One more step, he tells himself, just one more step. It’s almost as though he’s flying—his feet touch the ground for but a moment before they go up again as he runs, runs, runs.
He will not stop. He cannot stop. He must not stop.
His inability to answer that question practically forces him to a sudden halt. A car whizzes by him, then another. He takes in a ragged breath, attempting to take in more air. What is he doing? Why is he running?
No. No. He must not ask questions. He simply must run. It is all he can do.
And so he starts again, feet pounding, eyes tearing, heart beating. He runs and he runs and he runs until he feels as if he cannot run anymore. But he does not stop. His hopelessness, his emptiness—they are his fuel. They keep him moving when he feels as though he cannot go on anymore. And so he does. One foot forward, then the other. Repeat.
The minutes pass by as he continues to surge forward, as if hiding from some invisible enemy. But then he realizes that he cannot run. That there is no place to hide. And that realization is like a punch in the stomach, and all the air escapes him, leaving him doubling over, gasping for a breath. He lurches off the road into the trees and collapses on the ground, struggling to breathe. Eventually, he sits up, pieces of leaves and bark stuck to his face. He takes a shaky breath in and out. In and out.
He is pathetic, he realizes. A coward. A weakling. He deserves to die. But right now, all he can do is cry. And that is what he does. It is not just a tear or two, it’s a flood of tears, and soon he’s sobbing. He cries, and he cries, and then he cries some more.
That’s the thing about pain. Once it’s there, there’s no ignoring it. It fights its way to the surface, demanding to be felt. It is cruel, yet it is necessary.
And as he cries, nobody hears him. Nobody comforts him.
But, then again, that’s how it’s always been, hasn’t it?
Less than three,
“There is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.” –Peter Van Houten, The Fault In Our Stars