“Alan, I’m sorry,” I manage to get out, trying not to open my mouth too wide. “I can’t, I can’t…I can’t…”
And I can’t finish my sentence.
Up comes the vomit.
My hand tries to hold it back, to hold my mouth shut, but it comes spraying out anyway, like a garden hose with a kink in it.
It lands all over Alan—his head, his face, his shoulders, even his shaking hand with the ring in it. The room seems to gasp as a whole.
And yet, somehow, somehow my mouth is still moving.
“I can’t marry you,” I say weakly, pulling my dripping hand away from my mouth.
The gasps grow deeper.
Someone whispers, “Sir Pukes-a-Lot.”
I’m blinking back real tears now.
“I’m so sorry,” I tell him, voice quavering. “I love you, but just not enough to say yes.”
It’s the most honest I’ve been in a long time. But it’s too little, too late.
And though the last thing I want to do is be a coward, I turn away from the shocked whispers and Alan on his knees covered in puke, and the disapproving eyes of his parents, knowing I’ve disappointed my own parents as well, and I run.
I run through blurred vision.
Right into a table.
I cry out, the round side cutting into my hips, and the table tips over, drinks and food crashing into people’s laps.
Some people are laughing, some are crying out in disgust. I think I hear Alan’s mother full-on sobbing. It all fills my head, swirling around and around until it has a stranglehold on my heart.
Somehow I pull myself away from the table, from the wreckage, and make it to the giant glass doors before hurting anyone else.
I fling them open, the rain and salt-soaked wind pelting me in the face, and run outside.
It’s cold. Dark. Wet. I am in the throes of this wicked winter storm.
But even as my heels slip and slide on the wood deck, as I grip the railing for dear life and run down the steps and onto the beach, where I plan to just run, run, run, I push all the feelings of humiliation and duty and shame aside.
I feel nothing but free.
Three Months Later
Running is therapy.
At least that’s what I tell myself. Over and over and over again.
This is good for you.
This is hell.
I’m literally going to die.
Why am I doing this to myself?
Can I stop now?
I’m going to stop.
And I often do stop and try and catch my breath until some other jogger blasts past me and then my ultra-competitiveness kicks in and I end up running after them. Sometimes I can’t catch up but at least it gets my legs moving again. Other times I run past them with a nonchalant look on my face, ponytail swinging behind me like running is super fun, super cool, totally no big deal for this girl, only to collapse around the corner in a heaving mess minutes later.
But somehow I keep doing it, every day. At first I started running because it was the only way I could shake out my frustration. I tried taking kickboxing classes, but they kept conflicting with my class schedule and I accidently punched my instructor in the face, so that was a sign to move on. Running seems to be a better fit. I can go at my own pace, pick my times, and best of all for my inner hermit, I don’t have to see or talk to anyone. It’s just me and the ground beneath my feet. Well, and my stupid brain that constantly reminds me what hell running is.