Running, Stories

Staring Down Evil In The Eye

As the Ninja Turtle has been rather ill, and all those drugs certainly do not help either, finding the motivation to keep up with her running has not been easy. It’s also demoralizing to see such poor performances compared to her pre-holiday runs. Nonetheless, she’s been trying her very best to get on with life and get back into routine. Yesterday morning, she even found a little incentive in the back of her pantry cupboard, to go for a run.

It was a sports bottle, given to her at the exposition prior to the Lyon semi-marathon (don’t you love sports-related freebies?) As the water taps in the Parc de la Seille have mysteriously stopped providing water (why? it hasn’t been that cold in Metz for the water to turn into ice, surely?), she armed herself with two bottles of water for her 4-mile tempo run. The advantage of doing laps around the park is that she normally puts her water on a bench, and after each lap she stops to take a sip and then continues, thus freeing her from carrying the bottle the whole way like on the longer runs.

Well, off she went, feeling pretty chuffed to be out running at 9am, and there was even a single ray of sunlight peeking through the dark clouds, lifting her spirits and encouraging her on. She looked at the frozen landscape, the barren treetops that pointed jagged branches accusingly at the grey winter skies, and watched the ducks splashing quarrelsomely. It was shaping up to be a beautiful morning, and she was settling into a nice rhythm – hard, but not uncomfortably so. From the other side of the river, she saw a train rumbling by, its red, yellow and blue paint appearing artificially gay in the otherwise drab setting. Somehow, the bright colours were more depressing than the dull grey all around. As she approached the bridge to cross the river back to the original side, she eagerly anticipated a sip of water. She watched a group of rowdy high school students leaving the sports complex and thanked the fact that her own schooldays were over. One lap down, two to go. Awesome!

Except. When she arrived at the bench, her brand new sports bottle was gone. Vanished. Not in sight. The other bottle, a plastic Volvic container, stared grimly back at her, all alone. In an instant, she felt both panicked, dismay, angry, and naïve. Of course, what else would one expect, leaving a beautiful brand new water bottle unguarded in a park, right?

Except it’s not the first time she’s set her bottle down on that spot – she’s done it a million times before, and nothing of that sort had ever happened. Also, for crying out loud, it’s a water bottle! Think about all the germs and viruses that the Ninja Turtle had been suffering from these last few weeks! It was too disgusting to contemplate.

For a very brief moment, her spite made her say “well, if they fall ill, that will teach them to steal water bottles”, but even that was a bit too unkind. So she hastily checked herself, and considered the situation. She was left with less than half the original amount of water she had brought out with her, and must now thus ration what is left. Two sips from the 500mL, and on she went on Lap 2.

On Lap 2, the outside world was forgotten. The Ninja Turtle stopped observing the sky, the land, the plants, the fauna and the beautiful river. She was lost in an internal dialogue of Good Turtle versus Bad Turtle. It went like this:
Bad Turtle: Those bastards! I can’t believe it, stealing water for fuck’s sake. I get so thirsty on harder runs too.
Good Turtle: It’s your own fault, really. You left it there unguarded.
Bad Turtle: But what kind of world are we living in, when there is no respect for private property? People are evil. The fact that it’s a water bottle makes it even worse. Why would one stoop to that level for a bloody bottle? I bet it was those students. They must think it’s so bloody funny, or something.
Good Turtle: Now STOP. You cannot make false accusations with no proof. You saw nothing but a bunch of kids and immediately pinned it on them. That’s not right.
Bad Turtle: Who else would it be?
Good Turtle: I don’t know, but as you’ve pointed out, it’s a pretty desperate act for such a small reward. Remember, crime is always motivated by desperation. Look at it this way, it’s only a water bottle when all is said and done. Sure, brand new. This is your first time using it – hell, you haven’t really used it properly. But let it go. It was given to you free anyway.
Bad Turtle: Fine. Fine, don’t take my side. You’ll be sorry, and really thirsty after this.
Good Turtle: That’s OK, we were clever enough to bring two bottles, remember?

Thus, Lap 2 drew to a close, as the bridge came in sight once more. The Ninja Turtle was pretty thirsty now, as nothing makes her run harder than anger (nothing, not even the promise of cold beers or $10). She was fuming, and needed a gulp to calm her down before she tackled the final lap.

Well, the bench this time held another surprise for her. It was empty. The Volvic bottle, still 85% full from her previous careful rationing, now laid 4 steps from where she had left it on the bench, in a puddle of what she assumed was the water within it. It was emptied, and strewn right where she could see it when she was in great need of water. The Ninja Turtle howled.

Internally, of course. Outside, she kept her stride. She knew immediately that it was no longer merely theft motivated by envy or a perverted sense of humour, it was pure and simple spite. It was evil. Someone had been watching her, and was trying to prompt some sort of a reaction out of her. Half of her wanted to go home, panting and defeated. The other half, the less rational half screamed out: THIS IS WAR, MOTHERFUCKER.

She went on to Lap 3. She was very thirsty, and the thirst was starting to affect her speed. She was fatiguing and her breathing was becoming labored. Still, she soldiered on, every step forward a mental “fuck you” to the person who had done what he/she did. The Ninja Turtle wasn’t just angry, she was furious. She was boiling mad, and this rage was like rocket fuel. It just pushed her on when everything else wanted to stop and go have pizza. Lap 3 featured no landscapes. Lap 3 featured no internal dialogue. Lap 3 was nothing but a blur of red, hot, fury.

When she finished the 3 laps, she staggered up the steps to the sports complex, and burst in through the heavy doors. A man in uniform immediately approached her, no doubt wondering what danger this lunatic might pose to all those “innocent” school kids inside. The Ninja Turtle briefly explained in gasps that her two bottles of water were stolen and would he kindly give her some water? to which he replied, there are some toilets downstairs. She tripped down the stairs and as the faucet gushed, she lapped up the sweet, sweet relief.

The Ninja Turtle had a lot to reflect on, walking home. The theft of the sports bottle, her original anger, paled in comparison to the spiteful deed of throwing out her water right where she could see it. When all was said though, the loss of the second bottle of the water still didn’t cause as much pain as that of the first. And at the end of it all, surely there must be some moral to be taken out of this? Do not leave your water bottles on a park bench, as they will be stolen or emptied? That seems ridiculous. Do not bring bottles of water on your run? That makes even less sense.

Ultimately, the Ninja Turtle came to the conclusion that shit things happen in this world, and it could happen anytime, anywhere, and to anyone. There is no way to avoid it, no way to foresee it, and no point regretting something that is completely beyond one’s control. While it may have been one step in the right direction (away from the anger and bitterness), it left her with an alarming sense of powerlessness over her life, and she really resented that.

After a hot shower and coffee, the Ninja Turtle felt good enough to think clearly about it. There was one way she could reclaim jurisdiction of her life, or at any rate, her outlook of it. So, something really evil and malicious happened today? Fine. She had to correct that imbalance with something really gracious, and if it wasn’t going to happen on its own, she would simply have to create it. She raided her pantry and found a box of assorted chocolates and sweets, and filled a little ziplock bag with it. Then she took a walk down to the train station, where without fail, a gypsy accordion player sits and plays daily by the entrance. She approached Mr Accordion and said to him “I’m sorry I haven’t got any money for you today, and I know it’s a little late for Christmas, but here are some chocolates I would like you to have.”

Brighter than a million Christmas lights, his smile and “thank you” was enough for her to say “those two water bottles? oh, never mind about that”.