January 16, 2017: Marathon
A grumbling sound was rumbling outside. I ran to the window in haste to see what it was, fearful that a storm was coming to spoil my getaway. It was an odd fear. For the last six months since the Sinisters took over, grumbling sounds pounded the streets nearly every hour, but they weren’t the kind that traveled from the collision of clouds overhead. Rather, they were the kind that escaped from automatic weapons at a persistent and dangerous speed. They would bounce off walls of hallowed out homes and obliterated school buildings of our once happy little town. The echoes would travel down every street. The Sinisters were an evil breed, destined to rise from the ground beneath to bring the world above back to the time when they ruled the lands. Such was a time of despair when friends turned against each other, communities closed their doors, and families shut their hearts to the needs of anyone but their kin. The Sinisters were destined to trap us all, but I wouldn’t be trapped, no way. I would seek refuge. My marathon to a distant land was set to begin on that day if the skies were clear, and fortunately they were. The grumbling sounds I heard that day were of the usual kind. My journey as a refugee would thus begin. My heart heavy but my sights ahead, I set forth towards Yuropia. My life now depended on how unlike the Sinisters they were. It depended on their hearts.
October 30, 2016: Giant
Pitting my childhood favorites against each other, Roald Dahl’s The BFG claws its way to the top. The story itself has fallen from much of my memory. What I remember is that it made its way into my earliest senses of identity and character, back when there was ample space to fill and shape its nature. I considered other childhood favorites –The Berenstein Bears, Calvin and Hobbes, The Looney Tunes – that wrestled with The Big Friendly Giant to claim the crown of my childhood’s formative imagination. Goofy from Disney remains my most beloved character, and in him I now see parallels with The BFG himself – both taller than average, fun and silly, light-hearded yet with conviction in purpose. The BFG believed in his conviction of what is right, even if he is the only one amidst a bigger, larger, dominating status quo. In the story he stood by a young boy’s side as his protector, his confidant, and his friend. That much I remember of the story itself. The difference between The BFG and its rivals in my childhood’s malleable world of possibility was that The BFG was a story indeed, with a journey that began and ended, leaving no loose ends of who The BFG is and what he believes. The Big Friendly Giant stuck with me because the character himself, inherently friendly, found his way to a view of the world that I found purpose in, that I took with me into my own journey.
October 1, 2016: Graceful
It wasn’t easy for Art. From an early age, he had to fend for himself. Through adolescence, his primary concern was finding food to eat and a place to sleep. He understood that nothing would ever be given to him. That it is up to him not only to survive, but to thrive. His resilience led him to college despite all the odds against him. His ambition rewarded him with a job. His faith kept him optimistic, always believing that there is love around the corner. Art felt blessed to start a family of his own. Just as he felt that his life became whole and secure, a tragic car accident took his wife, son and daughter from him. Soon thereafter, a capricious business partner stole all his wealth. To make matters worse, an uncontrollable fire burned his house down, taking all of the memories he made with his family there with it. No stranger to the vicissitudes of life, Art turned to his faith. But without his family, it was hard to believe that love would be around the corner again. Instead, he directed all his wherewithal to helping others, to mentoring young children who were burdened with the same disadvantages he was burdened with as a young boy. He found a group to volunteer with and looked forward to his first day. The morning of his first day, though, Art did not wake up. He had taken his last breathe soon after he fell asleep the night before, at just 44 years of age.
Hours passed until the other volunteers called Art to check on him, wondering why he did not show up on his first day after expressing such care and concern for the young children that the organization served. With no answer to their calls, one of the volunteers went to the public housing project that Art had been staying in since his house burned down two years ago. The volunteer knocked on Art’s door but there was no answer. The door was unlocked (Art always left his door unlocked, fearful that another fire would follow him to his last refuge) and the volunteer made her way inside the apartment. She called for Art but there was still no response, just the sound of her echo bouncing from the bare walls. Inching towards the bedroom, she found Art. He was lying there in his bed, as graceful as the angel that carried his soul to peace.
September 22, 2016: Jump
Jumpa jumped, hopped and skipped only. It’s not that she didn’t know how to walk, but that she couldn’t walk. From a young age, Jumpa has suffered from Exnay Pedestrious Disease that kept her from walking. As determined as she was to not let this evil disease bully her into depending on others to get around, Jumpa became quite skilled at jumping. She jumped on one leg at a time, two legs, alternating legs, varying heights, varying distances, fast, medium and slow. School was two miles away and she jumped there and back every school day. Sometimes she would skip or hop, but never walk. This meant that Jumpa typically jumped alone. The other kids felt awkward, strange or uncool jumping around the way Jumpa did, so they stayed away from her. One day, Jumpa jumped so high that she hit her head on the ceiling and broke her ankle as she landed on the ground. The doctor told her she couldn’t jump, hop or skip for another 8 months, practically a full school year. Jumpa was heartbroken. She was now immobile and had to use a wheelchair. The other kids at school had never seen anyone on a wheelchair before, especially at such a young age. They felt bad for Jumpa and felt guilty for never befriending her. It was too late to make friends now, Jumpa wouldn’t accept anyones pity. One day, Jumpa arrived at school and noticed that everyone was jumping. The other students, teachers, even the principal! She was confused. When the school bell rang and everyone took their seats to begin the day, there was an announcement on the loudspeaker proclaiming today as an annual Jumpathon Day, in honor of Jumpa. Jumpa smiled so wide that her cheeks squinched her eyes closed, beginning to swell and tear. She never really cared about walking.
September 11, 2016: Stump
The other children would quiet down when Tahu passed by. He was the grumpiest child in the neighborhood. He would spoil any fun the other boys and girls would be having by throwing a fuss. At any sight of fun, Tahu would make it a point to ruin the humor. On one bright summer afternoon, a group of young boys saw Tahu huffing, puffing and stumping as he walked down the street. Usually, they would have ducked and hidden to avoid Tahu until he passed by, but this time he wasn’t walking towards them. In fact, he was not paying attention to anything around him, indifferent to any fun being had. There was a different look on Tahu’s face that day, a kind of defeated anguish. The young boys later learned that the shelter he slept in was an abandoned one, except for a small cat who disappeared the day they noticed something different about Tahu. That cat was all Tahu had, the only being that stuck by him. Tahu, only eight years old, was now truly alone. His huffing and stumping turned into quiet desolation. With a youthful conscious, the same group of young boys sought after Tahu one day to ask him to play – no one had ever asked Tahu to play before. But it was too late, there was no sight of Tahu. The only thing left was a beautiful sketch carved into a big tree stump next to his abandoned, decaying shelter. It showed a little boy holding the hand of a grown man on one side and a grown woman on the other side, watching a group of four young boys playing a game of soccer in the front yard of a beautiful, well-kept home.
September 3, 2016: Sidewalk
He stepped out onto the sidewalk and took a deep breath, exhaling emphatically. It was all over. He had been preparing for a long time and the time finally came and went. He walked along in a light stride, slow enough to process his thoughts yet fast enough to enjoy the weight that was just lifted off his shoulders. He had no where in particular to go, but he was finally moving. For those first moments, that sidewalk was his and his alone.
September 1, 2016: Shiver
His hearing and sense of smell were as strong as his hopes and dreams. Without sight, he only knew her voice, her scent, and the texture of her long, wavy hair. He knew her silence well. She was by his side, and that made him rich. He was thus more fortunate than many who could see the sun set and the stars flicker. He woke every morning with a prayer, blessed with a new day, before turning on the radio to listen to the news. One morning, he learned of a new scientific discovery that can restore sight to the blind. He froze. Two weeks later, she drove him to the ophthalmologist. She waited in the waiting room for four hours before the doctor opened the door and called her in. She calmly walked into the room as her heart raced. There he was, seated on a chair with his eyes covered. She sat down directly across from him. The doctor carefully removed the covering and gently told him to open his eyes. He did, slowly. The first thing he saw was her sitting right in front of him, eyes red with tears flowing down her loving face. He knew it was her. She looked just like he knew she would. His big brown eyes were fixed on hers. His lips began to shiver as he closed his eyes once more, recounting his blessings.