Beautiful. I had sunk $110 to wake up at 4:30 a.m. on a cold, dark Sunday morning to swim a half-mile loop in frigid waters, cycle fourteen miles, and run four through slicing winds and driving rain. Three hundred others had done the same. One had just slapped me mid-stroke in the face. Another kicked me in the gut. When I came back up for air, a hand scooped a stream of Long Island Sound water into my open mouth. It tasted like scum.
It was my first triathlon. At that moment I believed it would be my last.
As the remaining swimmers left me in their wake, I glanced behind me, hyperventilating. Whitecaps splashed against rocks; waves ripped through the slate-dark surface; the sky was a fury of grays.
Just then, the heaving waters around me calmed. In the distance I made out the orange blur of the first turn buoy. And recalled the words of the tiny, sun-wrinkled woman as we stood at the starting line, I trembling in the face of the choppy waves, she calmly windmilling her wiry arms and jogging lightly in place. "Get to the first buoy and you'll be fine," she chirped, smiling brightly, as if there were nowhere she'd rather be.
I began to regain my senses. Just get to the first buoy.
No way I was turning back. This was my ten-year anniversary. With life.
By then the details were sketchy. But I know it was a Friday night, and it was the last day of July 1998, and I was late. I had been preparing for a conference with opposing counsel to settle a case before it went to trial, and it had taken longer than expected. I sprinted across Third Avenue. The air was close.
The dark wood-paneled pub was packed. The music was loud. The group, most of them from my law firm, occupied a corner table. I ordered a Guinness and a plate of shoestring fries. Someone on the Yankees hit a home run. Everyone hooted, high-fived. There was shouting, hilarity, something about Bill Clinton's cigar. I talked for a while with a guy who had just begun his surgical residency at NYU. He was a college friend of another fourth-year associate and had curly red hair and a quick laugh. While the bill was being split up, he asked for my number. I told him of my plan to drive across the country in a Plymouth Valiant convertible. "And I'm not even balding," I remember saying. "Cool," he replied, looking vaguely puzzled.
The streets were festive with lights. Music spilled out of restaurants and bars. It was the sort of summer night you felt the city was your own. One more week, I said to myself as I neared Central Park. One week of attending the settlement conference, tying up loose ends, and life begins. As I took in the familiar odor of exhaust and the sweet smell of honeysuckle, I felt a sort of lightness, as if something in me had opened and I could take in more air.
I caught a taxi on Fifth. It was close to midnight when I trudged the two flights to my one-bedroom and kicked off my pumps. The next morning, I went for a five-mile run through Riverside Park. It was already warm. I was spent.
As I was letting myself into my apartment, the phone rang. It was my older sister Luke calling from Baltimore; we talked every Saturday morning. I told her I needed a nap; I'd call her back when I got up.
That's the last I remember. I don't remember taking a shower, putting on a T-shirt, muting the ringer of my phone, adjusting the air conditioner to high, drawing the dark shades to block the early August glare, or stretching out on my futon. Nor do I remember lying motionless sometime Sunday afternoon while a friend buzzed on my intercom from the outside entrance and shouted my name from the patio of the garden apartment below.
I don't remember failing to show up for work on Monday morning or the spring of the deadbolt lock or the rapid clop of my stepmother's heels across my living room floor and into my bedroom early that afternoon. Or being placed on a gurney and hustled downstairs or the wail of the siren as I was rushed to the hospital or who sat beside me in the ambulance.
All this I learned later.
5 Months 10 Years 2 Hours
by Lisa Reisman