Every man the Enemy
By Sharon Philogene
When it happened, it had been a morning not unlike any other. The alarm had gone off at 4:30 am but my body seemed reluctant to untangle itself from the sheets' hold on it. I reached my hand through the slit in the net and hit the snooze button on my phone as my mind flashed to the days when that was not an option as that alarm would have meant "get dressed, you must do some endurance training. I turned over and snuggled into the pillows which presented themselves no matter the direction I turned. I had just begun to enjoy the position my body had settled for when the buzzer went off again. This time I submitted. Fighting the clawing fingers trying to restrain me, I threw my legs over the edge of the bed and rested my elbows on my legs as my hands cupped my face. Wake up my brain screamed! I walked hesitantly to the washbasin to perform the usual ritual. A few minutes later, my body shuddered in the cool air as I pulled the door shut behind me.
Once outdoors, my brain changed gears. Today, I would walk through I craved a run. It had been what had ignited my days for years until I moved beyond our shoes and my landlady expressed concern about my dalliance with early mornings. To set her mind at ease, I broke it off and became enamoured with coffee. In Dominica, however, I had always felt safe, so as soon as I was back on home soil, we resumed our relationship. That morning the air was crisp and fresh; the day was awake and on its way; it beckoned, but it was a struggle to synchronize our movement. She had already warmed up, and my heavy, slow first few steps did not help, but I soon gained momentum and we were on our way.
Each step brought excitement and like a banana, the day was unpeeled, its flesh glistening tantalizingly. With most men and machines still grounded, it was serene. Then I heard it, a shuffle, I looked ahead, and a figure seemed to have been moving in my direction, but suddenly changed course as I scanned it. We sailed past each other on opposite courses intent, I thought, on our own journeys. Like every other time I walked or ran along that road, the familiar sites and sounds spoke their own stories. Not much had happened there since Maria and as I walked past one house, I tried to erase the thought that on my way back, a familiar face and voice would not be there, as was the norm.
I began to focus on my planned course and as the mountain ahead materialized , the burning sensation running through my legs signalled the challenge ahead. For years, I had settled for flat terrains, but conquering hills was what brought excitement lately. The steeper the hill; the more intense the thrill and that morning, I had set off in quest of such a thrill. I had just conquered the first challenging climb of that course when I glanced at my watch and the time registered indicated that if I continued, I would be late for work, so I stopped and turned to retrace my steps. It was then that I saw him, not more than 400 meters away; I shuddered, as I again scanned the figure, white shorts imprinted with black palm fronds, white slippers, black t-shirt, cell phone in hand, and I knew that I had to think of plan B. That figure was on no walk and that had been the figure I had encountered moving in the opposite direction at the start of my walk. We were now walking towards each other, though on different sides of the road; then, he changed course and started moving in my direction. I can feel the thumping in my chest as he draws closer to me and our eyes lock. 'Are you finished walking?" he asked as he lifts his hands, and in that moment, the gun went off at the start of the 100 meters and I am off, the noise coming from me deafening as I clear the bridge where I had first seen him when I had decided to head back. I look back and he is nowhere in sight. I continue running along until I establish distance between us; then, I resumed my walk. By then the place was teeming with life, and I had left my problem behind or so I thought.
A few weeks later, I am heading to work along what I deem a well-beaten path through the Roseau cemetery-and sitting at the base of the cross about 20 meters ahead is another figure. Is he talking- to himself or God? I freeze! Staring at the figure ahead, I battle my thoughts. Should I turn back and run, or trudge ahead? I trudge ahead, my eyes peeled to him; my feet ready for flight. As I go past, I realize that whomever he is conversing with has his full attention. I am the least of his worries, at least this time. With every such encounter, the response is the same no matter the time and place. The most recent such encounter found me under the Cranefield cliff with company and yet, I was the prey with my eyes fixed on the predator. 'Girl, you don't see that's a "mad" man?" my companion voiced. She has not understood that to me, they are all mad! And, that it only takes one to make every man the enemy.