(I am currently in the midst of a competition with my brother to see who can get published by the popular website, ‘McSweeney’s,’ first. The entries are that are successfully posted are normally short and funny blurbs. And I am expecting many more rejections.)

Dear Passenger Sitting in Seat 14C,

Why did you do this to me? To us? Things were going so well. I know we had our differences about the rights to the armrest and the allocation of elbowroom. But after dancing around your passive aggressive moans, and seeing you bang your funny bone, I gave in. It is all yours, and I am ok with that. Am I shocked you disregarded the universal law of airplanes that would forfeit the rights to me, the middle seat? Yes. And when you first sat down and complimented my choice of literature, I thought to myself, ‘Now this is a guy who I can have a conversation with!’ I am an arms crossed kind of guy anyway.

But you put your headphones in. It was a little loud, but you’re lucky I am a sucker for spoiled 16-year-old pop icons with a mastery of the auto-tune. I actually kind of enjoyed it. I respected your refusal to oblige by the flight attendants incessant warnings to shut off all electronics. How stealthy you were! I know wearing that hoodie today was not a coincidence. That’s the type of craftiness I would expect from you, and you had never failed to disappointment me.

I drank too much lemonade from that pretzel stand. I knew the risks going in, and I accepted the potential consequences. On a three-hour flight, I could be pardoned one bathroom break, yet we were only 30 minutes in when the rush came. I did not want to excuse myself so early, and burden you with the task of moving for me. And what if I had to go again? How embarrassing that would be. You looked so peaceful as your eyes flickered to fight off the stream of cool air blowing from the vent. But I could only hold it in for so long. The time had come. I had contemplated all possible escape routes. The climb over, the squeeze by, even the sneak under. However, the fear of you waking up with a grown man’s ass in your face scared me straight. So I nudged. And you complied considerately, without any hesitation.

As you unbuckled your seatbelt, and stood up I could feel the bladder relief just moments away. But then you curiously began to walk to the back of the plane. I was struck by awe, shocked by such actions. And when you walked into the bathroom, and stole that seat from me, I cursed you in anger. I looked ahead; there was a vacant lavatory at the front! I rushed forward. And my pace quickened. But the flight attendant stopped my momentum, and shut me out with the pull of those pretentious shades. ‘First class passengers only,’ she smirked. I hate her.

So I spun around, and once again returned to the rear. The light was off. You were done. How unforgivable you were to steal that spot before me. If it weren’t for me, you’d still be asleep with a belly full of pee. Though at last, it was over. I turned the knob, anticipating my victory. And there you were. Starring back at me, with your jaw dropped in disgust, and your hand held behind you wrapped in a protective glove of tissue paper. You yelled in anger, “Shut the door!” As if I were the one at fault.

And now we sit here, for two more hours. A vision of the worst half of your naked body plagues my memory. This could have been prevented. If only you had been more responsible. So now I put my headphones in as well, and shut my eyes. I can’t even look at you! We shall never speak of this, and I will try to fall asleep. But I can’t. I still have to pee. Damn lemonade.

Sincerely,

Passenger 14B

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sonder n. the realization that each random passerby

sonder
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

Celebrating A Loss

Celebrating A Loss

2004 Athens

“EL GERROUJ! LAGAT! TO THE LINE! El GERROUJ GOT IT!” When I was thirteen years old, I remember watching the Olympic 1500 final in Athens and having my eyelids peeled back as I stared at the screen in awe. At this point in my running career, I did not fully understand the race’s place in track and field history, and I didn’t have any reason to care. I couldn’t spell El Gerrouj’s name or find Morocco on a map. But when my HS coach told me to watch the best runner’s run at the Olympics and to learn from them, I did as I was told. I have watched that race again and again and again. I know the moves, I know the splits, and I know the commentators description of how the event unfolds. But it wasn’t until I watched the race some four years later that I stopped focusing just on the race for gold, and started watching Rui Silva of Portugal.

This past weekend I flew to the golden coast to chase a regionals time for the 1500 at Mt Sac.  The goal was to run under 3:45, get a little bronzing, and see some pretty girls before heading back to Austin to continue putting the miles in. As you would expect with any California meet, the heat was stacked and it was a great opportunity to run against strong competition. Heading over to the line, I was light on my feet, and my shoes were perfectly taut, all good signs. The race goes off and I settle in on the rail near the front, which is exactly where I wanted to be. I just watched the backs in front of me and checked the clocks: 44-59-74-1:45-2:00-2:46-3:01. Feeling confident I’d achieve the primary goal, I jumped into lane 2 and made a surge. With 100m to go I had a final nitro boost, but would need to swing into lane 4 to use it. But as my luck would have it, a hole opened up on the inside and I shot it. I had been waiting to feel this way again for the last 11 months, and there I was, at the end of a race with fresh legs. I caught up with a pack of guys and just tried to get as many as possible. I crossed the line and knew I ran 3:41.

With 800m to go, Rui Silva is in last place. As El Gerrouj takes the lead and starts dropping the pace, the field follows to try and stay in contact. But Silva just waits. In the final half mile, he is slowly moving up, making a pass and tucking back in, over and over. He is patient and waits to eats up track as the rest of the field fades. On the final straight away, as Bernard and Hicham battle for inches, Silva has run away from the rest and takes a look over his shoulder and finishes with arms held high. As he runs across the line in celebration, he hugs a disappointed Lagat from behind and has the fullest of smiles covering his face. He closes in 146.3 [the fastest in the race] and proudly represents Portugal with the bronze medal.

As my momentum carried my legs past the finish, I began clapping. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders and I could feel the adrenaline pumping. I ran up to race winner, Patrick Casey, gave him a love tap on the ass and continued back to my teammate, Trevor Van Ackeran, to celebrate together. I’d imagine that the average spectator was a bit confused as to why the guy who came in 5th place was running around so excited, but for me, it was a special moment. I was Rui Silva, enjoying the best loss of my career.

In the moments of frustration with running, we begin to over analyze and search for the reasons of our failures. ‘What am I doing wrong? Why do I do this to myself? How do I fix this?’ There exists the internal struggle of trying to answer those questions of doubt, while trying to ignore those reservations to focus on the future and to maintain optimism. While gaining fitness in the many miles of practice is a challenge of physicality, the ability to translate capabilities into performance is a contest of mind. But after just a few minutes of racing, all of the uncertainties disappear and become an issue of the past, and the only question that remains is, “What’s next?”

2004 Olympic 1500 (link)