where no one dared to go

When you were young, you were the king of carrot flowers.

I am reminded of a summer where I dated an athlete. She was many other things besides, of course--an artist, a paralegal--but what made me think of her is that she would run, every day, rain or shine. She was not driven to perform because of fitness or even for her enjoyment. She wanted to win.

This was a few years back, I think. I never saw much of her because I had less respectable things to be doing than training for whatever race she was competing in. She didn't particularly care about seeing ruined buildings and dark tunnels. I tried getting her interested by telling her that she could be the first person to ever see something down there. She said something about nobody caring about a victory that takes place underground.

It was true: her races were spectator sports, to a degree. There was a community that cared who won and who lost, even if it wasn't the world at large. She could wear her trophies with pride, just like she showed off her art with pride and talked about her work with pride.

She didn't understand my quiet victories, I don't think. I'd go out late at night on long bike rides to places I'd never been before and get into places I wasn't supposed to be, and tell her the story in the morning. She gave me a blank expression--but to her credit she never once asked if I got something out of it. She tried to be happy for me.

She didn't understand that the only person I really cared about proving myself against was me. She didn't see the intensity with which I tried to best myself. She was never there to hear me sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the sleeping city as I accomplished the impossible. No, my only companions were the occasional dwellers in buildings with open windows, shouting "Shut the fuck up!" as I let my victory be known to the night.

Because I wanted to win, too. I just didn't need to prove it to anyone but me.

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