They stream towards me, down there by Town Lake. Phew! Hot bods. I mean, it’s hot in Austin in the summer! The carousel undulates in both directions, round and round in a daze. In the middle is Town Lake, shimmering like a mirage, made barely real by figures standing on their paddle boards, oaring their upper bodies up and down, up and down. The motion of the figures in this decidedly still air keeps me somewhat alert as I trot around my circle.
First comes the self-consciousness, thinking about my posture and gait, before the endorphins kick in. I remember my friend, the rower, buzzing in my left ear, “Keep your thumbs up to the sky; that will keep your hands from crossing your body. Remember you are moving forward, so everything about you must move forward.” Check. My chest is open, leaving room for airflow through my ribcage. Landing on the balls of my feet comes naturally, making me feel like I have a spring to my step. I do have a short gait, which starts at my hips, mimicked by the mimes in Florence. Do I really waddle as though I have a diaper on? Still, since Florence, I try not to rotate my hips, just to lengthen my stride. Breathe. Open. Relax.
After about ten minutes, I stop thinking about my own bio-mechanics, and start gazing at all the wondrous bodies moving towards me. Let’s start with the blond college girls, of course, because their presence makes this place beautiful in graphic sort of way, like repeating an image for effect. It’s an infantry, row after row of girls with glowing, straight blond hair. Beige skin seems to have been shrink-wrapped on their legs, no ripple or variation in shade, a sliver of sky between their inner thighs. Blues eyes bob above their breasts, which do not. They’re so beautiful and so…interchangeable. My eye and my mind strive to find singularity, a break in the pattern, that’s how minds work, but I have to look elsewhere.
The boys, the boys, the bare-chested boys, sweating and long-legged. I first notice their natural way of running, and I wonder if it’s because they did sports as kids. None seem to amble; they are purposeful, graceful like savanna predators. Muscles flex across their hard abdomens with each footfall. When I look at their glistening chests, I wonder if they have simply not grown man hair yet, or whether they’re removing it. Such glorious youth; I can’t remember how long it lasts, was it ten years or fifteen running like that, careless of your gifts? I run a little faster, invigorated by their strength, but not tantalized.
It was between waves of firm blonds and sleek boys, somewhere after the third mile, after I’d crossed over the Congress Street bridge and was heading back on the north side, after I paused to dry off my sunglasses, so they wouldn’t keep slipping down my nose. Putting them back on, I saw him coming towards me. Fully flexed into my open posture, arms pumping at my sides, I kept my eyes riveted on him. What was it I saw?
He was tallish, maybe six feet, with dusty shoes. Steady broad hips, but a bit of pronation making his ankles roll outward, while his upper body remained relaxed. Then the details. No shirt, something you don’t always see on men over forty. What made me think he was over forty? Maybe the hair on his thick chest. Muscular shoulders with a little give around the middle. Not too much of a workout hardass which pleased me. Anklets, not athletic socks – not a nerd. Dark curly hair, cut a little longer than super- short, told me he still cared how he looked. A steel divers watch on his right wrist, maybe he is left-handed. Like me, he had on black glasses which protect the nakedness of the eyes, but the shift of his head, and his open-mouthed smile as we passed one another told me we had registered each other as noteworthy.
I’d had my singular moment on Town Lake, and I didn’t notice any people at all after that. With the endorphins coursing from head to toe, my last mile was my fastest, and I was beautiful.
© 2012 Emily Conyngham