It Happened Again


I'm sitting in the lounge, minding my own business, playing Words With Friends. It's a bit past nine at night. Miguel, who lives down the hall from me, walks in, asks where Chris is. The two of them had planned to go jogging. Chris was studying. He had a calc test. I stand up.

"I'll go jogging with you," I say.

I'd finished all my homework before dinner and had nothing better to do. Plus, I could stand to get a bit of exercise. I hadn't gone jogging for a year and a half. Or for the seventeen years before that, either. So naturally, I decided to be the hero and run alongside this poor, partnerless soul.

"You're wearing jeans?" he said.

Apparently you're not supposed to wear jeans when running. For some reason. Unfortunately, I only have jeans and khakis, and I'm fairly certain khakis make for worse athletic wear than jeans. He said I would experience, quote, "chafing." I was pretty wary of this - I've been wearing nothing but jeans for about two months now, and I'd probably run for some distance at some point over the course of those two months - but I took my cell phone and ipod out of my pockets and pulled on a comfy t-shirt to appease him before we left.

Now, I was fairly certain that it takes the average person ten minutes to go a mile on foot. Running, one could go a bit faster, but he had a four-mile trek in mind - two each way - and there was no way I could run, or even jog, for four miles straight. So I figured I'd be getting back around ten-ish.

As it turns out, I wound up walking not alongside, but behind, him. Partially because he was a trained runner and I was just some schmuck, but mostly because I had no clue where we were going. I do not know the lay of the land here. The farthest I've ever walked was to the local CVS and back to buy truffles. So I let him stay ahead of me.

Then I let him stay a bit farther ahead of me.

Then he was staying ahead of me without my letting him.

Then he was a full block ahead of me.

He disappeared behind some overgrown topiary and I started walking. I'd waited until now because I couldn't let him see me walking, obviously. That would make him more manly than me, and I couldn't have that. I started running again after I passed the bush, but my chest was killing me and by this point, he was walking, too. Actually, he was walking rather oddly. Legs aren't supposed to move like that.

Then he passed under a streetlight and I realized he was walking backwards. I slowed down. We spoke. The bus stop we were heading towards was more or less straight ahead. He'd run up there and rest for a bit while I'd just walk, and then run back and meet up with me wherever I was by that point. Seemed reasonable. He dashed off and I walked on my own for about ten minutes before we met up again and we both headed back.

Having had time to rest, I started off in the other direction at a run. Then my ankles started aching and I started walking again. Still no chafing from the jeans. He asked if he could run ahead again. I gave him a thumbs-up. We'd meet up at the dining hall. No problemo.

Actually, slight problemo this time around. The route from my position to the dorms was not a straight line. There were turns involved. I don't do too well with turns. I have a very limited knowledge of the Massachusetts roadway system. I had to make a few guesses. They turned out to be the wrong guesses. I was walking around totally lost. Sometimes, when I was less fatigued, I would run. This turned out to be a very stupid move, because it just meant I was getting lost faster.

I was giggling, believe it or not. I found the situation totally hilarious. It's because I wasn't actually in any danger. I was in a small Jewish neighborhood in Massachusetts. I didn't have anything to be doing, so the scenario didn't inconvenience me. And so I could just step back and see the funny side.

I felt a few wet drops on my nose. Could've just been my imagination. Then I felt a few more.

Yeah. It started raining. So now I was walking around, totally lost, in the rain. Not bringing my cell phone probably wasn't the best move. The giggles had turned to swears. Loud swears. I was legitimately afraid that someone would stomp out of their house and tell me to keep it down because their kids could hear me.

You might remember that I had a very similar night about a month ago. There were a few differences - I was wearing thicker clothing last month, it was snowing, rather than raining, and I wasn't completely lost - but the parallelism is there. That is a problem. Wandering through freezing precipitation at night should not be a recurring theme in my life. That is not a normal recurring theme to have in one's life, unless one is a hobo, or Bear Grylls. I am neither a hobo nor Bear Grylls.

I passed by a row of unfamiliar shops. A gym. A dentist. A salon. A tailor. I crossed the street. I swore. I turned left. One thing you need to know: Boston College is primarily serviced by a road called Commonwealth Avenue. It is a very distinctive-looking avenue. After turning left, I saw, a block away, this avenue. She was beautiful. I ran to her, crossed her, pounding her wet asphalt with my rubber-soled kicks. Oh, joy, oh, joy, oh happy day! I once was lost, but now am found! I felt like I was emerging from Plato's allegorical cave and viewing the real world for the first time. I felt wonderful. I sprinted leftward down her, eager to get out of the rain.

My shirt was completely soaked now. I considered taking it off, but resolved not to, as a shirtless pasty white guy wandering in the rain at midnight would probably look fairly suspicious. The buildings started to look vaguely familiar. I had been running for far too long before I realized that I was going the wrong way. You may recall that I made two left turns to get here. Two left turns bring you back the way you came. I turned around and started running back down the street.

The buildings looked very familiar now. Because I'd just seen them. I ran and ran and ran and eventually, after a good twenty minutes, came to a very familiar intersection. I recognized it from the walk to CVS and back to buy truffles. I picked a street and walked down it. I got lost again.

I passed a row of familiar shops. A gym. A dentist. A salon. A tailor. Yep. Same row. The sign over the gym said "Get in Shape!" in big white letters, next to a picture of a shining golden Atlas. Well, gee, thanks, gym. I suppose if I was in shape I'd have been able to just follow the guy back home and be nice and warm by now. I turned back onto Commonwealth Avenue, this time going right.

I somehow managed to get lost again. I missed another vital street due to the darkness and kept going. After far too long, once again, I realized that I was going in the wrong direction, and turned around. This time around, I made the turn and saw the dorms and felt awesome. I passed another jogger, who was just starting out. She gave me a little nod. We are both jogging, the nod said. And I want to recognize this shared activity.

The second I got inside, my legs turned to lead. I stumbled, wet and dripping, into the lounge. It was 12:30 am. I had been out for three hours.

...and that's why I don't go to NYU. Because if this happened in Manhattan, I'd be dead.

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