I am always concerned about my weight. Obsessive, in fact. My new meds have increased my hunger and I can’t get my body as lean as I need it to be. Always five pesky pounds. No rest. I had to run.
And so I headed out, a lazy Sunday, the day before Thanksgiving. I was having a really good run on the seawall. No doubt, I annoyed a few with my iPhone—no headphones—playing Carly Rae Jepsen ditties. (Her songs are insanely catchy. Can’t figure out why radio shuns her.) As the path dipped inward at a cove, I found myself in the midst of a 1K Turkey Trot for little kids. I turned off my tunes so as not to distract them. Thoughtful, huh?
All these little ones took up the pedestrian side of the path so I ran in the bike lane. I still had to dodge some wee ones who seemed to think zigging and zagging were basic parts of running. A really young one—three, I’m guessing—almost trotted into me. I did a masterful maneuver to avoid impact. She ran on, never knowing how close we’d come to colliding. I felt good. I’d slowed my run, but I’d basically saved a toddler.
Maybe I got too confident. Maybe I let down my guard. Maybe the laws of probability came into play. On those old high school obstacle courses, I always took out a pylon or two.
Yes, you know what’s coming. If only I’d known.
Once again, out of the blue, a young one decided that running straight was too boring. She took a sudden left turn and I ran into her. Minor impact. But minor impact with a lightweight five-year-old can have troubling implications. She fell forward and went splat in a puddle. As luck would have it, that puddle was the only one I came across on my entire run. A piddly puddle, really. But a small puddle causes maximum coverage when the splat is a wee one. I helped her up. Poor thing. A muddy mess. There was that split second in which she was stunned. What happened? Who are you? I don’t know you. Stranger danger! I apologized profusely, feeling the glare of parents all around. Mean, mean man.
The little girl gazed at the mud and her face scrunched up. Oh, no! Don’t cry. Please, don’t cry. I spoke softly and almost kept her calm. But then she noticed a dab of blood on the palm of her hand. She bawled.
Yes, I am truly evil. Despicable. My running shoes should be confiscated. I looked around. There were no adults. Just more toddlers trotting by. I’ll admit I did a little deflecting. Seriously?! Where are all the parents? Who is supervising this race?
But that didn’t take away from the fact that I was a mean stranger suddenly entrusted with coaxing a wailing wee one to hobble along as my eyes looked ahead desperately seeking adult support. And ear plugs.
It felt like an eternity to go about forty meters and turn a corner. A rescue! A paramedic on a bike and a woman whom I presume was a race volunteer.
So there we were. Three adults. Strangers. Not at all calming. The wailing grew louder, if that was possible. The paramedic asked to look at the hand. More attention to blood. More hysterics.
I should have grabbed the paramedic’s first aid kit. As a school principal, I know how important it is to clean and cover the bloody spot ASAP. Out of sight, out of mind. But, no. I deferred to his expertise. He slowly opened the kit. Did he think zippers made her skittish?! He seemed stunned by the girl’s trauma. Was this guy really a paramedic? Was this his first day?
He decided the first thing to do, after five minutes of staring and hoping she’d stop crying, was to use some gauze to wipe the mud splatter off her face. The only part of the body the girl couldn’t see! A couple approached. “Oh, Abby. It’s okay.” Her aunt and uncle apparently. The aunt stayed, the uncle went to get the parents. He walked. Leisurely. Perhaps he worried about taking out another kid.
Five more minutes passed. Maybe ten. It felt like an hour. And then the aunt said, “Here comes Mommy.” Not that Abby heard. She was still crying. I looked up and saw a man and woman walking our way from what was apparently the finish line. Mommy held a sign that read, “We love you, Abigail!” All hand decorated with balloons tied to it. The man’s sign said, “Go, Abby, go!”
Was it possible to feel worse? Why wasn’t I wailing?! I had ruined the big moment that they’d prepared for as a family. I’d taken down their kid and taken away that photo finish, the one that would have gone up on Facebook with a hundred Likes from granny, the neighbors, coworkers and other tenuously connected folks.
I braced for a stream of How-dare-yous. Would they call the police? Threaten a lawsuit? But they did double duty, calming little Abby and reassuring The Big Meanie. Accidents happen. Still, I felt like the worst person ever. That dang exposed blood spot on the girl’s hand now bothered me more than it did Abby. (Amazing, the healing power of a Mommy.) As the paramedic finally bandaged the hand, he tried to heighten the drama. “I don’t think she needs stitches.”
Stitches?! No. No one thought that.
Then he said, “Has she had a tetanus shot?” A needle?! Wasn’t it enough that this girl will never want to willingly run again?
I offered more apologies as the parents bid me farewell and told Abby to high-five the evil stranger. I should have stayed home and grazed on a bag of Doritos. Maybe the costs in trying to stay slim are too great. But I ran on. Apparently nothing will slow me down.