Chapter 10: Counting

Just like that my world changed.

I hid under my covers. Counted every breath until the sun rose: 4,615 breaths. Breaths he would never take. Breaths separating us.

On breath 2,389 my little sister called. We didn’t talk, just breathed together, the phone connecting us—a tenuous connection for the tenuousness of life.

And then on breath 5,000, with the sun a nebulous blob on the horizon and my eyes gritty from weariness and the tears that wouldn’t fall, I went running.

I didn’t really care where I went or how far. Or if I could get back. I never turned around. Not once. Turning around meant facing it, facing that great blank wall, that huge hole in my life.

I stumbled across the San Diego Bay. Found a running path.

I didn’t hear the boats in the bay, or the cries of the seabirds, or the sounds of cars. I didn’t hear people. I didn’t see them. I didn’t feel my legs moving, or my breath sawing in and out of my lungs, or the burning thirst for water. My whole world had gone numb and gray. Flat.

I counted my steps, an unrelenting rhythm in my ears, like a drumbeat, or a heartbeat.

Or the lack of a heartbeat. The sound of a void.

I ran with the curve of the bay, ignoring the ring of the phone in my pocket. Ignoring the persistence that told me somebody was annoyed.

I ran until the buildings ran out, until it was me, a road, and beaches on either side. Until it was 16,405 steps.

And when my exhaustion clamored to be felt, when I realized I had no water, no way home, I realized where I was, where I’d run to. Where 21,250 steps had taken me.

I stopped, looked around.

Noises and people and colors suddenly assaulted me, my gray world being resuscitated before my eyes back to the technicolor, messy one I’d tried to leave behind.

I gasped, staggered, realized in a soft, fuzzy way that something was wrong. I couldn’t get enough air. My legs wouldn’t work.

A uniformed man rushed towards me.

I gasped out a name.

And then my world was neither gray nor colorful. It was nothing and neither was I.

What this run would look like

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