I ran fast when I was little.
That feeling of freedom, of wind blowing against my face, and of that heat that spread in my body at each halt are still vivid to me. I remember how I wished I could never stop running despite the heat and sweat that made me uncomfortable. My legs, however, would always get heavy from too much whirring, then I’d have to stop to gasp for air.
We had, then, the idea that boys run faster than girls and that students from a higher grade level run faster than the boys of our batch. I loved playing tag, though – so much that I didn’t care who I played it with.
I had a strategy. Whenever the it chased me, I would run along one of the school ground’s court lines. It was risky, for I knew that it is easy to get to your full speed if you’re running on a straight line. But the trick was this: Once I felt that the it was well-nigh achieving his full speed and his fingertips were an inch or two towards the flat of my back, I would do a sudden drift to the left or right. That shift would be a surprise. The it would go stumbling forward, yet regain his balance. All his hope was lost, his effort wasted. That strategy often would make the it give up the chase. When I grew up, I learned that this is called agility.
It now feels quite strange to recall it. Just one day, I got hit by a jeepney and the doctors had to put screws into my right ankle to reconnect the tibia and fibula there. I was told not to put weight unto my right foot for two to three months. Even with the crutches, I didn’t feel safe with just a leg to stand on. Using them for too long made me sweaty, dizzy, and aching all over. Bathing became a chore. It was even harder to put my skirts on. After a month, my right leg got thinner than my left. I was no longer familiar with the feeling of the floor against my foot sole.
Now, it’s been a month and a half since I was operated on. Good news, I am used to the crutches! I can now wash the dishes, cook, and play foosball. I can twist, hop, and climb up and down a flight of stairs. I can go out for a date, tutor kids, and get a haircut. I remember telling myself when I was still learning to use crutches, The stronger I am, the farther I will get.
Indeed the stronger I am, the farther I will get. If only I’ve realized that when I was little – when I still had two strong legs for running and drifting – I would’ve had worked on being stronger to feel that freedom, that wind on my face, and that joy a bit longer.
More than that, if this leg wasn’t hit by a jeepney, perhaps, I wouldn’t have realized that it’s not only the legs that can get me far. It’s really strength that can get me farther.