You

You are running. Running through a crowd, warm bodies, laughter. There, ten meters in front of you, she is. She looks confident, her hair is glowing in the sun and her whole appearance makes you happy. Breathe. The last steps are unhurried and gentle, but as soon as you are getting closer, the excitement takes over. You are already smiling when you knock on her shoulder. After what feels like forever, she turns around and with a surprised expression, she asks you who you are. Now, you are running again. Away. Afraid and scared, surprised and disappointed, the same crowd embraces you, slows you down. It was not her, but the question still stands. Who are you? Everything you are is a composition of the people you have met, the places you have visited, the books you have read. Everything you are is pieces of someone else, something else. Everything you are is you. You are all of the things you love. The spotted pages of your favorite book, the hill you always climbed as a child, the cup you clean by hand when everything else goes in the dishwasher. You are everything you do. You boil your pasta like your grandmother always did, you often listen to a playlist made by your friend in sixth grade, you drive the shortcut that your teammate showed you after a tough game. There are movies you love because someone you loved loved them first. There is food you crave because you ate it all the time as a child. There are songs you hate because you used to listen to them with your boyfriend and you two broke up. You are you. You are breathing heavily when you finally reach the end of the crowd. Your view is blurry and you happen to crash into an old man. He does not seem to bother so you quickly apologize and continue to run. When you are running past a school, a group of boys cheers for you and you give them a genuine smile. Your head is running wild. Thoughts are circling around like bees and running barely helps to quiet them down. Soon, you pass a couple that seems to fight. They remind you of your parents, constantly angry at each other, always yelling, never calm, and the memory makes you want to throw up. With determination, you turn around and soon, you can hear their voices again. The woman looks scared and the man screams at the top of his lungs. You cannot change your mind now. When you reach them, they get quiet. The man almost looks more relieved than his wife. He sighs and you can almost see gratitude in his eyes. The woman tells you to leave and whispers that you are brave. Brave? Your legs feel heavy when you start running again. You have never considered yourself as brave. Quite the opposite actually, you never even answer phone calls before googling the number. You are a coward you think when a bird catches your attention as it starts to peck at someone's shoe. A very brave thing to do, you think, but as soon as you are getting closer, the bird looks terrified and jumps away. Maybe, the bird is as brave as you. Maybe, a different version of the bird exists in the minds of everyone who has seen it. Maybe, the same thing is true for you. You are not the same person for anyone and the person you think of as “yourself” exists only for you. The stranger that you thought you knew before thinks you are weird, the boys outside the school see you as a runner, the woman knows that you are brave and nothing else. Your legs are really sore now. Home. That is where you are running. To the bookshelves of your childhood, to the worn out shoes all over the hallway, to the smell of coffee and chocolate. Home. It is not very far, but you feel like you cannot run a step further. The soreness in your legs is still there and your heart is beating faster than it should. You can almost sound the beats as you are putting one foot in front of the other. There it is. Home. The thought gives you all the energy needed and after taking the last step, you collapse in a pile of confusion and tiredness on the floor. You can hear someone walking towards you and you recognize the sound of the steps. Someone grates you from far away. Apparently, that someone has missed you a lot. You might think you are forgettable, but because of you, someone has a favorite book to read over and over again. Because of you, someone smiles at themselves on the bus when listening to a song you used to sing. Because of you, someone always uses the same water bottle that you gave them a year ago. You change people. People do love you. Your co-worker always falls asleep hoping that you are at work tomorrow, even if you do not speak a word to him. Your old classmate adored your handwriting. Your grandmother has watched the movie you recommended at least ten times. Your impact is greater than you can ever imagine. She is here now and she has missed you a lot. She looks confident, her hair is glowing and her whole appearance makes you happy. With a gentle smile, she lays down on the floor beside you and you are not running anymore.

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Mike Lyles

Author of “The Drive-Thru is Not Always Faste...

Staresville, United States