From the September/October 2008 issue
A Different Kind of Light
see the illustrations for this story
She ran and ran and ran and ran because she never wanted to stop. She flew past churches and office buildings, the sound of her Nikes crushing the gravel guiding her. Her muscles didn’t hurt; her skin was simply a garment she could peel off when she got hot. Amy wanted to get as far away from that building as she could get. The smell still permeated her nostrils and she ran harder, ran faster, as if the closer she was to home the faster she could get rid of the smell. Sweat dripped down her back, nestled itself in the crevices of her face, but she didn’t care.
Amy ran faster. Never had she run like this before, but she found that the more she thought, the more she wanted to go home, the farther her legs would take her.
Running was a mental sport, Amy decided.
Amy did not slow down for several miles. How far away was she from that hospital, that place she never wanted to see again? Seven miles, she reasoned. She approximated the route at thirteen miles, which seemed reasonable, so she would have about six to go. On any other day, Amy would be intimidated, but not today, not when all she wanted to do was go home. Away from that hospital, which reeked of antiseptic and sick people, away from her father, who couldn’t say two words to her, away from the nurses and doctors all in white, who fake-smiled at Amy while secretly feeling sorry for her. Forty-five minutes, give or take, she’d be home. Home.
The image of her mother flashed in her mind as she ran, becoming more vivid and then suddenly blurry in a flash; she found that she had to probe her mind to find the good images of her, not the ones where her mother was small and frail, but the energetic woman Amy knew her to be. A twinge of guilt stabbed her heart, letting misery flow through her veins; it took extra energy to keep running now. She had been selfish, uncaring. She had left the room in a hurry, wishing she would never have to go back, despite the calls from her father. Her mother had even called her name, whispered three words down the hall, where they floated in her ears, but she had not turned around.
Amy wished she had. She had heard the words—I love you—but she had not responded to them. Amy had not cried, although anguish was pouring out of her in buckets. And Amy knew that the way to rid herself of the permanent melancholy that had overtaken her was to cry, but she never cried. She had stopped crying a long time ago.
Four miles to go. Amy pulled her watch up to her face; she had forgotten to wear her glasses that day. Nine twenty-four. The little display glowed in the darkness, the only light she could see that was not a streetlight. The moon wasn’t even out to guide her… her mother loved full moons, she thought. But Amy pushed the thought out of her head and ran faster. Harder.
Amy felt a blister form on the back of her heel; she did not slow down to accommodate it. She pulled her watch to her face again. Astonished at the speed of her running, she silently thanked her mother for that gift. The sudden remembrance of her mother brought a whole rush of memories into Amy’s consciousness, and Amy came to a direct halt.
She stayed at a standstill for several minutes, her blood pounding and her heart racing. The sky was stained with pitch, as if someone had thrown blue-black paint, the same color as her heart, over the sky and blanketed it in darkness. Amy looked up, expecting to see only a sea of misery blue, and she instead saw that the stars glowed with a different kind of light. They cast a sheer glow on Amy’s face; Amy knew they glowed because her mother was there with them, no longer with her, but in the stars somewhere, glowing that different kind of light.
And Amy cried, for what she had left unspoken.