I walk alone by Janus Christiansen
I walk alone on a gravel path, the comfort of trees along both sides. No one around. Just me and the birds which I can´t see but can hear singing. And my mother, God bless her soul. She´s with me, too. It´s one of those days where I can feel her closeness. She´s invisible, like the birds, but her memory is still vivacious. “You´ll find your way,“ she used to say when I felt lost and lonely and overwhelmed. As I grew older I came to understand what she meant by those words but I was nonetheless lost and lonely and overwhelmed. The last time she said them was on her death bed. I quickly changed the subject, not wanting the last moments of her life to be about me.
It´s a nice day today, but I feel there´s something missing. The gap that I can´t fill. I´m restless and unsatisfied. But it´s a nice day, nevertheless. “You´ll find your way,” she whispers gently in my ear as I walk alone on this path in the comfort of bulky trees which separate me from the outside world. I´ve never been here before, yet it seems so familiar. I enjoy my walk, so I step up the pace a little bit. The birds are still singing and I can feel the warmth from the sun on my face. This is nice. I should do this more often. I feel energetic, and vibrant. Full of life. Maybe I should walk just a tiny bit faster. I get more excited. This is much better. I feel the enjoyment tingling through my body. I start walking faster and faster with each step I take. There´s no end in sight. The path just keeps on going. My heart is pumping and I´m taking deeper breaths. “You´ll find your way,” my mother whispers again. “This is my way,” I yell back, ecstatically. I just have to keep on going, faster and faster. To prove my point, I start running. I´m in control. The sun gets warmer and I feel drops of sweat on my forehead. I can´t hear the birds anymore; they must be gone. My breathing gets heavier and louder and the sweat on my forehead starts to drip down my face. It´s so warm. Almost too warm. But I have to keep on running. I can´t hold back. I can´t lose control. I run and I run. And I keep on running. My muscles are stiffening up, and no matter how hard I try, I can´t gobble deeper breaths. The sweat is pouring down, covering my face. I can taste the salt on my upper lip. It´s unbearably hot. The trees are looming over me. But I’ve got to keep on running. I can´t give up. The joy is gone. It´s all hard work now. But I can´t stop. I just can´t. I run and I run. The path seems never ending. I don´t know what I´m running towards but I can´t give up. That I know. I simply cannot. I keep a steady pace, I musn´t slow down. “I´m not a failure,” I say and clench my teeth for a second before I open my mouth again to inhale as much oxygen as I possibly can. I feel stingy pains in my lungs and the taste of blood in my mouth. I can´t keep the pace up; I´m slowing down. But I still run as fast as I possibly can. The headache is killing me and my legs start to cramp. I can´t take anymore. I collapse. I´m done. I give up. To my surprise, I feel a sense of relief instead of failure.
I´m squatting on the ground, still breathing heavily. I see a bench along the path. I sit down, too exhausted to think. A few seconds pass before I notice that the birds have started to sing again. And there, I saw one! “Look,” I cry out, pointing towards the colourful bird. It flies from one tree-top to another and disappears. With my pointed finger up in the air, I suddenly realise that I´m alone. I gently lower my arm, surprised by my reactions. It did feel like someone was around. I´m all drenched and feel chilly but the sun keeps me warm enough. My mind is at ease. Or am I not listening to it? Either way, it feels good just to sit here and be part of the surroundings without analysing it. And not segregating myself from it. A young woman, about my age, sits on the other side of the bench and opens a book. I didn´t notice her coming. She looks nice and friendly. We both sit still for a minute; her reading a book, me in a state of surrender. I feel a sudden urge to say something to her. Just something. Anything. I have nothing particuIar in mind but I recognise this moment. I´ve been there before so many times and too often I have let go of it. Not said a word, not acted on impulse and something always died within me. “It´s a nice day today,” I say. She looks up at me. “Yes, it´s a lovely day.” She has a natural smile. I pause. Her attention goes back to the book. “What are you reading?” I ask. “Catcher in the Rye,” she says. My favourite.