The year is 1976. Fidel Castro becomes the president of Cuba. The Son of Sam is terrorizing New York City. Nadia Comaneci comes home from the Olympic games with three gold medals. The USA is partying hard centennial style. And a six-year-old boy from the oil field town of Jal, NM, takes the most memorable, and all-time bloodiest, run of his life.
That my mother didn’t die of heart attack that day is proof positive that there is a God. Dear Moms, imagine yourself walking down the long aisle of a department store with your barely-out-of-kindergarten son in tow. His friend has just taught him how to run real fast, so he’s feeling just about as badass a six-year-old can feel. And, naturally, he hates department stores with a hatred he’ll never outgrow, even when he becomes a grumpy Walmart greeter in his 70’s. And he’s just itching to run, and to run hard, and to run superman fast. So when he takes off like the prepubescent, short, Caucasian version of Usain Bolt, for a moment, you’re glad he’s burning off some of that pent-up energy. After all, he’ll stop at the end of the aisle. There’s nowhere else to go. Because at the end of the aisle is a sheet of glass, about 12 feet wide, 10 feet high, blocking his way from Strike-It-Rich (the rather odd name of this store) to the parking lot outside. And just because there’s no signs on this sheet of glass, or metal framework in the middle of it, or anything else to alert the cheetah boy that there actually is a barrier between him and the outside world, doesn’t mean he won’t see it and stop. Because if he doesn’t stop….if he doesn’t stop….if he d…
<Insert maternal screams>
I shattered all expectations that day. Women in the workforce may have problems breaking through that dastardly glass ceiling, but this up-and-coming runner had no problems breaking through that 12 feet wide, 10 feet high, sheet of glass. I took it out. Totally. My body slapped the pavement of the parking lot as glass unpuzzled itself in pieces big and small round about my young body. It was my moment of glory. Most winning athletes have a wimpish strip of tape to power through as they cross the finish line. How anticlimactic is that? Not me, ladies and gentlemen: I did it right.
On the top of my right forearm is a scar that has matured with me these last 36 years. It’s in the (very fitting) shape of a right-leaning box with only three sides. A lightning shaped gash on my forehead would have been sexier, and done more to win over the ladies, but beggars can’t be choosers. How I escaped from a shower of shards with only that one scar is proof of my near invincibility. Or that I’m just lucky. Or that God had bigger scars planned for me in the future and didn’t want to blow it all there.
Every runner needs a running scar. One of my friends has one on her shoulder. I sport mine on my wrist. We have what we’ve been given, even if we didn’t ask for it. And if scars remind us that the past is real, as Papa Roach sings, then they also remind us those scars couldn’t stop us from running on into the future, even when a barrier needed to be shattered to get there.