I’m sweating, I’m wheezing, I’m bleeding, and all I can think about as I sprint back home is talking to my lady.
Me: Why snakes?
I hit send, toss my phone on my bed, and head to the refrigerator, where a chilled Brita pitcher beckons me from behind my meticulously arranged magnet collection.
A chilled, EMPTY Brita container. I flip the lid off, sending it spinning to the ground, and place the BPA-free pitcher beneath the spout. The anger turns to fear once I remember–or can’t remember, rather–the last time I scrubbed the kitchen floor.
“One. Two. Three. Four. Fi … GOT IT!”
In under five seconds, I bring the lid from the questionable floor to the sanitized counter and turn the cold-water knob. The liquid pours at that perfect speed where the water fills the top at the same rate it drips to the bottom. While beads of clean H2O seep out of the charcoal filter, I check for a response.
The Lady: LOL
She leaves it at that. Not because she’s vapid or disinterested. She just knows me well enough to know “Why snakes?” was just a precursor to a much longer message. She knows “Why snakes?” is my way of saying, “Are you there?” And I know “LOL” is her way of saying “Yes. Always.”
Me: Seriously, why do snakes exist? Give me one good reason. And DO NOT say because they eat rats. I will punt a fucking rat off my porch like a placekicker. Try kicking a snake. You know what will happen? It will wrap around your ankle like a garden hose, a garden hose with FANGS!
I toss the phone back on my bed and return to the kitchen.
“Which superhero will it be today?” I ask myself, studying the lineup of Marvel pint glasses I won during a White Elephant gift exchange at a company Christmas party. “Spiderman? No. Tobey Maguire ruined him for me in Spiderman 3. Captain America? No. Leadership skills and an indestructible shield are useless to me right now. The Hulk? Possibly. I am furious. Wolverine? Hmm. I am bleeding. Alright, Hulk or Wolverine? Hulk or Wolverine? Hulk. Or, Wolverine? Hul … verine. Wolverine. I have enough rage. I’m going with Wolverine.”
I grab the glass and shut the cabinet before I can change my mind. The water is far from cold, but it’s a lot cooler than the 103-degree temperature I was stupid enough to run in. I go back to my room and stop myself from flopping my sweaty body on my bed, but not fast enough to prevent Newton’s First Law of Motion from making perspiration rain on my lion blanket.
“Dammit. That’s going to need a wash. But then again, I sweat every night. Yeah, but that’s a different kind of sweat, a cleaner sweat. True.”
I reach for my phone without allowing anymore grossness to fall from my bangs.
The Lady: LOL. I’m going to assume you didn’t get bit.
Me: No, but I could have!
I turn Wolverine upside down and drain the glass of its contents. I need a refill, and the phone is coming with me. Before I even make it to the door, I feel a vibration in my hand.
The Lady: Did you even see a snake?
Me: No, I didn’t see a snake, but if Jaws taught us anything, its that the things you don’t see are sometimes scarier than the things you do.
I place my phone on the toaster and grab the Brita from the refrigerator, which had no effect on the water temperature.
The roar of my phone vibrating the toaster startles me enough to knock my pouring hand off track. Water cascades over my fingers and onto my mold-resistant standing mat.
The Lady: Did you at least see a stick that looked like a snake?
Me: EVERYTHING I saw looked like a freaking snake!
I put the phone on a stove coil and use my kitchen towel to wipe up the spill.
“This is going to need a wash,” I said, noticing the fresh patch of filth on my dish cloth. “SON OF A!”
My phone clamors around the stove, making the drip trays sound like Caribbean steel drums being played with a jackhammer.
The Lady: Where were you running?
Me: The Greenbelt.
I put the phone on the bamboo cutting board and toss the towel in the laundry hamper so I don’t accidentally use it again. I’m greeted by a blinking notification light upon my return.
“Note to self: always put your phone on the cutting board”
The Lady: Why the Greenbelt?
Me: I thought it’d be a nice change of scenery, but I immediately regretted that decision once I realized all the nooks and crannies turned the trail into one giant rattlesnake Whack-A-Mole. Step over the wrong rock, and HISSSSSSSSS! Your Achilles tendon becomes a serpent’s chew toy.
I put my phone in my pocket and open the sliding glass door leading to the porch.
I mistake my roommate’s deflated bike tube for the same abomination that sent my pulse north of 200 BPM during my run. My anxiety reaches its peak when my lady texts me back, buzzing my outer thigh and sending me over the edge.
“TO HELL WITH SNAKES,” I scream, flinging the bike tube off the balcony and leaving it dangling from a tree branch like some kind of evil Christmas ornament.
The Lady: You practiced that joke all the way home, didn’t you?
Me: How’d you know?
I take off my shirt, which weighs twice as much as it did before my run, and twist it into a knot. I proceeded to squeeze with all my might, imagining the sweat gushing from the creases is blood spurting from a serpent. I don’t stop until I feel another rumble in my pocket.
The Lady: BECAUSE I KNOW YOU, BOY!
Her use of all caps proves it.
Me: THAT’S WHY I LOVE YOU, GIRL!
Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Chris Boyles
Inspired by: "Slow Show" by The National