(Feet Down) on the Road

I’ve been running for the past week or so, despite my grandma’s protests (“you’ll catch a cold”). It used to be easier with the jet lag, when I’d get up at 5am and stare at the wall and catch myself wondering where exactly I was.

It’s been generally drizzly here for the past week or so, which is a blessing and a curse. I’ve felt self-conscious since arriving, noticing that nobody here runs, and I wonder if I’m being too aggressive, pushing too fast when I dodge the passersbys. I’ve decided there is no better feeling than running with the rain slipping off your skin, hot breath hovering between your chest and your shirt while dodging cars and scooters and disapproving old ladies. It’s a powerful feeling, and a very living thing to be doing.

Everything’s concrete here, and my knees are feeling it. It’s not like it used to be, when my dad would run barefoot on the banks of the Xindian River in his boyhood hometown. Nowadays the whole deal is paved over with asphalt and tile and basketball courts, a veritable concrete jungle.

“Let’s go see the river” my Dad announces one day. On the day we are to go, preceding events yawn and billow and suddenly we can’t work the visit in.

One morning I decide to visit anyways and head out early, stepping out into brilliant sunlight (it’s been raining the whole week). I’m taking the roads, out behind fuzhoushan park, down keelung road, past treasure hill and on out to the bike paths by the river. It’s exhausting, and an hour later I’m there. The river is muddled, uninspiring; it cuts a wide swath and lies flat and unperturbed (lifeless, I decide). Cars and city noise roar over bridges, expressways. Concrete frames the landscape, creeping into the banks of the river and damming its tributaries.

I try to imagine my dad as a kid again, playing barefoot in glassy waters and catching fish in a carefree Huckleberry Finn-esque existence. Maybe I’m in the wrong place. Maybe he lived in an alternate space, time, and riverbank where the factories and skyscrapers haven’t yet grown and his toes sink into moist earth. Whatever it is, the sun is in my eyes and I want to go home.

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