I come up on the park, breathing heavily, my right shin hurting like crazy, but my feet keep hitting the ground and I can feel my lungs locking into the strained in-and-out pulse that means I’ll finish this long run feeling okay about myself, because it was hard work, but at least I finished.
The only thing that’s keeping me going today is a singular image I woke up with: a tall pint glass, filled nearly to the brim with bright red, speckled with bits of I don’t know what. The way they make a bloody mary at the English pub I only go to on Sundays is with a super-spicy mix they make in-house, plus a toothpick stabbed through a tiny shrimp, a cube of cheese, a mini gherkin, an olive, a wedge of lemon. They finish the whole thing off with an entire strip of bacon in the glass.
This is exactly how I like it. Bloody marys ought to be spicy, sure, but there should be everything else, too, roaming across the tongue and setting off brain fireworks: the clean meaty shrimp, the salty pungent cheese, the oily olive, the pickle. The bacon is to chomp on after you squeeze in the lemon, that salt-laced umami that says you have made it, you can rest now.
I have to do seven miles today, but I am out of shape right now, and my bottle of water is running dangerously low by the time I land my run expertly at the door of the pub, stretch my hamstrings, and wander in, hoping my own saltiness won’t put off any customers. It’s not too crowded.
I catch the barkeep’s eye and he asks what I’d like, and I order the same chop salad as usual (blue cheese, hard-boiled egg, greens, bacon, avocado, chicken) and then as I’m about to order the bloody mary I catch sight of a new handle. There is a coffee stout now.
Quick calculation: the salad has the clean chicken, the salty bacon, the fatty avocado, the pungent blue cheese.
So I order a pint instead. It comes out not thick, no head, more with the thin liquidy mouthfeel of a carbonated ale, but rich and sweet, which was what would have been missing all along. The bloody mary will keep till next week’s eight miler. I’ve got some football to watch.
I made it. It’s Sunday. It’s the first day of the church calendar, and the first day of the holidays, and the last day of the month.
I can rest now.