The Track Star

Illustration by Madeline Engelfried

Illustration by Madeline Engelfried

A track star, he, running along the brown-orange and the green-white in shiny blue windswept shorts and great white sneakers with intricate designs. He’s bronzed and heaving, a furnace of movement, perfectly suffering in the golden sun, an immaculately sculpted seventeen-year-old machine of tremendous output. Cheered on by girls in the bleachers, all hair-obscured foreheads and colored tights enamored with his athleticism, his deliberately-cut blonde hair, his gigantic blue eyes, this boy bouncing rapidly along the track, a dorky Adonis, a goofball Aryan blur. When they say his name he smiles, straight teeth, glowing droopy cartoon eyes, mind in the world with the girls and with God shining benevolently above him, happy for all he’s done and all he will do, a future happy family man, this well-liked boy, not too serious, wearer of funny t-shirts from funny movies and avid listener of high-energy rock music, friend to surfer dude and hipster creep alike, safe in His warmth, powerful in His consciousness.

All when the girls cheer for him, this, when he is close to them. Far on the other end of the squished oval track, the track star thinks of death and skateboards, horrible, horrible, horrible things he’s seen online, and he tries to forget, thinks of the girls and of sex and then of death, tries, forgets, banishes to oblivion, thinks of her instead, but then gasps in a psychic shudder, thinks again of eternal oblivion, darkness forever and ever, heroin and cascades of blood, death, death, death. The track lies before him, patiently awaits the imprint of his alien shoe, of its bouncing soles supporting a strangely intricate plastic exoskeleton, as he pushes himself forward, ever closer to his grave. At this moment, the boy wants nothing more than to die, just to see what it feels like. Every step he takes he is narcotized, engrossed by the outer reaches of experience.

The boy is a satellite, now at the far corner of the track, where a fence holds back a dry California dirt wall that crawls high above to a sun-drenched parking lot. His car is there, he thinks, and he knows that if he wanted to he could just jump over the fence and claw up the dirt and fuck up his t-shirt, mix the dirt with the sweat, and he knows that if he really wanted to he could get into his car and drive it off the cliff and into the track and then keep moving, could bring his big red machine close to the girls and let the shrapnel pierce them, and then explode in a fiery ball. He knows that he could really do this if he really wanted to, and his eyes grow wide, and he makes himself forget about death, forget about violence. He knows it’s bad, but he can’t manage to stop himself from indulging in these sorts of thoughts.

So he runs faster, tries to outrun this Satan in his brain, while the girls cheer on what they think is a second wind. The boy comes closer to the jubilant throngs, and he, without any effort, completely forgets death, and experiences another few moments of bliss, near his friends, back in the world of the living. He is now present and aware. He now knows he’s safe. But he patiently dreads the lonesome march that follows around the bend, dreads the mysterious allure of the Devil that always hides in his lonesomeness. No, no, no. He loves the sun, and he loves the girls, but really all that can bring him happiness right now is the thought of the end of the race, that moment when everyone will clap and the other track stars will relax, and when he can sit down at a bench and eat orange slices with his friends next to him, everyone watching the sticky juice dribble down and mix with his sweat, a happy, healthy boy.