>This is my very first ever attempt at writing a short story. Hope you like it.
Memories Race By
“Ladies and gentlemen, Runner Number 8! From Nigeria, Dagogo Jacob!!!
…I look up from my crouched position as I’m attempting to stretch out my tendons for a moment. Enough to look around for a bit, smile at the roaring crowd and wave. Although they’re rather far from me, I can see the faces of my personal supporters’ team that came all the way with me from Lagos to South Africa among the crowd. My mother, my girlfriend Tori, and my coach Big Balo. The sound of the crowd may be picking up the sounds they make and swallowing it without choking, but I feel like I can hear every word of encouragement that mama and Big Balo are screaming out to me. Mama shouting out that I can do it. Big Balo is shouting at me to make sure I stretch properly.
I remember the first day I went to the National Stadium to find someone to train me to run professionally. I was thirteen years old, and unruly as any new teenager could be. None of the coaches would work with me. It seemed like when they all saw me, they saw that unruly glint in my eye which can usually be easily recognized as rebellion. Mama and I walked around the stadium all day, looking for who would take me, but we just kept getting shaking heads, and doubtful looks. Stares that said how unwilling they were to invest in such an obviously volatile individual, without them ever having to utter a single word. Finally, we met Big Balo. He looked at me long and hard, scrutinizing my defiant glare. Finally, he simply looked up at mama and said “Oya madam bring am come track”.
“Runners! Take your positions!”
As I walk to my place, I can see Balo telling me about the importance of limbering up properly. How not to stretch a muscle so as not to lose the race before I’d even started. “A badly wound muscle can ensure that you not only lose the race, but that you may never race again.” I spend days at a time, simply learning how to stretch properly. It was very frustrating at that point, but now I methodically work out every kink in my body, from toe to shoulders. Making sure that my entire body is in consonance with my feet.”
“On your mark!!!”
I drop to a semi – pushup position. My feet settling firmly on the plates behind me from which I will propel myself immediately the gun goes off. I remember Balo flogging the back of my feet every time I’d position them wrongly. Forcing me to find a position which would offer complete comfort, without sacrificing major efficiency for that comfort. My head is nestled into my shoulder blades like a lioness preying on a pack of zebra. Tensed to move at an instance’s notice.
My back arches like a cat that’s been harshly startled from a position of complete comfort. Poised to bolt at a moment’s notice. I see myself poised outside Balo’s window at the age of 14. Watching him have his fill of a young, very beautiful lady friend of his whom he picked up when we were passing through Sanusi Fafunwa one evening on the way back from his friends place. He called her his “Business Lady.” I remember standing outside the window watching him pound into her as she screamed like a well trained actress. At some point she looked up and saw me watching and gave me a small wink. I’d never run as fast before.
The gun goes off.
At that split moment before my hands leave the ground and I break into a sprint, I remember Balo’s call gun Toni, which he shot right over my head, again and again. In order to get me to stop being frightened of hearing the pistol go off, so I’d be able to run immediately it went off. I remember hearing him shout out “You hear the pistol, move you ode!!! Would you hear someone shooting at you and freeze for a moment??? You hear that pistol, run like someone’s shooting for your legs!!!”
I barely even recognize how harsh that sound is any more. Now it reminds me of a lover whispering in my ear to make me move faster.
I’m off the bases.
My feet are moving at a blinding, but very even pace. The cords in my muscles bunching up as I move along the track. I may not have the natural speed that my immediate opponent obviously has, but I most definitely have the power. As I run it’s almost like you could measure the kilo joules of energy my feet and calves are producing. While my ankles desperately try not to snap under the pressure I seem to be putting them under. But all the years of training can’t be for nothing. My ankles are fine.
We pass the 100 meter mark.
I remember Balo running with me. Teaching me how to breathe properly. My lungs expand as I gulp air needed to power my heart to make my whole body move. Every single part of my body needing the energy to move faster. Two years ago I finally beat him in a race. I guess that was when I’d finally learnt how to feed this machine with the air needed to keep it intensely and properly oiled.
I remember my mom bringing me to the Stadium on Saturday mornings, looking at me with pride and knowing that one day, her little boy would do well.
I’ve started to outdistance Runner Number 4 from Egypt. He may have had that natural fluidity that comes with God given speed, but the 200 meter run also requires a lot of energy as well to maintain speed right to this point, and I obviously have more energy than he does
By 150 meters, the race is mine.
I see my girlfriend smiling at me. She’s never been one to scream out encouragement at me. All she simply needs to do is to show her unshakeable belief in me by smiling. I’ve had to stay off her for a few weeks ‘cos of training. Tonight is going to be a winning celebration in more ways than one.
30 meters to go.
I suddenly remember my very first pair of training shoes. Balo made me lace them up really tight all the time. Hitting me if I didn’t tuck the laces into my shoes properly. “Shoes badly laced may cost you a race” he always screamed into my ear….
The lace which I forgot to tuck in pulls out, tripping me up as I tumble at full speed and slide across the rough synthetic track, only to stop 5 meters to the finish line, Runner Number 4 dashes by me to win the race.
Right now I’m sitting by the sidelines, watching the Egyptian wrap himself in the flag of his nation as he does the victory lap. Mama sits beside me, mumbling something that sounds like “better luck next time”, while my girlfriend rubs my back in condolence and Balo is screaming at me “HOW THE HELL COULD YOU FORGET TO LACE YOUR SHOES PROPERLY!?!?!?!?!”
I shake my head…I remembered. It was simply too late when I did.