My feet were moving like an aged metronome – slowly, but in rhythm. Left, right, left, right. One, two, one, two. The day after another holiday stuffing, it was important that I not skip this run.
I had pushed myself out of bed with my usual reluctance. The temperature, my phone read, was 36 degrees. I looked out the window. Frost still covered the lawn.
I layered my clothing, leggings under pants, wicking polyester and a thick sweatshirt covering my torso. I pulled my hoodie over my hat to keep my neck warm.
Running has been part of my exercise plan for the better part of three decades, but I don’t consider myself a runner. Runners are lean and move like gazelles. I run anyway.
I run not only to increase my metabolism and cardiovascular strength, but, frankly, to boost my mood. I always have a sunnier perspective at the end of 3 miles.
On this day – like all running days – I set out with the determination of a turtle. The hardest part is getting started.
I traveled down the street, my thoughts following the pace of my legs. I contemplated my to-do list. I appreciated the sky and the trees. A mile or two down the road, creative thoughts began to emerge, an added bonus.
After a time, I traded a particular stretch of road for the safety of the sidewalk. It was there that I saw it. A man’s wristwatch, curled up on the concrete like a snail retreating into its shell. I stopped abruptly and bent down to look. What to do?
In my breathless state, I gently unfurled the black leather band, laying the timepiece at the edge of the sidewalk as if I was preparing a body for viewing. I saw a leaflet from a molded palm frond lying within reach. I placed it next to the watch, creating a make-believe barricade, as if my gesture could save the keeper from an errant foot or thief’s hand.
I resumed my run, feeling vaguely sad. Who was the owner of the watch? Would he ever see it again? Minutes lost with the ticks of a second hand.
Before long, my mind returned to its running place. The joys of life beat clear, as did the stressors that pressed. I worked out a problem. Life’s mysteries lined up. Running became meditation.
A breathless pleasure kicked in, the sound of my steps a mantra joined a cappella by my soft panting. I blew off bursts of carbon dioxide as if I was blowing off the woes of the world. Mercifully, each expiration was followed by an oxygenated breath.
The metronome ticked. And then I was done.
Later that day, my schedule was graced with a rare pause. At one point, I sat at the piano that usually gathers dust in the corner of my living room. I pulled from its bench an old primer from my youth, propping it on the music rack.
My fingers fumbled through various melodies before I came upon “Curious Story” by Stephen Heller. The composition is to be played molto vivace – very lively and fast. Mimicking the trajectories of our existence, each phrase called forth a bright leap or minor tumble.
My memory played whiplash. I was a child with sweaty hands, seated in front of a hall full of people at the Methodist Church in my hometown, hardly missing a note during my piano recital.
I was a middle-aged woman with experienced hands, hitting so many wrong chords, yet thrilled at the opportunity.
That evening, a flash of silver peeked at me from under a pillow on the couch in my den. So odd. I had come upon another lost watch. This timepiece belonged to my brother, apparently pulled from his wrist the day before and hastily left behind.
Are we chasing time or is time chasing us?
Forty-eight hours after I found the first watch, I departed for another run. Near the end of my loop, I moved from the road to the sidewalk like I always do. I looked down toward my feet to see what I could see. The piece of palm frond was still there on the concrete, slightly askew, but exactly where I had left it.
The wristwatch was gone.
Danielle R. Shapazian is a nurse and writer who lives in Fresno. She can be reached at Danielle.Shapazian@sbcglobal.net.