Finding Ground
A Short Story by Shanna Seesz
Written using the suggestion "You learned to go unnoticed behind a lamppost."
Originally featured on 01-18-2011
As part of our series "The Benefit of Doubt: Stories Written to Explore Domestic Violence and Abuse"

It is twenty steps from my house down to the yellow house on the corner. On average, it takes me one hundred ten steps to run in one minute. If I keep pace one minute gets me five and a half blocks. It would take me fifty five blocks to run from the yellow house down to the neighborhood police station and back. Instead, it takes me between eighty and ninety blocks—eighty on a good night. The first night I ran it was an odd number of blocks. I try not to run in odd numbers.

 

My mother asks me how I can see. She insists that running at night is dangerous. She’s concerned. Everyone is concerned. They weren’t so concerned when the two of us were still together, but guilt makes everything urgent. Truthfully I can’t see anything at night, but I prefer to run in the dark where it’s safe. The dark isn’t yours. Sometimes I take a wrong step and fall, but at least I know the ground is still there.

 

I relied on that feeling whenever we argued and you took your fight too far. I entrusted those surfaces to break my fall: carpet, tile, hardwood floors. Even if it hurt it was somewhere to land, and as long as the ground wasn’t pulled out from under me I could count on there being an end. I wouldn’t fall endlessly.

 

The day I ran I felt as if I was falling forever. You picked me up, threw me back down so many times I thought I would never land. So when I got the chance, I ran. I ran twenty seven and a half blocks down to the police station, five hundred fifty steps. I ran so fast I fell, but I didn’t care. I didn’t care so long as you weren’t there to pick me back up again.

 

After—now—I run in your absence. In the beginning I saw your face in other people. I heard your voice carry with the shimmy of passing cars. It was as if you found some way, had learned somehow, to pass from object to person to object to stay by my side. Running at night was safer—less cars, less people.

 

The day had always been yours. It was yours that first time we really fought when things went too far. When I tried to talk to you afterwards you were sitting on the couch working. When I stepped closer, without looking up you said, “You’re in my light.” I know it’s only a figure of speech, but I still take the long way. I run the extra thirty five blocks, the extra six hundred ninety nine steps. I weave in and out to avoid the city lights. I take the long way in case you learned to go unnoticed behind a lamppost, hiding behind your light.

Read More By Shanna Seesz

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Portland Fiction Project

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