I knew I was going to write this post, but I did not imagine it would be like this.
The marathon had a handy text-messaging tracking system this year. You texted them a runner’s bib number, and they texted you when they reached the 10k, 20k, 30k, and finish marks. I cannot stress enough, as I sit before this keyboard with shaky hands and a heavy heart, how blessed I was to receive all four of my father’s race texts.
But when I signed up for this texting system the night before the race, I was thinking about this post. I decided to send two random bib numbers, to feel personally and emotionally attached to two strangers on the course, and keep track of them too. I wanted to give them another person who cared how they did in this race. It would be an interesting angle for a piece of writing, I thought – something about learning to care for strangers.
One of my guys never started. At first I was worried, and now I wonder if it was a blessing to him and whomever he might have brought with him. The other runner I chose randomly slowed down a lot between the checkpoints, and I was so proud of him when he pushed past the fatigue and finished. When we heard the booms an hour after I got his finishing text, I felt blessed to know that not only my father and all his friends were safe, but so was this stranger. There was a strange, invisible tie between us.
But it only existed because I had chosen a random four-digit number. I could have chosen a different one. A less fortunate one. And the invisible tie would have been between us, instead. When I realized how arbitrary these invisible ties were, I started to construct them with everyone. The people who were okay, and those who were not. The people I saw in those same videos over and over again on the news. People I saw on the quiet streets, with confused and blank and vibrant eyes. In my mind, these invisible strings between us brought us together, made us hurt and breathe and hope together.
And these ties ached so strongly. They ached with worry, relief, confusion, and pain. Tugging at the silent streets of this city, the worried tendons and tired veins of all the runners and spectators.
We have to remember these invisible ties. Help each other stay on the other end. Hold these invisible strings, and each other, tight, and don’t let go. We must be here for each other in this time, weaved together as an unbreakable web.