We can run from dangers and to flights of fancy. We can run like a river between the canyons built tall around us. We can run away, and strong upon our course.
The younger one had always fallen to sport whenever the opportunity presented itself, which was far too seldom for his liking, dependent as it was upon my wallet and small hours salvaged from long, busy days.
The older did not care for games that demanded hits and throws or the trappings of competition. He had no desire to test his merit against the might of others. He preferred actions of the mind sprawled across screens like so many battlefields. The only score he cared to best was the one he had set before it.
That is not to say that the latter did not take the time to kick a ball on occasion, and there were even moments where he himself could understand the enjoyment in others, but as a rule the games did nothing for him.
Also true was that the former did develop a taste for the couch and the glossy-eyed dance between brain and thumb. He grew content there, in the shelter of his brother, and many days they would play until my wife or I bid them not to. It became clear that the two boys would happily wile away their lives controlling puppets in the living room, the digital following of quick-handed orders, until the only memories they carried were red eyes and calluses.
And so we took to running.
It started over a year ago, when the older boy brought home demons in need of exorcise and I in need of a homophone. So we ran around the block, through streets and parks, up hills and down again, until all that was left were clear heads and hands on our hips.
We continued with a pace set by conversation and it soon became evident that he had found his stride just as it was clearer still that I began to lose mine. He grew stronger, faster, and I grew weak and frail.
When the opportunity arose for him to join a club at school he took it, and all I could do was drive him there to run laps around the campus while I sat at the stoplight on the corner willing it to change.
It was the first time he had ever wanted to join anything on his own, not knowing a single student on the squad, and never taking the time to learn the most of them. He was there to run, and so that is what he did.
His younger brother found it akin to inspiration and wished to run a race as well. My wife, no stranger to long runs, agreed that this was a thing to do together—a perfect team of individuals bound by blood and entrance fees.
My body did what it could, and I crossed the finish line well behind my family, although none of us crossed together. The youngest ran three miles without ever looking back, and the oldest, not even 12 hours past a previous race through dirt-piled hills, finished somewhere behind him, torn as he was between nursing my pangs and finding his brother. My wife kept steady and provided words of encouragement every time she passed me.
There is no need to be lost in order to find yourself amid a throng of strangers, to trim the ivy from the walls we are afraid to hit. It is as if they are able to see what you cannot, the will that we bury between the rocks of homework and the hard place of deadlines—it connects us—and in each of us is the way of the other. We are all different and we are all the same; we are running and it moves us.
Then there is the finish line, and it feels so much more like starting.