FAIRYTALES OF A RUNNING BLIND
Sapphire blue eyes. Sapphire blue eyes set in an open, laughing face and bald scalp. His hairlessness strengthens the blue stare in his eyes, opening them up even wider. Apart from two blue gazers he owns an abnormally tall body, crowning above Marion, his wife. Marion is stocky and stout with long mousy-blonde hair, a button nose and small eyes. She is kind and caring, especially the way she checks her giant’s step into the house. He could have strolled out of a fairytale; Dahl’s the BFG jumps to mind. In reality, The Old Lady who lived in a Shoe or Snow White seems more appropriate with the giant and his piercing blue eyes just squeezing through the small wooden door.
The walls were once painted white but over the years have transformed to a yellow-beige. If you were to move the still-life landscape paintings (the generic ones you seem to find at any second-hand store, being largely popular at a stage and abruptly discarded by masses), you will still find the crisp, fresh white paint that wasn’t tainted by age or dust over the years. The blanket-covered sofa in the lounge is only a few steps away from the six-person dining table, which is only an arm’s reach away from the kitchen. The spaces between the door, lounge, dining room and kitchen are shrouded with carpets that seem to want to resemble Persian rugs but don’t quite know how to, and doilies. There are doilies everywhere, flung over the sofa hiding under blankets, on side-tables, on the walls and even a large round crocheted mass of doily on one of the dull-blue flower-patterned rugs. Neither Marion or Lee make doilies or even particularly like doilies, they are just placed, hung, framed and scattered around the house merely because they happened to have space on the then newly painted walls.
Entering the small house, Lee takes what feels like a full minute to cross the lounge to the dining room, a trip the stout Marion makes in a few seconds. While Marion fetches him a glass of water (ice-cold from the fridge that she pours in a tall beer glass for Lee and a small green-tinted whiskey glass for herself), Lee takes a moment to appreciate his rows of medals and photos squeezed between the still-life paintings and doilies. He slightly turns his head to the right in order for the bluest eye to look at his framed Comrades Marathon badges. Even though the badges are the size of one widespread hand, they are individually set in frames big enough to house at least three. The too-large frames give an ironic illusion of space on the crowded walls. Lee has run 11 Comrades and 18 Two Oceans Ultra Marathons, his lank body twitches instinctively with pride as he stares at the badges before he sits down with Marion at the dark plywood six-seater dining table.
Lee sits at the head of the table, Marion to his right. As Lee begins to speak, he breaths in a deep breath as though preparing for a long-prepared speech. Marion instinctively starts folding and unfolding the bright green placemat in front of her.
“I am classified as legally blind. Through my left eye I can only see blackness, through my right I only have 40% vision,” Lee slowly starts his speech.
“You should see him at night,” Marion screeches, pulled away from her placemat, “the other night we walked back home, and you see there was this tree. I am short so I just kept walking with Lee on my arm, and the next thing I knew, he was flat on his face!”
“Once I actually fell down a manhole and broke my ankle, I thought it was just a wet spot on the road, you see.” Lee laughs, but quickly composes himself, resuming his speech now in an even more formal tone, “But that’s life. I run marathons, and ultras, I’m the running captain for my club and lead training runs in the evening. I am unemployed and that has now become my job. I love being outside on the road, pushing my body.” Lee’s formal tone quickly turns to excitement, “I run because I can and will do so as long as I can. For me it’s all about being able to, and I will only stop when I can’t put one foot in front of the other anymore.”
Marion is still folding and unfolding the lime-green placemat in front of her. She is listening to Lee and is nodding her head to every word he says while handling the placement with a hint of religious tenacity. She follows a structured pattern folding and unfolding; she has clearly done this before, and has probably also heard Lee’s words before.
Four dogs run into the house and Lee’s dramatic speech and Marion’s trance is broken. The long-haired Collie is particularly needy as some hair is stuck in its mouth and Marion jumps in immediately to help out. Lee laughs that the dogs need a bath as he goes outside to the small courtyard of dull-grey concrete. Outside the blue of his eyes seem more intense set against the vast blue of the afternoon sky.
Lee unlocks the rusted gate from the courtyard to the driveway, where he unlocks the two large white gates. He struggles with the keys as he eagerly unlocks the rust-infested locks. The gates screech in pain then breathe a sigh of relief in opening to the road. As I say goodbye to Lee and Marion, Lee lingers a moment longer outside the decay-stricken gates before following Marion up the crumbling concrete driveway to tend to the Collie’s plight. He hesitates a moment in front of the door, blue eyes crinkling into a smile looking up to the open blue sky one more time before disappearing back into the crowded house, a giant, bending to fit through the small dark doorframe.