June 1, 2020
By Grant Lindsley
For my 31st birthday this month, I was determined to have a good day. First, I went for a run.
7am. Sunny. 50s. I set off on a route over the Pulaski bridge into Long Island City and along the waterfront. Bouncing between road and sidewalk to keep my distance from other pedestrians, I breathed deep behind my mask – this was a needed escape from the confines of my apartment and my head. Even some of my physical training had begun to feel robotic and grim. I’d somehow managed over the previous week to neither relax nor be productive. How many times before noon could I run through the refresh cycle of email, GroupMe, WhatsApp, Instagram, and the New York Times?
But not today. I’d cued up a 48-minute mix a friend had sent for this very purpose – I wouldn’t have to look at my phone at all.
By the time I reached the bridge, my legs were warm. No traffic. No stop lights. Just a continuous climb with a view of the shimmering East River beneath the Manhattan skyline. A light breeze whispered a gentle reminder that I was surrounded by movement – my own, the wind off the water, even the turning of the earth. I soared onwards and upwards, immersed in that rare flow state where the stride graces the runner with a feeling of rhythm. Further north I flew until I grew tired and stood on a pier and stretched and said a small prayer of gratitude, for the run was only half over. I still had the trip back to enjoy.
Later that day, I sat in the grass under the shade of an oak tree at McCarren park with my wife, MJ, eating fresh fruit and reading, when my teammate Chris Kocher appeared. This was unexpected. I glanced at MJ, who gave the knowing smile of one who has backchannelled. This was turning out to be a great birthday. He even had a gift.
Maintaining physical distance, Chris set a present the size of a shoebox on the ground and stepped away so I could approach. I thanked him, tore through the tape, and found the inside filled with scraps of paper – a kind of homemade confetti. Intrigued, I rifled through the box.
And then I stopped cold. Something flat and slimy stuck to my fingers. I heard Chris start laughing, and I held up my birthday gift: a single slice of ham.
I couldn’t shake the ham odor from my hand for the rest of the day. For the rest of the week, I could barely walk, because I hadn’t run distance in more than a year. In hindsight, the smell and the soreness seem in keeping with the state of the world. A regression to the mean.
2020 was gearing up to be a great year. It still could be. Testing may improve. A vaccine may arrive. The NBA might just pull off a season at Disney World. The AUDL might just pull off a season, in which case Kocher might be able to throw me a disc instead of tricking me into touching oily meat in a shoebox. But for now, all I can do is hope, hobble around my apartment, and keep washing my hands.