Katie bounced up and down to the rhythm of a song that had accidentally slipped onto her running playlist. It fit her mood perfectly as the rain came down on her, washing the streets clean but keeping her mind muddled. She felt the confusion not in the middle of her chest, where all sorts of popular music told her it should be, but in the center of her forehead. If she could only pause her brain and popping over puddles, she’d realize that the temperature had dropped. But she refused to acknowledge the cold even in soaked blue t-shirt and shorts. The song just kept feeding her mind. Katie was alone.
She had spent the better part of her early years alone with parents who found torturing each other more interesting than parenting. She had friends now. She had better family now. And she had someone who reminded her of the little cuts she used to make on her left shoulder back before her friends and better family.
She didn’t clear the puddle all the way and water seeped into her running shoe. She shuttered even though it couldn’t possibly matter now. She was in too deep, at least that’s what the song told her the third time she’d repeated it. She avoided thinking about the little room and thereby taking her back into it. And the images stole all the strength she could steal from the loneliness of the song.
Katie’s body stopped. It just ended the run without her permission. She looked around at the gray, overcast sky—far darker than it should be this time of day—and two to three story brick buildings on the street. Her arm came up to wipe her forehead automatically even though the drops cleaned off the sweat continually. She stretched out her calf muscles while leaning into the bus stop’s glass walls. Something stung her eyes and then her vision blurred. She protected her self-respect by closing her lids but that only served to give the tears permission to fall.