In my dream I am running. I am running along a beach that I have seen 100s of times in real life and dozens of times in my dreams, where it is recreated with seemingly loving detail and realism. I can see the shape of the shore, the condos that speckle the landscape where Chicago tourists pay out huge sums of money for a chance to watch the sunsets over the never ending stretch of water.
I am running and it is the evening, the sun is only about 20 minutes from reaching the horizon. I can smell algae and fish, faintly, as a breeze coasts along the water and up and over my shoulders, tousling my hair and providing brief respite against the warm summer humidity. My feet make thudding noises on the sand that is just barely wet from the occasional wave that makes it as far as where my path is taking me.
I am running south, the water and sun to my right. The beach, surprisingly, is empty. It shouldn't be. There should be families, teens, college students, a mix of swimmers and volleyballers and tanners. But it's just me, rhythmic sound of my heavy, flat-footed footsteps, and the sound of the tide.
I am running more than I have in years. More than I have since school, when I used to run alongside the busiest street in town and up the steepest hill we had for basketball practice. But in my dream my breathing is not labored like it would be nowadays, instead each stride is smooth and athletic like it once was, my body seemingly recreating what it had as a child.
I don't know where I am running to. The end of this specific spot of public land is not far now, but I know I will keep at it; there is a long way to go before the shore curves west and heads north starting at Chicago, I could run for days and days before I got to that point. Maybe I am running from something, like I used to as a kid and nightmares involving horrifying creatures were a regular occurrence, me trying to run inside but body in slow-mo like the air was molasses. I am older now. There is no horrifying creature tonight on the beach.
I am running now, I remember, because it is all I have to do. Because the sunset is perfect and the beach is perfect and the speed is freeing, and running is all I ever have known. I am running from a past I can't forget and a future I can't escape. I am running from winter, from work, from people. I am running until I collapse in pain and out of breath, and then I will simply get up, and run some more. I will keep running. Perhaps I will go south for months, until I reach the ocean along the Gulf, and am forced to turn east or west.
I hear a noise, a blaring, alto screech.
I am awake now. A ceiling fan spins above me. My room drowns me in 90 degree heat and I lazily look at the clock. It is almost time to get out of bed and begin the day. I reach over and put on my glasses.
I walk out of my room. I wonder if I will ever run again.