Friday, December 3, 2010

Overtaking Miss America

Every Monday I go out for a run in the Southwest Hills, one of the most exclusive areas of my heavenly Northwestern city. There, wealth displays itself in picture-perfect houses, cars and gardens and where picture-perfect looking people of various ages greet you with Hollywood-style smiles.
B going there I climb that invisible ladder that elevates me from my downtown-self to the height of “everything is possible”. My goal is Council Crest Park, where there is a lookout and in a clear day I could see the big ones: Mt.  Reiner, Mt. Adam and Mt. Hood, the cold and magnificent peaks of success. 
It’s a very steep climb. In the summer, as I run, I feel small rivers of sweat running from every pore of my body. I am often at the edge of breaking, but I keep on going, stubbornly, longing that feeling of accomplishment when I stand at the lookout facing the mountain tops.
I run between the million dollar mansions, with perfectly manicured lawns and freshly painted white fences. It’s the day when all the blue trash containers are out and so are the recycling boxes, diligently filled with magazines, or empty bottles of chardonnay. From the color-coordinated flower gardens, the gardeners wave at me sometimes and stare in amusement at my sweating, groaning self. I pass the nannies who are taking the children out in the perfect limo-like strollers. Skinny bikers avoid me silently with their tiny men bodies, carved muscles pulsating at every push.
The music is blasting in my ears, loud and motivating. 
I use that run to mediate, to detach. I let my thoughts flow. I dream. I plan. Sometimes I play these little superstitious games: “If I manage to run all the way up without a break, I would get pregnant, or we will go to that dream trip to Argentina, or my brother will get accepted in that university, or …”
One day, as I was running as usual, listening to music and sweating uphill, I saw her: Miss America. She came around the corner of Fairhaven Avenue, just after the halfway point when I desperately tried to catch my breath. She ran effortlessly, smile plastered at her perfect Barbie face. Her fake blond hair was shining like gold. Her tanned body shamelessly displayed what it means to have the ideal body mass index. Her apple shaped boobs didn’t move under her tightly fit baby-blue top. Her belly was flat like in a body-building commercial. And she was perfectly aware of all that.
Miss America waved at me as she passed, following my usual road uphill, without breaking a sweat. Her small bum’s bounced in its perfect shape, her blond hair in a ponytail, moving like a pendulum as if to wave “good bye”.
She ran as if she owned it all. As if the sidewalks was specially paved for her. She ran elegantly, as she has done so for ever and she can do it for ever. She ran as if she owned the American Dream. She was the American Dream.  
She did not mean to overtake me, she didn’t probably even think about it. She just passed from around the corner on her way up for yet another victory in her successful, dream-like life. She just ran, with her fake-colored hair, solarium tan, suspiciously cellulite-less legs. She ran among the nannies and the gardeners and the ladies with Porsches as if they will all let her go first, because after all, she was Miss America.
I glanced the shadow of my decent, yet average body.  My olive-skinned Mediterranean me, that was grunting my way up in that upper-class neighborhood, where Miss America belonged. I felt sad. 
That day I had to take a break several times. When I finally came at the park it started raining so hard that I came home drenched and, unsurprisingly, caught a cold.
Ever since, Miss America was there every Monday. She ran from around the corner of "Fair-Heaven" and went probably all the way up to the lookout. That I never found out because I never caught up with her. She overtook me every time, smiling politely and waving, a silent slap on my face. 
I kept on going, stubbornly, but my runs lost their recharging, meditation ability. 
The summer was over, then the fall and the winter. It was too cold and miserable to run.
In the first sunny spring Monday I decided to take on my usual run. I started by the PGE Park, but for some reason switched itineraries and instead of running on the main road I took a side road that later turns into Fairhaven Avenue.
I sweated up hill. First run for the year, I was out of shape.
And then I saw her, although I could barely recognize her, because now her hair was brown just like mine.
Mrs. America parked her big black SUV just behind the corner where I usually saw her running all fresh.
And I realized, all this time, she just drove up the hardest part of the hill, and started from there.

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