My sneakers thump on gravel in a repeated drum beat matching my heart’s, breaths taken in, then released, pausing, panting, then thump, thump, thump, the woods holding its breath around me as other runners come and go.
I can smell the scent of body odor that is not my own and it stinks, the vaguely lingering stench of a humanity I am trying to escape out here.
Yet no matter how far or fast I run, they always find me.
A squirrel leaps down from a bent tree limb, scurrying across needled carpet to pause, dig furiously, to drag out from some secret coven a peach pit or hazelnut it stored there for tough times.
I keep thinking about my shrinking bank account, and the safe deposit box brimming with worthless stock, and the job I once hurried off to before I took up jogging to calm down.
A down-sized former Wall Street executive jogging along the river here trying hard to ignore faces I used to see on the PATH train during my morning commute, their faces mirroring the despair I feel.
I’m so paranoid about being noticed, I think even the laughing gulls are laughing at me.
I used to want people to notice me, to recognize me in the halls, getting pleasure over the envy I saw in their eyes.
No one out here looks at any one else, and for the first time in our lives, we look around at things we never thought as important, like the killie fish swarming like bees across the surface of the still-water eddies where the water mirrors the sky so perfectly, you can’t tell which is which, and don’t care.
I stumble passed the vacant car dealerships, where wide windows reflect me and the street like a dead fish’s eyes, the paper signs saying “No credit problems” already turning yellow from exposure to the sun, the show rooms covered with dust and the mark of the last car wheels from the last cars rolled out before going bankrupt, plastic colored flags stretched out along light poles flapping madly like frightened pigeons unable to escape, this whole side becoming a ghost town, with each jogger serving as the ghost, each of us running harder and faster as if trying to escape our own lives, but dragging everything behind us like Marley’s ghost did his chains, the echo of each clink sounding in our hears along with the thump, thump, thump of our sneakers on gravel.