interval sessions and gallons and gallons of needless sweat. running is the space wherein i contextualize myself with the world. that is all. and it is perfectly rendered in the final race of The Other Kingdom, where our protagonist comes to realize the point of life: I made myself the best I could possibly be so that I may offer you, my fellows, something of worth.
i think that's it. at least, i told allan that that was it. as soon as i read that, something clicked in my head, and i have been running about it ever since. some days are worse and harder than others, and some days it rings true in every breath. whatever the case, this is the point of it all. i am trying to make myself the best that i can be, so that i can offer you something worthy. this takes a lot of time. the best way to true a wheel is an eighth of a turn at a time. the best way to build endurance is over years, not weeks. the best way to become a master is to show up, every time. and so, as my marking stares me down and my people are off at their jobs and the rain entices me to a few miles in its grace, i must go. there is much to build so that there is more to offer. you, all of you, have always been worth it.