I should have gone for a run earlier. It’s now 10.45 the windows are black and fogged around the edges. I massage the back of my calf; the pain is getting worse every time I run.

Today I ate a bowl of burnt pop corn. I popped it in the microwave without using oil but the little corn bit in the middle went black. I ate half a tomato sandwich with salt and pepper. I made a special trip to the bakery for one slice of bread. A cheese slice, I discovered cheese slices that have only two grams of fat. I drank a bottle of diet coke.

I can’t leave through the front door, Mum just went to bed and she will grill me if she hears me going out. I open my bedroom window and step out onto the terracotta roof tiles in my socks. I chuck my runners onto the grass below and climb down the ladder. It’s still there from last time.

I have been running everyday for four years. Its always the same route, the park is half way and I can add as many kilometers to it as I want, I will only do six kilometers tonight.

Everything changed when I started running. Instead of lying on the couch all day thinking about food, I lay on the couch all morning thinking about food and then went for a run and spent all afternoon lying on the couch thinking about food. My mother loved that I had a hobby ‘you should really push yourself.’ So I started running faster and longer, and it became easier every day.

Will was my boyfriend but I tried my best not to be alone with him. We went out for a while, maybe it was one month, maybe three.

I wasn’t really embarrassed about being his girlfriend. I didn’t care about anything other than getting out of the house. I remember once when we were all hanging out at Will’s swimming pool that he spat lemonade all over his mother when she asked him to come into the house.

This was when we were in year 10. My best friend Fiona was going out with Jimmy and my other best friend Jane was going out with Marcus, they were friends with Will. Marcus lived only two minutes from my house but I only saw him when he was with Jane. My mother had banned Marcus, Will and Jane from the house.

The pain in my calf muscle feels like a giant nail being thrust up from my ankle. The road is a black landing strip, cars in their driveways are frosted over. A white cat snarls at me from the top of the fence, its eyes alight like torches in the reflection of the street lights. My breath is white and hangs in the air in front of me.

Fiona and Jimmy split up just before Christmas time. Fiona, Marcus, Will and I had planned to spend the New Year at Jane’s beach house. My mother refused to let me go and after about two weeks of crying and slamming doors, the four of them left without me.

One morning while they were away Will called me from the beach house and said ‘we need to talk.’ By the end of that phone call I didn’t have a boyfriend and was listening to Marcus in the background playing everybody hurts by REM on his guitar.

It didn’t surprise me so much to get another call a few days later from Fiona saying ‘You will never guess what happened!’
‘You kissed Will.’ I said.
‘How did you know?’ Fiona sounded pretty surprised that I knew.

Will had given me a fish for my 16th birthday, when I got off the phone I poured that fish down the toilet. I even watched it swimming around in the bowl for a little while before I flushed. I wanted to look as sick as I felt. I ate very little for the next month until I started looking quite thin, and then for another month until I looked sick.

Thinking about this is taking my mind off the nail in my calf. My lungs are heaving which makes the pain worth it. I am relieved that I am running. I don’t care that my leg feels as though it has a nail running through it. Tears are plopping onto my runners, my $300 Asics runners that are so worn down I can feel the concrete through the little hole in the bottom. My eyes are blurred and I am running virtually blind, it is almost midnight and I am just over half way.

Two years after I started running, I went out with a red haired footballer named Sam who took me to parties every weekend. I met him at my school formal where we started laughing about fat Liz who was rolling around on the beer soaked carpet in her broken dress. He tried putting his hand up my dress and I kissed him. We went out for nearly a year after that, he would call me on Thursday nights and we would spend the weekends together.

On Friday nights we would catch a train to Saloon Bar for happy hour, drink two dollar shots and play billiards. One time Sam’s friend Adrian came with us and Sam drank so much he chucked all over the floor, he was kicked out. I didn’t go outside and see if he was ok, I just kept playing billiards with Adrian.

Eventually I went to check if Sam was ok, he was sitting on the pavement out the front and he wouldn’t talk to me so I called a cab. When we got in he started crying, he asked me what had taken me so long.

My mother told me Sam was a pig. The first time she met him he was lying on her couch with his feet up. The one time we tried having sex he didn’t have a condom.
‘Ill pull out, I swear, Jesus I can’t believe you are doing this. My parents never go away. We won’t get another opportunity.’

Sam drove up the street for condoms. He had set up this neon-ish light in his room and I realized when he asked me to open the condom wrapper that he didn’t have a clue what we were doing. He was angry, he didn’t look at me. I opened the packet and gave it back to him. Sam couldn’t get it up and I got dressed. I broke up with him the next morning.

It is midnight and I have stopped running, I am coughing from crying and I can’t see two feet in front of me. I am sitting on a short brick fence. It’s raining and getting heavier. I pull my hood over my head, rain is soaking through my runners and I start walking, my calf is killing me. The rain lands on the front of my thighs and soaks through my pants. I won’t be home for another 20 minutes. Then I can try being normal for once.

It is still raining and I am knocking on my front door. It is twenty past midnight. My mother opens the door, pulling down the front of her t-shirt covering up the tops of her skinny chook legs. Her eyes are all squinty in the porch light. She says nothing. ‘I just quit.’ I told her.


Alexandra Pope

Melbourne, Australia

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