I've taken to running at night now, when the temperature dips to the mid-70s and stars blanket the sky. I jog past our front gate and wave to the guard, wondering what he thinks of the American who speaks like a toddler and rarely leaves his house during the day but is now happily darting out into the pitch black night.
The streets around our privada vary in quality; if I turn right from our gate, smooth concrete with neatly painted lines leads past the neighboring apartment complexes and a hotel before meeting the main access road to the periférico, with its cars and trucks whizzing by. The first night I took off in this direction, listening to Brené Brown's podcast and getting lost in conversations about vulnerability and courage, until I realized how vulnerable I was to what was essentially freeway traffic barreling down on me, and spent the latter part of the run diving into the bushes.
I don't think this is the courage she's talking about.
The next night I turn left from our gate, following the less even road around a corner and past a field, across which a dirt path cuts to a more established section of the neighborhood. New buildings are popping up around the edges of the field, and in time I'm sure it too will be covered over in concrete and modern houses filled with families and foreigners who take questionable late-night runs. But for now it remains a wild combination of shrubs and tall grasses, where I imagine lizards and snakes and probably a few packs of the ever-present street dogs reside.
I turn my phone’s flashlight on so I don't trip over the various dips and rocks and debris littering the path, and also to ward off whatever animal or reptile might be up ahead. Do flashlights scare snakes? I remind myself to Google this when I get home, before almost falling into yet another crater, forcing my gaze downward even though the stars overhead beg to be gawked at.
Head down, I concentrate on running around boulders and sticks and don't notice the styrofoam skull perched atop a tree branch on the side of the path until a couple weeks into this routine. Has that always been there? I wonder, deciding it's a leftover Dia de los Muertos decoration and not a clear warning I will soon be murdered. I tried to tell him not to go, I imagine our guard explaining to the police after my body is discovered, but he always had his headphones on and would just wave at me, grinning like a fool.
The dirt path ends at the corner of a newer subdivision and I run through its brightly lit and well-paved roads, whipsawing my gaze back and forth at the mansions lining the street. Through slotted gates I catch glimpses of expansive yards dotted with ponds and pools, and I imagine myself lounging on the carefully manicured grounds just on the other side of the high walls abutting the sidewalk, before reminding myself David would never let us live in a house that big. Yeah but that was in Los Angeles; does the rule still apply in Mexico? I pass an open gate and spot a parked boat the size of our current house, docked in a circular driveway filled with luxury cars. I wonder if they need a manny? And does the manny get to use the boat?
When I'm not listening to Brené and her guests talk about their feelings, I'm listening to Dan Harris and his guests discuss how not to react to those feelings using mindfulness and meditation on his Ten Percent Happier podcast, which helpfully reminds me I am not my thoughts. I am not my thoughts. I am not my thinking. I am not thinking about my thoughts. I am not thinking about that giant house and the Domino delivery guy pulling up. But really? A very wealthy person is ordering Dominos? At this hour? Oooooh, remember Dominos? Maybe we should order Dominos?
In the middle of the neighborhood I jog past a small, undeveloped patch of land, situated awkwardly between two sprawling estates, like the kid who was picked last in gym class. A few rambling bushes have grown out of the dusty soil around a single, sad tree on which someone has tied a now faded and torn plastic "Se Vende" sign. Maybe someone can turn this into their boat garage?
One night a cat pops its head out from under the sign to give me a judgmental look, scaring me half to death. It must have told its friends, because the next night I see three more. The technical name for a group of cats is a clowder, but they can also be referred to as a clutter or a glaring, which is obviously the most fitting. This glaring of cats lives up to its name, and every night one or more turns out to watch me as I run by, like an unsettling cheering section for a race I didn’t know I was running.
On the next block is a villa I've watched come nearer and nearer to completion over these last two and a half months of nightly jogs, like a stop motion film in real-time. One night three squares of different color paint appeared on the newly constructed walls, presumably for the owner or designer to make a selection. The green! Go with the green! I think, there's no other green walls! You'll be the talk of the town! The following week they were painted a muted orange.
No other house has orange walls, either. I think to the cats as I pass, And now we know why.
Before I turn and head down the dirt path toward home is usually when I debate doing another loop. My normal route is around four miles, but if I double back through the mansions, it becomes closer to six. The air feels cooler now, mostly because I’m drenched in sweat, and I feel unstoppable. I may not be my thoughts but I’m pretty sure I am an Olympian.
I turn and head back, past boats and orange walls and scowling cats; with my feet now firmly underneath me, I’m free to lift my eyes up and get lost in the brilliant night sky.