This week was the two year anniversary of my diagnosis, and to acknowledge the day, I planned to walk the circumference of Manhattan. I spent a lot of time thinking about what this act would mean or not mean. I thought about the way my dog circles me. I imagined walking a lasso around the island where I received my diagnosis and most of my treatment. But what does it mean? plagued me for while in the days leading up to the walk, until I settled on an answer: that it means whatever the fuck I say it means.
Satisfied with that, I thought about my route in the most basic of ways. That I would walk up the west side, along the Highline for its length, and let my feet guide the rest of the way. I would walk down the east side, maybe along 5th Avenue. I bought a backpack, and a fresh set of socks, and moleskins for my heels.
Morning of, I thought about how much water I should drink and how often. I thought about wearing my prosthetic, but left it out. It might get sweaty, and anyway maybe the day was about truth.
I thought about my hair, and braided it back as best I could, and wrapped an old chemo scarf around to hold it back. I thought about what those scarves were still doing in my drawer, a year and half after I stopped wearing them.
On the train into the city, I thought about the stares my body, one breasted, received. I wondered if it would be like that all day.
At the beginning of the walk, I thought about what a terrible, stupid idea this was. An hour in, progressing quickly, enjoying the rhythm and sweat, I changed my mind. I thought about finishing, tired and dirty, twelve hours later and taking the ferry home, sailing off into the sunset with the city at my back, while the credits rolled.
What I did not think about, was how I would feel if that didn't happen.
I did not think about how hot it was. I did not think about getting tired, and not knowing where to go. I did not think I could get lost on an uptown/downtown grid.
I did not think about the comforting pull of an icy subway car at the hottest part of the day. I did not think about the possibility of not finishing, because I am not a fucking quitter.
But late in the afternoon, just over halfway done, I'd somehow added something like 4 miles to my journey. It should have been about 17 at that point , but I was over 21. As I walked east in Inwood, I bought a coco helado that melted within seconds. I was heading east, but somehow I came to 10th Avenue and was confused. I continued and reached an oddly desolate Harlem River Drive. I got suddenly very hot, and sweat poured down, and I thought about what would happen if I fainted somewhere along that road in the middle of a weekday.
As I doubled back to the 1 train, and waited on the platform, I thought about what it meant to fail at this. That perhaps it meant, this (whatever it symbolizes) can't be accomplished in a day. That I can't do it alone. That the limits of the body are real. I rethought what I thought earlier in the day, in St. John the Divine, while considering the meaning of the Xu Bing phoenix sculptures installed in the nave.
At home, I stretched my muscles and felt hollow. I thought I would feel victorious. A friend texted and asked if anything surprised me during the walk. I wrote back that I did not expect to see blue herons and egrets splashing in Inwood Park. I thought they were catching fish, but it might have been garbage. It was impossible to tell which.