Betwys Park

Cheap Tricks

 Caitlin O’Sullivan

Day 1.

It’s just my luck that I picked the hottest day in Britain to start running. I hate running. The only way I can make my legs move like that is to pretend it’s a race, or that I’m running from zombies or something. My body was born for sitting pretty and embroidering, but unfortunately things are changing. I should have known, dear lord, I should have known that these boobs didn’t arrive without company, the thighs had to come too. This is why I’m forced to write this piece, and run laps around my park of sanctuary. To lose three inches off my legs and fit into a dress.

Mom barged into my cave at 7am, and told me that it was already sweltering, and I’d better get up if I was planning to run today. As usual, I stumbled around the kitchen half blind from sleep, getting water, a croissant, a book, and the letter Mom wanted me to mail. She was right, it was too hot already. I stumbled to the bathroom and put my hair in a bun on the top of my head, then sunscreen on the top half of my body. I left my legs bare, (hey, I’m allowed to try and tan, even if I do blind everyone who looks at me) except for the backs of my knees and the tops of my feet, due to unfortunate burn incidents from soccer camp when I was 9 that left me permanently red for four years after. Of course it was as I was putting my hair up, about to leave, that I realised I’d missed a crucial step. My armpits. I swore. If I’d forgotten my pits I’d forgotten- looked down, yep. Hairy legs. After de-foresting it was too late, almost 11. “This is going to be Hell,” I told myself.

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It must have been 25 degrees already. Betwys Park is glorious. It runs along a wide river, and was always mowed to perfection; little blue flowers in rows along the path under wide-leafed trees. There’s a perfect shelter for the high schoolers to smoke weed, benches in the shadows under the trees for more illicit acts, wide areas for football, Frisbee with dogs, and yoga classes. There are very old and grubby tennis courts, and cyclists ride up and down the path, going nowhere, which I discovered when I ran to the end of the park, across the tiny bridge, and met a dead end. A dead end in the form of kids smoking weed on the boulders by the river, and what may have been a skate ramp. I ran back to the park, wishing for death, wishing for- holy cow, 30 degrees?! I sat down immediately. In the grass. The garden thermometer I’d stuck in my backpack was pretty conspicuous, but it was too hot, too hot and I wanted to die. So I went to the river and sat a respectful distance away from the girls in bikinis paddling around. They were in my usual spot, but the rock I’d chosen was perfectly butt-shaped. After an hour of my jogging, I deserved a break. And a shower. So I went home, rinsed the dirt and sweat off, and went back out to sunbathe.

Day 2. 

Kill me. That was my first thought upon waking, and this is what I told my alarm clock. It was on the far side of the bed, and everything hurt. I couldn’t reach it. I rolled off the bed, and unplugged it. With the recent back problems I’d been suffering with, I assumed running was a good idea. Apparently it was not. I spent an hour stretching to try and alleviate the pain in my back, butt, and thighs. It didn’t seem to help. I stepped outside wearing actual sweatpants I usually only wear to bed, isn’t that what they’re for? It was windy, but that was perfect. I ran around in a circle for another hour. There was a little schnauzer I knew running rings around her poor owner. When she spotted me the little black monster pulled its leash from the little old lady’s hands, as it always did, and sped towards me. “Heeeey, little one.” I laughed as it jumped up on my knee to lick my face, and handed the leash back to Pauline. She asked me how school was going, I told her I’d graduated, she congratulated me and asked, having forgotten I’d already finished, about uni plans. When I got home, I tried the dress on. Yeah, hopeful I know, but I have a fast metabolism. It still didn’t fit.

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Day 3.

Raining, classic Wales. Running was still hell though, still had to stretch for an hour, still ate a croissant for breakfast. I jogged to Tesco to get a lighter and some lunch before heading to the park, I knew my legs would probably be too wobbly after running. The lighter was orange plaid, adding a little texture to this monochrome weather. Betwys Park in the rain is a sodden, drippy, snotty kind of unpleasantness usually only found on British Bake-Off rejection tapes. When it rains in Wales the whole country turns into the willow filter of instagram; mopey, trying too hard to be depressing.  Alas, here I was running, singing “cheap tricks” under my breath in the empty park. Appropriate, as I couldn’t afford the gym alternative to running around in wide circles.

“Careful, love, you’ll give yourself a sprain,” said an old gentleman sitting shadowy in an invisibility parka.

“Uh, right.” I began to move away, but turned back to ask, “How long have you been there, by the way?”

The old gentleman laughed like a smoker, “Long enough, love.”

Day 4.

At my boyfriend’s, the dress hangs in his wardrobe, next to my back-up dress, of course. The back up dress is similar, it’s like a crochet version, but slut short. It’s a dress I love because I can eat anything in it and not have the food-baby show. But now is the time. This is the moment of truth, the… nope, still doesn’t fit. Shame. But even though the exercise didn’t make me thinner, it did help me wake up early, it gave me goals and something to look forward to. I felt like I was doing something for my body as well as being outside instead of curled around my laptop applying for jobs. But I can’t help it. I’m a gym bunny, and I always will be.

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