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Fiction Issue: Streetlight Buoys

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By Ryan Schwimmer

I went for a run before the sun came up this morning, and I saw a shadow chasing my shadow. That is, I saw a shadow created by a light I had just passed being chased by a shadow created by a light in front of me, and as the cold air entered my lungs at a rate and rhythm that was kind of embarrassing considering I was only five minutes into my run, I wondered why Back Shadow was trying so hard to catch up to Front Shadow. Did Front Shadow forget his keys? But as soon as I had the thought, the Shadows merged, and I went back to my workout playlist. As “Everlong” became “Long Live the Chief” became “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” I had a thought that I am the only person in the world whose workout playlist looks like this (anything to keep my mind off the running itself), but that thought soon turned into wondering why Back Shadow was chasing after Front Shadow this time. Did Back Shadow need to confess his love for Front Shadow? As “Separate Ways” became “Humble,” my mind went to making my steps match with the beat and breathing in for four steps, breathing out for four steps. I read somewhere that four steps was the right length for breaths when you run, and apparently the Shadows knew this fact, as they matched my pace. Maybe Front Shadow is running away from his problems and Back Shadow won’t let him and the merging is forgiveness. As “Intergalactic” became “Forgot About Dre” I thought about the time I listened to an audiobook on a run. It was fine, but I was slower than normal, and normal is pretty slow to begin with, so I haven’t done that again. Front Shadow and Back Shadow never slow down or speed up; they just naturally come together, and it makes me think that Front Shadow is who Back Shadow wants to be, and Front Shadow is understanding and welcoming. As “Power” became “Welcome to the Jungle,” I focused on my stride because I read somewhere that the key to getting faster is lengthening your stride, not trying to go faster, but my breaths are down to about two steps, and when I think about quitting early, I see that Back Shadow is trying to catch up to Front Shadow again, and I’ve figured out that I am Back Shadow and I keep pushing Front Shadow ahead, forever trying to catch up to where I need to be.

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