(Part Five) Sounds of Gunfire

The fresh salty breeze flows in off the ocean just at day break. It mixes with the heat from the surrounding desert land, blanketing San Diego in a perfect mix of comfort.

The morning sun, just barely born out of the night sky, breaks through the chilly breeze and warms the air around me. Sweat flows freely down my back and legs, and my loose tank and shorts have become cemented against my body. Pulling a water bottle from my sport belt, I take a long gulp of the fresh liquid, splashing it against my hot face and neck. The faint sound of hip hop music drifts from the headphones that have fallen out of my ears and swing from my neck.

“Beautiful!” I shout. A few random runners glance my way, their strides unbroken. They are used to seeing people stop and stare at the view in front of them in awe and admiration.

I have just finished my morning run, ending at the break water along the Embarcadero Marina Park in downtown San Diego. It stretches out like a solitary, green finger, pointing towards the open waters as if enticing us city dwellers to take a chance out at sea. Tiny fishing boats and larger military vessels that come in and out of the canal on a daily basis churn up small waves that lap against the park’s edges. Crabs duck under and in between rocks as seagulls and other birds swoop in to snatch them up for their morning meal.

Checking my watch, I happily note that I finished my run earlier than anticipated, allowing me a few peaceful moments. Dropping to the ground, I stretch out and remove my shoes, allowing my toes to squish against the soft, moist dirt. The smell of fresh-cut grass permeates the air, fighting against the saltiness of the ocean.

I never pictured myself living in a place like San Diego. I never imagined that a city could exist in infinite sunlight. The people passing me on the pavement moved by at a leisure pace; perfectly content with their lives. Each one beautiful in their own way. They would never know the danger in the world that existed beyond their perfect world. They would never know hunger, thirst or pain. Their ignorance is my solace. I am able to find some measure of reassurance in what I do knowing that people are able to exist in a place such as this.

A tall blonde girl smiles as she runs past me. It’s hard not to look away from her perfectly toned legs. Tan lines from her bikini crisscross under her sports bra. Two perfectly formed back dimples rest just above her ass. She glances back and catches me watching her run. Her laughter briefly breaks the sound of the sea and then she is gone.

I should feel embarrassed. Any normal guy would. Instead all I feel is an ache inside of me. I can’t remember the last time a woman touched me.

And the moment is gone. My legs have grown restless. The sound of the sea is harsh as it slaps against the rocks, sounds of gunfire cause my head to swivel side to side, looking for the danger that doesn’t exist. When another runner passes by my body tenses, poised to run in the opposite direction of their encroaching footsteps.

“Calm down,” I tell myself. “You are safe, there is nothing to be worried about.” It takes another two deep breaths before I can regain my composure.

My body is heavy as I push it off of the ground. The ground has grown cold, the blades of grass scratch against my feet. I quickly slip my shoes back on, knotting them too tightly. Taking off I head back towards the city leaving the dark ocean behind me and turn my feet towards Little Italy.

I think a morning coffee is in order.