Mike Valentine looked at the time display on his car radio. 7:15. Realizing that it will be dark soon, he did some quick math in his head and figured he had an hour before the mosquitoes starting eating him alive and his phone blows up from the wife wondering where he was. Despite the beautiful evening he was observing through his windshield, he didn’t want to get out of the car. He also didn’t want to go home. He wasn’t ready for that shit yet.
You took the time to change at the office, dickhead, go for the walk already, he scolded himself.
He opened the door and stepped into an onslaught of late afternoon humidity. Before closing the car door he made sure he had all of the essentials for his walk. Car key removed from ring and tied into shoelace. Check. Bottle of water. Check. He weighed the pros and cons of leaving his iPhone in the car or carry it for the entire walk. If he left it and she called he’d never hear the end of it. If she calls during the walk he may not answer it. He arrived at the conclusion that he was screwed either way so he tossed it on his seat and covered it with his jacket. He was about to lock the door when he opened it again and grabbed the phone. He cursed his addiction to the stupid thing as he slipped it into his back pocket.
Mike walked over to the big oak that currently shaded his 2008 Honda Accord with 200k on it from the late afternoon sun. He leaned against the mighty tree and attempted to stretch. His legs, stiff from sitting at a desk all day, were having none of it. Sadly, compared to his neck, the legs were nothing. Just an hour ago, in the course of a huge blowout with his boss, his head almost flew off of that very neck so the tension was of no surprise. Mike looked at his watch and chose to skip his usual stretching routine and just walk the lake.
“The lake” was a local treasure. Smack dab in the middle of an upper-middle class town full of old money and new construction, the lake was a favorite walking spot for people from surrounding towns. With its paved sidewalks, generous walking and bike lanes and magnificent view it was a bustling attraction for walkers, runners and bikers. Mike frequently walked the lake for all of those reasons, for a bit of after work exercise/stress relief, and of course for the added bonus of a plethora of young hotties and soccer moms coming and going in tight shorts and God’s greatest gift to mankind, the yoga pants. Tonight, Mike didn’t care about any of the scenery, he was in a foul mood and was walking because it was a healthier alternative to going to the local Chili’s and drinking cheap beer and eating tortilla chips all night.
As Mike walked the long parking lot and merged his tired body into the flow of traffic, as it were, he fought the initial tightness in his calves. Regretting not stretching more, he was comfortable that it would go away soon. As he reached the first long straight section, he realized that the tightness in his legs had subsided, his breathing was heavy and he welcomed the light breeze cooling his sweaty brow. He was getting into a rhythm. The lake is 3.5 miles around, it should take a total of 45 minutes and he felt on schedule.
As he settled into his rhythm he finally allowed the day’s events to freely bang around in his head. As soon as he did, the anger consumed him again. Being a self-aware man, Mike knew to keep his facial expressions in check lest he make oncoming walkers think he is a crazy fuck who is off of his meds. It was a difficult task, he was as mad as he could ever remember. He took several deep breaths and tried to sort his thoughts. Lets see, he recalled, I woke up to hear about how I’m not making enough money. When I told her to leave me alone, that she’s not helping, she called me a useless piece of shit. I told her to fuck off in front of the kids and felt like an ass all morning. I went to work mad, always a recipe for success, and my boss called me on my attitude. I ignored him and he let it go until 5 minutes before quitting time and then started the worse argument I’ve ever had with him or anyone else.
That’s not the worse part, a little voice in his head spoke up, you’re probably out of a job. You told him to go fuck himself on the way out the door, remember?
Mike Valentine remembered. He replayed the minutes of the argument in his head for what seemed like forever, trying to make sense, entertaining things he should have said and regretting some of the ones he did. After what seemed like an eternity of thinking and overthinking, he stopped walking, bent over and stared at the ground and physically shook his head as would a dog after coming in out of the rain.
“Enough” he said aloud to the inattentive ground. “I can’t live like this anymore. This is not the life I thought I would live. Something’s gotta give.”
The ground, as could be expected, had no response to his desperate plea.
To be continued…