The “L” in miracle

Runners01.jpg picture by pemerytx


It’s the last mile of our long run training.  Julie and I are pushing it.  New friendship, new conversation, possibly a new time record for our 10K.  One more incline to push us closer to depletion before the last speed flat, the supreme  test of our hearing, our ability to pick out the whisper of our will to win amidst the screams from our bodies to stop this nonsense and eat, drink, and be merry.  I’d been mostly deaf until Julie.


On intuitive cue, we glance at each other.  Sweat whips off our hair.  And there’s the fire, in her eyes, in mine, determination equally matched.  In a flash I get a hit, feel a glow of gratitude, of Fate maybe changing its mind about me and maybe starting to deal me some good cards for a change.  In just three months Julie has become the best friend and running partner of all time.  The other shoe may drop as usual, but I’ve learned to ride the good wave while it’s under my feet.


We reach the top of the incline and there’s that glint of old, from childhood, mirrored back to me from her eyes.  It’s the fully understood but unspoken dictum that allows for the unleashing of all-out friendly fire, matching physical challenge for challenge, wit for wit.  I give her the half-smile and abbreviated nod of agreement.  In unison our heads sling sweat back around, our brows knit, and we pull the last reserves of strength up and out of ourselves to open up full bore on the straightaway for the last half-mile.


I’m going all out.  Julie’s right with me.  I wonder if she’s holding back for my sake.  I kick the thought out of my head.  She’s just screwing herself if she’s not giving her all.  Just worry about you, just kick ass.  By the time we cross the line, my thoughts are right, and we’re together.  We check our watches.  44:17.  We did it!  We’re ecstatic, arms up, slow-running, jumping, skip-dancing.  We trot out the cool-down squirting each other with water.  We bend over laughing and recovering and back up again, throwing our heads back to get the wet hair out of our faces. 


Then Julie stops.  Her face clouds.  She squints at me, “Is that an ‘L’ on your forehead?”


Shit.  I walked out the door this morning without putting on the make-up that covers it.  I try and make this as easy as possible on both of us and I make light of it.  I shift into backwoods, “Shur is, ma’am.  Ain’t you never seen a loser before?”  I laugh.  Julie just looks at me, aghast.  I clear my throat.


I tell her, “Ah, Julie?  You know, I got a buncha marks on me—physical and mental battle scars, tattoos, scars from removed tattoos…  All of that.  It’s not a big thing to me.  Is it to you?”


Julie dropped her gaze from my forehead to my eyes, which were begging her to get off this and onto something else, to please not ruin this runner’s high, this time-shattering victory.  It’s still god-awful early to be up on a Saturday, but it feels great, and the day is shouting possibilities at us, or it was.


Her eyes registered something between disbelief and pity.  I hate that.  Then she spoke, “Ah no.  I mean normal scars, no.  What is with that ‘L’?  Are you OK?”


Anger jumped up in me from the black place.  The “L” was a personal thing, like all the scars and tattoos, never meant to be gawked at with slack jaws exaggerated, never meant to be scrutinized and judged with holier-than-thou eyes and minds leaping blindly to way-out conclusions.


I checked my anger before speaking, but from fight or flight, my mind had already made its time-honored choice to fly, to drop this friendship like a rock and just run rejected back to my apartment and lick my inevitably reopened wounds.


“Julie,” I said, “Look.  Yeah I have a history, and no I’m not OK, but I’m not the kind of ‘not OK’ that I see reflected in your eyes.  I’ve leveled off.  I don’t do that anymore.  I get along just fine.  Listen, I need to get to the post office and the bank before they close at noon and I have to…”


Julie interrupted, “No, Nicole, you’ve got me all wrong!  The not OK part of you must be misreading the not OK part of me.  Nobody’s OK.  Everybody’s got their shit to deal with, even the ones who look like they don’t.  I like you.  We click.  I’m asking about your wellbeing as a friend.”


I put my arm around Julie, “I’m sorry…  Thank you…”  We hugged then got coffee from a park vendor.  We walked to a bench overlooking the water and I told her about my teen years, about the scars I made out of self-loathing, out of the volcanic stew always red-hot and roiling, waiting for prime conditions to erupt and ravage my mental landscape again and again.  This went on, but lessened each year, until thirty-two, until a too-good-to-be-true Thad.


I told her how I made the “L” out of a jumbo paperclip in abject despair after Thad dumped me, and how, right after I stuck it in the fire and then onto my forehead, I got an intuitive hit that with that “branding” I’d just changed my life for the worst forever in a way I’d never changed it for the worst before.  I felt like that was the end of the line, that I’d lost all hope for myself, and in so doing had just approved an irrevocable contract with the universe to deal me losing hands for as long as I lived.


I panicked and prayed to a God I remembered praying to as a child.  I tried to make another deal.  I said if God would revoke the loser contract, I’d never make another mark as long as I lived, in Jesus’ name I pray.  I never felt sure that He revoked it, but I wasn’t entirely sure He didn’t, either, so I held to my half of the bargain.


Julie put her arm around me.  We looked at each other and knew the other half of the bargain had been kept.  Julie gave me a shove and deadpanned, “It’s a miracle you didn’t stamp yourself with an expiration date.”




Loser.jpg picture by pemerytx 




Runners are from Getty Images


The poster from the 2000 movie, “Loser,” was snagged from


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Missalister’s “The ‘L’ in miracle” was spun off the Sunday Scribblings prompt “#127 – Miracle.”  Click here for more on prompt #127 from other Sunday Scribblings participants.


13 responses to “The “L” in miracle

  1. Chica, I always love your mapping of the inner contours: Anger jumped up in me from the black place. The searing nuclear heat of that jumbo paperclip paragraph, particularly the heartbreaking loveliness of its last line. And, of course, God’s persistent Freudian silence (though my sense is that SF relentlessly broke all the rules he set for his minions; wonder if God does the same) is a bright shiny penny, ain’t it?

    This one fed us with all the right foods. muito obrigado, amiga.

  2. I read this and now I feel as if I’ve come out of a movie theater, as if hours have passed and I was entranced in a far-away story.
    Good to have the odd SS from you MIssA every once in a while :)

  3. Not to put a damper on the intensity of this story but was the ‘L’ made as if with the right hand or with the left, in other words, as seen from the outside by others or from the inside by herself ? I found myself needing to picture it one way or the other to understand it. Maybe labels are reversible anyway and it doesn’t really matter how they are applied, but I think we all wonder about our expiration dates!

  4. Strong stuff here, and gorgeously told. Paschal’s comments say everything on my mind, so I’ll just add “ditto.” Ever consider submitting anything?

  5. SHG, so good to see you here again! Your compliments are as delicious as ever :-)

    Ah, Paschal, you could write how horrible this piece was, and as long as you wrote it in your to die for literary style, I’d sigh and think it the greatest thing. I think God taught Freud everything He knew, btw… Freud just didn’t have time to use all the material in his comparatively short lifetime, but I can tell by the shine on the penny that he did a mighty fine job trying.

    Ms Mood! You really had the just-out-of-the-movies daze going on?! Awesome! I have arrived! Thank you for that :-D

    Hi Imelda! Thank you! As always, your input means a great deal.

    Bass: LOL! I suppose it doesn’t really matter, but for maximum effect I recommend picturing the “L” placed as demonstrated by our loser boy Paul Tannek, shown above. And I suppose we do all wonder about our expiration dates, but apparently, according to the folks at Budweiser, our born on date is all we really need to be concerned with ;-)

    Hi Anno! “Gorgeously”…I love it :-) And dittoing Paschal is divine. Yes, I’ve considered submitting something…still considering it…I thought maybe “Power Interrupt” would be a good one…but it’s like I’m working up the nerve. A good friend of mine has encouraged me to submit something along with her to The Sun Magazine , so the strength in numbers theory might work for me there. Upcoming topic is Faith, due October 1 for publication in April 2009. Care to add to the strength with your own to die for style???

  6. An enjoyable story. Friends becoming friends. The excitement of discovery. The sacredness and profanity of the ‘L’. And to top it off with interwoven wit was the icing on the cake.

    Thanks, also, for your comments. I too shall return.

  7. Well, hello, TD! “Sacredness and profanity,” yes! just like tattoos, just like grafitti, just like art, just like life… Bravissimo! And a roaring crowd welcome to you!

  8. Kick ass closing! Don’t laugh but I ran in high school and a few years after. I taught aerobics for a decade. Despite taking care to wear the right shoes and to do moves properly, I’ve screwed up my knees. No running for this middle-age former athlete. I say all that to say that running with you in the story gave me an incredible rush. Thank you. And thanks, too, for stopping by BES.

  9. A sweat-soaked finish line welcome to you then, Susan! Seems we’ve got loads in common. In and after HS it was all about weighlifting for me, but now running is practically life itself, keeping my mind and body feeling as topnotch as they get. I taught aerobics, too, and my knees are hosed, too, but I’ve adopted a “springy” way of running—forefoot impact, minimal weight transferred to heels, arms tight and pump-generating most of the “spring” momentum from mid-position. People in cars probably point and laugh but I can’t be bothered with that. LOL! Mostly, I’m glad you liked the ending…it pounced from the ether and kicked my ass, too! ;-)

  10. Paschal, what would I do without you caring about things in my direction? Sappy ain’t my style, but I hafta say it’s good just knowing you’re out there. SS isn’t happening for me this week. I did give it a weak attempt during a brief window of time I had today but it wasn’t MissA-worthy, you know? It was unadultered excrement. Wish me luck for next week… :-)

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