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Walking for a Cause and Walking Away

This past weekend I participated for the second year in the American Heart Association's Start! Heart Walk 2008-09, Tampa Bay. I joined my department's team of six walkers (three of whom raised money)--pretty measly considering how large the Department of English is at USF. I was able to drag in my friend Taylor to walk and talk with me for three miles on a Saturday morning. We arrived at the Raymond James Stadium with time to spare, so we began a hunt for free coffee, which seemed at first an attainable goal. We went from corporate tent to corporate tent, spotting the big green coffee decanters brought to the event for the sole purpose of caffeinating early morning walkers, but being turned away a couple of times because we were not actually part of that corporation's team, or because we were not VIP heart walkers--whatever that meant. Taylor persisted, though, and after conversing in her friendly and unassuming way with the guard of the VIP line, we were told we could go in the back of the tent if coffee was all we wanted (as opposed to the full breakfast buffet offered to VIP members, as though they were preparing to run a marathon rather than complete a three-mile charity walk). With the coveted coffee in hand, we made our way over to our team of six and chatted before the larger USF team went to stand for the photo--a rather burdensome task, it turned out. The camera man was raised in a crane about twenty feet in the air, and try as he did, he could not effectively communicate to his group below. He seemed to be speaking in his normal inside voice, unhurriedly and unauthoritatively, as though we were standing inside the crane carriage next to him. After several shots were eventually snapped, we dispersed from the bleachers and listened to a strikingly young girl belt out "The Star Spangled Banner" while white carrier pigeons were released into the sky (Taylor learned that the pigeons would actually fly home to their owner afterward--such an inquisitive mind she has). The walk began and Taylor and I wasted no time departing from our group (what is this "team" business anyway?). We buzzed past fellow walkers and talked about family, friends, jobs, and quite appropriately, walking. How it clears the head, strengthens the body, and soothes the soul. Well, maybe we didn't say all that, but I thought about that trinity of wellbeing afterward and I decided to apply it metaphorically to a troubled spot in my life.

***

I had recently been sucked (quite willingly) into a fruitless flirtation with a former romantic interest--to use a term of my mother's--and I was experiencing letdown after letdown from this person, yet still maintaining moderately high expectations for him. Our very history was based on bad timing, ineffective communication, and vague definitions of being (yes, much like that). I allowed this person to affect my happiness, or lack thereof, at his convenience, or--dare I say--whim. When another friend asked why I was attracted to this person who I seemingly had little in common with, all I could say after an unnaturally long pause was that I liked how I felt when I was with him. I felt a strong connection. Could I have been alone in that feeling? Unfortunately, our encounters had been entirely in the hands of randomness, as any attempt to plan something with this person failed miserably. For, as I sat with my friend trying to explain why this person had such a hold on me, he was standing me up--us both up--yet again. So I must walk away from him and his unreliable ways. Chance shopping encounters and birthday kisses will not cut it. If he cannot make an effort to show up in my life, I cannot be even an occasional presence in his.

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