Twas a bitter wintry afternoon, bright and brilliant in its bleakness. Not a breeze stirred in the barren foliage. All the animals of the forest were cuddled deep in their winter hobbit-holes, making little snoring chitter chatters as they spooned for warmth.
Seeing a great opportunity for frostbite and aspirations for a future limb amputation, I decided to go for a run in shorts.
I pulled down the gravel road onto the running trail. Parked in the frozen mud lot. I was prepared. Nothing less durable than Defcon 5 clearance, government grade Walmart running shorts. Double layer of Underarmour, so wind-resistant they were probably illegal on the black market. Got them at a covert underground store, Kohl’s I believe it’s called. Clearance, 12 dollars.
Just to remind myself that nature is my bitch and I do not adhere to the laws of physics, I casually perform a few stretching cartwheels across the ice and land a perfectly executed faceplant in the ice-mud. There’s the trail. Alright, let’s get it.
What- what is that? Another human? No, can’t be. Sane people don’t run in 10 degree winter death. It’s totally another human. I look back. Oh my- OH MY GOODNESS. She’s beautiful.
Headband, bouncing ponytail, face that would turn Richard Simmons straight, and mittens. Oh my God, she’s wearing mittens. I’m so smitten. I’m mitten-smitten.
Let me give you an idea of this trail: Sorry, wrong trail. Anyway, the road crosses a stone bridge over a picturesque creek and branches onto a dirt trail into the woods. And by dirt trail I mean, a vertical luge track that looks like it’s been curated all winter with a garden hose.
I immediately break forward, ready to employ my mountain goat ice navigational skills. Clearly once she sees me Usain Bolt my way up this upwards sloping sliding board she’ll be so impressed, she’ll fall in love immediately. Be the mountain goat. You are the mountain goat. Just don’t get carried away and bleat. That’s how you scared the last one away.
We’re jogging a few feet apart. It’s exercise Armageddon. She slips into a rock. Just to make her feel better, I throw myself and ricochet off a tree. I curse my bad preparation. Should’ve worn my rollerblades today. Then she’d really be impressed.
I run through all the possible scenarios:
1. She turns and strikes conversation, commentating on the ice and my rugged physique. I laugh and counter with my quick wit. She smiles and playfully throws her iphone across the ice trap at me to put my number in.
2. Finding it creepy that she’s running next to the only other man in the entire forest, she turns, maces me, and proceeds to very ably beat me with a nearby oak branch. She screams, “I AM NOT A VICTIM!” and maces me once more for good measure. Then she steals my shoes to humiliate me. Blinded and barefoot, I’m left for dead until morning when a rogue, sexually frustrated black bear drags me back to its home, coats me in honey, and makes me its den-slave.
3. We keep running quietly like this, both of us concentrating on the trail to not lose our footing. This continues for a period, then maybe we briefly acknowledge each other and exchange “how’s it goin’s”, then move on. Nah, that won’t happen. Too weird.
Please just…please fall. Please just fall. She falls, maybe mildly cripples herself with a sprained ankle, nothing too serious. I’m forced to craft a survival stretcher from frozen twigs and stiff juniper bark, which I bind together using shreds of my all-purpose Kohl’s Underarmour. I bobsled her back down the mountain as all the while we exchange lighthearted and hilarious banter. Then with suave ingenuity I use the car lighter to heat up a conveniently available can of chicken noodle soup. It could work.
Neither of us is being cheated out of a workout. Sleeker than a lubed up baby seal on a water slide out here. This is just too rare of an opportunity. If I don’t say something I mine as well just commit hara-kiri with a dull Hemlock branch. Breathe, confidence, breathe.
“I think this is slightly more treacherous than what I was hoping for,” says I.
She laughs and straddles an overhanging branch as she slides forward. “I know, right? Not at all what I expected.”
Conversation initiated. Engage phase two: ward off all territorial competition with chest-beating and verbal threats. I glance around. Yup, looks like phase two is covered. Phase three: Woo the unicorn.
“I actually wait until this time of the year to go for a run. You know, gotta get my annual ankle break in.”
Corny, so corny. She laughs.
“Yeah, this is the worst. I feel like a mountain goat.”
OH. OH NO SHE DINT.
The trail climbs the side of a ridge and overlooks the creek curling below. It begins a slow gradual dip and…uh oh. There’s a junction.
Just fall behind her and see what direction she goes. No, that’s weird, don’t follow her. I don’t want to get maced. Just go with the flow. I’m losing control. Not of the situation. No, my feet are slipping ahead of her. Knew I shouldn’t have greased the bottom of my shoes before I ran. Supposedly it helps for grip. I don’t know who told me that.
It’s gonna be up to me. Which path should I take? She stutter-steps behind. I veer left and look back.
She hesitates, locks eyes, and makes a careful pitter-patter U-turn. She brushes a strand of hair from her eyes. I do the most romantic thing possible and start jogging in place. And then:
“It’s too slippery. I’m turning around,” she says. “Run with me if you like!”
If I like, she says. Psh. Does a Brian Williams lie about Iraq? I spin my wheels like Roadrunner. Whether or not she enjoys binge-watching Lord of The Rings is the last thing I think just before my face hits the ice.
I wake up in the parking lot with a grey-bearded hippie standing over me, playing with his ponytail. I’m lying on a stretcher crafted from frozen twigs and stiff juniper bark, bound together by shreds of my Underarmour shirt.
“That young muscular frame of yours took a nasty fall there,” says the hippie. “My name’s Diligence. Had to drag you down on that hand-crafted survival stretcher.”
He gives me a gay old eyebrow raise and the hippie puts his ponytail in his mouth and bites on it.
“I’m fine.” I stand up. “I’ve got a mason jar at my house. I’m just gonna go home now and fill it with tears.”
“Say,” the hippie sniffs his ponytail, “you’re hurtin’ good. Why don’t you come back to my place for some soup?”
I want to be unconscious again.
Welp. You know what they say: Sometimes one man’s complete and total humiliation is another gay hippie’s treasure.