Brian Oliu

I Should Not Be Running

0.1 I should not be running.

0.2 I was not built for this—my body more of a statue that has been half finished; the jaggedness of whatever stone was available jutting outward, harsh in its squareness. I have been told that having “big bones” is a myth—an excuse thrown out into the world when the numbers do not line up the way that a normal human’s calculations are expected to be sorted; that I have always been big, my father has always been big, my family a different breed. Broad shoulders. A celebration of thickness.

0.3 I was not built for this and so I imagine my body breaking down with every single step. My mother told me I was too heavy to run: that my knees would crash bone against bone—my tendons would flatten. My feet have no arches: they continued to fall as I put on more weight long after being a large child would be equated to cuteness. I feel my breath shortening. I feel my heart asking. I feel everything that I am supposed to feel. I feel everything that I have earned.

0.4 My grandfather was not always a runner. He smoked cigarettes despite traveling the country to review oil refineries where a small flame could ignite an entire downstream. He would ignore the concept of corrosion; of how fatigue wears everything to failure. He was built for this: all lank and sinew, though my father remembers days when he had a belly—one of those that jutted straight out while the rest of the body remained un-stretched. There are stories of him ordering pastries at the corner fleca, of refusing to cook for himself, of eating nothing but apple turnovers and palmiers. He would ask for a kilo of pastries. Un quilo? Estàs segur? the baker would ask. Si, si, that is what I meant, he would reply.

0.5 I am moving in a way that I do not understand. There is no language for how quickly I am going, how I have never run, how I have walked my entire life. I would jog across the street from the bar to get a sandwich if I saw a car speed up after the light changed—a few steps and then a leap upon a small curb. I would be warmed with this—I would believe that this is enough, that I could cross wider roads with faster cars, with shorter lights. I return to the bar, a bag of potato chips in hand. I look both ways before crossing the street. A car slows down to let me cross. I try to imagine what they see. What words they would use to describe it.

0.6 I do not know what my body looks like underneath all of these layers. I have never seen what I was originally built for. To build muscle, it must first be torn: it must heal itself in new and innovative ways, it must repair and re-repair. I imagine myself as still large: as never being below a certain shirt-size, of reaching the limits of how small I can become. I do not imagine myself as a runner. I do not imagine that person being there.

0.7 When I am translating my grandfather’s writing, there are words that stand out: córrer, oxigen, circulatori, pluja. There are sentences that translate poorly: antiquated words, an overload of actions, the changing of possessions, of gender. There are parts that do not translate: a collection of vowels and accent marks that I cannot wade through. I foolishly chalk up what is not understood to bloat—that everything foreign is excess, that there must be something beneath all of this that I can hold onto; that there are secrets hiding in language.

0.8 I do not know what I am searching for here. I do not know what my end goal is: to run the distances my grandfather documented, to do what he did in a body that is not like his, to somehow love what he loved. This is not a resurrection of a person through action. This is not a retelling of a story.

0.9 I am in pain. I am bringing the cold air into my lungs; I am warming it with a quickness the only way that I know how. There is a belief that when you lose weight you lose it through sweat—through liquids leaving your body, through a slow trickle down cold skin. Instead, you lose it in your breaths: that the heft bonds with the carbon dioxide—that every respire is a proclamation that you are becoming something better & sleeker than you have ever been. This is something that my grandfather never told me: that when it is time to leave the body, the weight attaches itself to the lightest thing it can find—an expulsion on the air, an imagining of tissue hitching its wagon to an exhale. This is how the body sheds itself from the inside. This is how it understands its place in the world.