did they tell you…?

(this story happened about a year ago, but it took some time to process.)

it started out normal enough. a small-town half-marathon that is traditionally held on easter sunday, between 11am and 2pm — an odd schedule, but the race crosses the local train tracks, and that’s one of the few gaps in which no trains go through that stretch. it’s hot for april. not that many people running, and even less cheering. i saw the boy off with my parents, and then strolled to the nearby beach for a stretch in the sun, the first proper beach day of the season.

an hour later, we made our way back and saw the first runners arrive, panting and drenched in sweat. we clapped, we waited, we cheered and waited some more… but the boy wouldn’t show up. 10 minutes after his normal finishing time, i was starting to think maybe he’d given up. he’d had a mild cold earlier that week, and though he seemed fully recovered by sunday, perhaps he wasn’t as fit as he thought.

i saw a couple of his running friends, so i asked one of them if he’d seen paulo. and he had. “did they tell you…?“, he said expectantly. turns out, he was laying on the road not looking great, around km 15. they’d taken him into hospital and the paramedics were looking for me, actually. i think my heart skipped a beat or twenty. we made our way to the emergency room at a maddening slow pace, our advance bracketed by traffic on the N125.

the boy was fine. agitated, amnesiac, dehydrated, drenched in sweat… but fine otherwise. his heart was normal, and after a while, so was the rest of him. probably the scorching sun, playing tricks. afterwards, his GPS watch told the story of a 30-minute gap, spent wandering back and forth on the side of a country road, before being driven to the hospital.

ever since then, i’ve been thinking about death and the fragility of human beings, as one does whenever things like these happen. and i understand one can’t live on a dome or in fear of the next panic, but it changes things, a bit. you’re ever slightly more careful, more attentive… and immensely grateful for every single day.


2 comments to “did they tell you…?”

  • Teresa says:

    I hope everything is fine now.

    About this theme, I would like to recommend this book: “Staring at the Sun”, by Irvin D. Yalom.
    And also “Being Mortal”, by Atul Gawande.

    Years ago, I had a sudden cardiac arrest. It wasn’t a frightening thing because it happened very quickly. But it was not a “revealing” moment as every single movie often tells you. From time to time, I also think about these themes, but these books kinda helped me.

    Have a nice Easter Day and a good week.

  • gigi says:

    <3

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