I leave the factory at 330. I see a man in front of me, an employee from the adjacent warehouse. There can be no more than 3 metres between us; he is ahead of me. It’s clear we are both headed to the same place—the commuter train station across the river.
On the way to the train station runs an industrial railroad track. He crosses them first and continues straight down the sidewalk. When I cross them, I simultaneously cross the road to the other side. My diagonal trajectory brings me barely ahead of him. I see his face as I check the road for incoming cars. He is alarmed. Jubilant, I speed up to increase the distance between us. I speed along the dyke that leads to the bridge that crosses the river which will take me to the station. To get to the bridge, I must cross another road. Unfortunately, this is a busy time for the freights bringing their goods to the surrounding warehouses. I stop until traffic clears. In this interval, the man has caught up to me. It is at this point that I make my fatal error.
The end of the bridge sits atop a grassy hill. The hill is separated by a chain link fence, which runs along the paved road on the bridge meant for cyclists and pedestrians. Someone, a long time ago, has cut a man-sized space into the fence. A muddy trail cuts into the grass where the hole is; the paved path easily adds an extra 180 metres of walking. Because it is raining and I do not want to slip on the trail, I take my chances with the true path. The man hikes up the trail in only two steps. By the time I am on the bridge, the man has outpaced me 100 metres! Though I know it’s futile, I spur myself on.
A woman with a pink umbrella is ahead of us both. He passes her. He isn’t just faster—he is in a constant state of acceleration.
He passes the woman and continues on in this way. I force my gait to lengthen, extending my legs as far as they can. Soon I, too, come upon the woman with the pink umbrella. She is 1 metre shy of me when I see him at the end of the bridge, 800 metres away. He turns his head to see where I am. Satisfied by what he sees, he flips his head forward again. I finally pass the pink umbrella. Below me is the green river. To my right, traffic rushes. The rain and the river and the roar of the trucks drive me forward.
As if a psychic marker has been left by my competitor, at the very same spot at the end of the bridge, I turn. The pink lady is barely halfway across. Impossible, I think. She is decelerating!
I’ve lost sight of him completely. He reaches the station before me. Just as I, too, am lost from Pink Lady’s sight shortly after.