Monday, April 7, 2014

My Awkward Marathon

I met him in October, he asked after my hobbies and I listed jogging. A few weeks ago he contacted me and asked me to do a long distant run with him.

6000 meters, he said. The venue: Jinan Normal University, they have a nice concrete track there. I agreed, I mean, almost every evening I do 6000 meters, the only new thing about this was that I would run in the day.

Took an expensive taxi ride – later learned that I could get a bus and just pay 1RMB. Did all a marathoner needs to do: a litre of water and ample clothing.

The awkward started to unroll.

My friend told me how we would spend the day. We would spend ten minutes in a park, to relax, then do the marathon; then shower together; then do some spring photography and then catch dinner together.

I agreed to the plan, but felt like I was being courted – and sitting next to him in the park chair and him talking right into my face was unsettling.

After ‘relaxing,’ we hit the track, as I changed into athletics wear; my friend looked at me and remarked that I was handsome. Still don’t know what made him conclude so: my calves, thighs or belly? Because that was all that was newly exposed - queer.

Before we could start the run, a group of about 50 girls from a PE class stormed the track; we thus had to squeeze ourselves into the two outer layers of the pitch.

My friend had a timer running on his phone, updating me of progress after every minute. I usually do not open my mouth when doing a run, so just grunted in acknowledgment.

My friend, in between hard breaths, reminded me of the FIFA World Cup that took place in South Africa and he played Shakira’ s song Waka Waka that was famous around the World Cup.

Now, I have never listened to the song in full, I only hear it and cannot tell the lyrics apart from where it says; ‘It's time for Africa,’ and am not sure if that lyric punch line was the highlight.

Whenever we passed the group of girls, my friend took off like a rocket, leaving me about ten meters back and then failing to catch up later after we got out of the girls’ sight.

I quickly realized that I was in a contest and not a cordial jog, so I boosted my speed.

By 3000 meters he called a time out, I told him he could watch me and join in when he had rested, he watched me fly by twice before he rejoined and then asked me to tone down, remarking that I was an African and therefore stronger. I objected, I told him I run every day and was not born strong.

After 35 minutes, half the time he had calculated we finished the run.

Now, I come from a lake-shore area, and we can swim naked but it’s been years since I did skinny dipping, and suddenly I was in a public bath and this was upon protesting.

We just had one towel, one pair of slippers…I refused to share those and went in raw. Going on to turn down an offer of a free back scrub and being the only darker shade in the bathroom, I could notice the gazes I attracted, but like I said, I noticed, that means I also gazed.

The photography part was as challenging as running in the hot sun, having to pose behind some pink flowers took a lot from my pride pocket, but again, I never said no and endured an hour long lecture on the flora of the university, which, I have to say is very remarkable.

The selfie was the hard one, his face so close to mine and more than five photos in the same position, I felt like I was a girl being hunted.

Dinner was served early – typical Chinese food, loved it, but secretly stuck to the corn and green vegetables – and then he said it:

‘Do you have some words to say to me, before you go?’

I just looked at him and stopped chewing.

‘Did you have a good time? Will we do this again?’

Such a relief!

We had talked so much all day and I was all this time afraid of an encounter – a gay hit – instead, my friend said: ‘My girlfriend also loves those vege…’

I cut him off, I queried him: ‘you have a girlfriend?’

He said yes. I was so relieved, walked close to him this time and actually took one picture with my arm around his shoulder.

When I got on the bus, having paid just 1RMB, I looked back at my day and laughed at myself, I was so cagey, so afraid of my friend having homosexual intent, when he is but a lovely guy.

I took out my phone and typed: ‘really had a nice day, I loved it sooo much, we should do this sooner and next time I will pay for dinner.’

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