The Freaks Come Out

At around 7ish, it began. It was nighttime. If you wanted to run during the day, that’s what you should’ve done.

Flashlight in right hand. Samsung Galaxy S3 equipped with flashlight app in right pocket. Thin black sleeveless shirt and navy blue shorts, and sneakers that show some wear but nonetheless betray a state of relative spotlessness. Through a set of one of those silver waist-high rails that prevent scooters from passing through. Rocks of various shapes and sizes protrude from the dirt path up the hill, and the light in front of me takes on their color and appearance. To the left over the trees is a lake illuminated by the blue street lights. Pagoda. Sharp turn left. I hear fireworks and take approx. 4-7 quick turns behind me to glimpse the colors up in the sky.

Solitude. A solitary old man sits and watches and points me in the direction of the road. I motion to invisible cars who can’t see me to please not hit me. I follow the white arrows. White arrows, white arrows, down, down, alone, down, passing a pagoda that has a check that looks like the symbol of the Deathly Hallows. Still alone, this must be the way, and yet it isn’t, and I see other flashlights approaching behind me. The trail another way, back up and then down, down, eternally down small stone steps. I stay on the dirt, and consider, for a moment, the incalculably improbable number of micro-moments in which I’ve narrowly avoided injury in relation to the fortunately minimal cuts and bruises I’ve actually earned. Evidence of struggle.

Down, down, down, eternity in a single moment, and I go on forever in infinite parallel universes still traversing the stone steps, designed for people to walk up, not running down. Onward past another pagoda and up to the left onto a hill, and picking up speed I look to the right over the green grass and the blue glow of the streetlamps. Before long it’s the you-can’t-be-serious-this-is-way-too-steep part of the trail. Hold on to the thin rope, burned hands, down the thoroughly un-smooth trail which coats my sneakers in an orange-brown dirt and then finally back to navigating the trail until I get to another check on another part of that aforementioned dangerous yet non-busy road. A girl walks down the hill taking photos, probably wondering what all these foreigners are doing running on hills and across a street at night.

Down, across, pick up speed, tiny white pieces of paper crumpled, spread along the orange-dirt trail as the sounds of nocturnal animals make their calls. From here it’s flat, down, flat, the roots and logs protruding treacherously just at those moments where the Earth slopes down. Back onto paved ground, then up, alone, on a wooden-boarded path then up by the sounds of loud screechy creatures alongside the lanterns that guide the way (the lanterns are glowsticks, and they are fading fast) up and up and up and up and I must be almost there…wait. No. I’ve seen this before.

I shout. I hear nothing but the bats and the snakes and the lizards and mosquitoes and my own voice reflecting off the indifferent thin shadowy trees. I go back down, past the lantern-glowsticks and that invisible screeching thing, and find 2 companions with whom I go back to that familiar location. But no longer alone, we went down, down, down, down, down, walking on the orange dust and multisized rocks and through a grassy open area and up steps that look rather like a miniature Aztec pyramid.

One hour, and (though I forgot to check my watch until after acquiring some nourishment and expressing my relief and/or frustration) about thirty-nine minutes. Taiwan Beer, hot dogs (of which I ate maybe .5 too many) +mustard, chips, some pineapple, and watching the last of the fireworks under the cloudy sky that blanketed, for all but a few minutes, the full, bright, moon.

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