I’ve been darting about the state, sometimes further, this month — a holiday in my hometown, a few days here and there snatched with scattered friends. I spent last weekend in the Twin Cities: a few friends and I had signed up for a Color Run.
The Color Run, for the uninitiated, is a 5K walk/run during which people on the sidelines throw colored powder at the participants, until their clothing (and skin) (and hair) (and sometimes the insides of their mouths) are a bright, messy kaleidoscope.
Technically, this was a color-and-glitter run, which probably should have made me hesitate to sign up, but I was so enthusiastic I couldn’t draw back. Sure, glitter never washes out — but on the upside, it provides a lot of chances for “Twilight” puns.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
I spend the day before with friends in the Twin Cities — coffee and a walk, nachos and music. I curl up at my college roommates’ kitchen table, determinedly scribbling hues into a Barbie coloring book, as we talk about Marvel movies.
That evening we attend a rodeo. It’s my first rodeo, and let me tell you: if you’re not aware of the events, seeing a grown man leap off a running horse to tackle a steer to the ground is a bit of a shock. (Also, it looks a lot more painful for the humans than the animals involved.) We laugh and cheer and sometimes clap in commiseration, and no people or animals are seriously injured.
Traveling is tiring, and work is hard to leave behind. For much of the weekend I am easily distracted, half-exhaustion and half-caffeine, brimming with what I need to get done.
“I’m sorry I’m so boring today,” I say unthinkingly as we drive out my friend’s garage.
“You’re never boring,” she says, offhand. (I wince — was that a compliment? — and then I preen, because my greedy ego will get its paws on whatever it can.) It makes me think, though.
Serious moment: when Grandma Nana — my mother’s mother — was sick and growing older, my mother came back from a visit looking unsettled and said, “She worries she’s not as fun as she was before.” Grandma Nana used to attend parties and wear gorgeous Southern dresses. I have seen photos of her with her head tipped back, smiling and tangibly beautiful with that movie-star shine.
But cancer eats away, and chemo draws at what’s left, and — there are only so many ways to keep people interested in you until you’re dressing up as someone you think they’d like.
It’s something I’ve never been able to forget, not because it introduced a new fear but because it voiced something my younger self thought we weren’t supposed to talk about.
We show up achingly early for the Color Run, and it’s already sticky with humidity. No one is keeping time. Most of my friends — actual athletes — outdistance me from the start. One stays further back with me, and we walk/jog/run the distance, laughing as our fingers get cloudy with color, making hand prints on T-shirts. I get a faceful of color at the blue station that makes my running buddy snicker uncontrollably.
At the end of the race, my hair and skin are coated with powder, and I don’t notice one of my friends pouring glitter directly onto my head until it starts to filter over my glasses.
“Really?” I say, sparkles falling down my face as I raise an eyebrow.
When I see the pictures later, I have to laugh: it’s a group of my friends, glowing at the camera, color artfully dusted over their clothing — and me, grinning, looking a little like a Smurf that accidentally wandered into the paranormal teen romance section.
I think the old insecurity is always going to be there — am I interesting, funny, entertaining enough? Am I enough to keep you around?
But I also think there’s value to diving in headfirst and a little blind, ignoring the way I appear to others in favor of the experience.
A day — and several showers — later, I glance in the mirror on my way to work and find a sparkly blue smudge somehow still embedded in the side of my face.
I grin. Some things never really go away.