Blisters

The indifferent blocks passed with a languidness not devoid of struggle. Trams, cars, and pedestrians alike contributed to a mild roar just short of impending conversation. The pace, though mutually set, proved comfortable for the one, yet demanding for the other. Just as exhaustion set in; the glaring heat lessened. Having kept a diligent eye over Zürich since mid morning, the sun slowly bid her farewells and made the long way home. Block by block. Street by street. Alley by alley. One might wonder, how many times this couple had shared a jog. Various though familiar sectors of Zürich had served witness to their vapid musings. Joggers are to the Limmat as flies on a searing bulb. They’re drawn to the paths for reasons not fully understood. Evening progressed as light doses of exercise induced endorphins painted the surrounding buildings a few shades brighter, the passerby’s faces a touch more amiable. As the young couple shared breathless dialogue mingled with the sticky sensation of sweat eagerly escaping their bodies, a vague eroticism arose. Yet it is merely sport they share, not sex. Not yet.

The cruelty of my actions lessens dramatically when described in such prose. The manipulation is all but obscured. I once bothered to count the number of men with whom I’ve gone jogging. Twenty-three sounds excessive – almost greedy – to my ears, but when I filter out those men who didn’t regard it as a date, I’m left with a more respectable sounding eighteen. Some were confined to a singular occurrence, while others accompanied me on multiple jogs through streets and trails alike.

Women using their innate womaness – which generally translates to possessing a slightly different set of organs than their male counterparts – in order to coerce men into various acts has been occurring for eons. Money, status, often loneliness can drive women to manipulate those unasuming men existing around them. Such aspirations could nearly be seen as noble; aside from the fact that they’re not. But to lead a man on for the sole purpose of increased exercise motivation is a whisper shy of sardonic. I blatantly insulted their intelligence, but since they were unaware, how could it qualify as a genuine insult? I often oscillated between guilt over taking advantage of these men and the distinct dislike of having to jog alone. When observed through a strictly logical lens, my actions made brilliant sense. Yet chronic logic rots the soul. When offered the choice between a coffee date or late night drink, I instead suggested the Limmat or Irchel for a jog. The embers of hope which ignited inside their horny minds were painfully apparent. It delighted me. They equated these jogs as being one step closer to joining me in another favorite form of exercise. One requiring dramatically less clothing. A dear jogging partner of mine went so far as to voice what had most likely crossed the others minds. One afternoon, as the soles of our shoes rhythmically caressed Hönggerbergs well-worn trails, he inquired if I were using this time to assess him as a potential sexual partner. My tone – along with firm disagreement – chided him for being so audacious. I fear he mistook my reaction as being coy, yet I didn’t bother to correct him. It was natural to noticed how fit these men were. How could I not? However, the extent to which they were adept at running and simultaneously discussing complex topics had no bearing whatsoever on whether or not I’d oblige to sleep with them. It wasn’t even up for debate. The sad truth is that I’d gotten fat and out of shape. When one considers that the man with whom I am painfully in love prefers women who resemble green beans rather than pumpkins, it’s only natural that I’d seek out fit men as training partners. They were not only intellectually stimulating but also far cheaper than any running coach. In this instance, the logical portion of my brain got a lot of playing time. These eager men would agree to meet me from such ridiculous hours ranging from 6:15am to 11:45pm. With every piece of fruit offered – as we performed cool down stretches in their kitchens after a long jog – grew my guilt. The warm sweaters offered before a cold morning jog signified more than what I wanted them to. Still, I craved the support and adoration. My increasingly detached manner did little to perturb them. They began to suggest dates not including my Mizunos and sweaty ponytail. Desperate not to lose these unconventional personal trainers, I began to don pointy flats and heels rather than muddy trainers. This proved to be unwise. I had crossed the line from being mildly insulting to being undeniably a tease. Among girls, there is a long standing debate. What is morally worse? Being a slut or being a tease? I’m convinced that teasing men is far more horrid than promiscuity. Yet my actions constantly contradicted my convictions.

The state of my heart began to uncomfortably parallel the worsening condition of my running shoes. It grew battered, overused, dirty, even bloody in places it oughtn’t. I’d grown addicted to the soothing sensation of being fawned over. I hadn’t banked on developing any resemblance of feelings – neither of pity and attraction – for these dispensible men, but shamefully I had.
During the occasional jog with several different female acquaintances, the extent to which I’d been spoiled was glaring. Their demeanor towards me while jogging in light of the reality that they clearly weren’t counting on the possibility of being sexually rewarded was markedly incongruent with that of my male companions. It embarrassed me. I’d so long enjoyed an ever-present ego boost while running that I’d fallen into the snare of falsely equating jogging with a relaxing ego massage. Girls simply didn’t adore me in the same way as my men. Their failure to cater to my every whim coupled with not finding my observations exceptionally enlightening eventually woke me up. How could I have ignored during jogging that which was clear to me in all other realms of life. It was soon made brightly apparent that with the factor of sex removed, I became far more insipid.
Feelings of affection toward my current rotation of nine sport partners continued to grow. The inconvenience of not being able to exclusively date them all made me miserable with regret. I wanted too much. Remaining in —a vague semblance— of love with my former boyfriend was an additional pebble in my shoe. It’s an unsurprising pity he’d long since moved on.
Zürich started to run dry of trails not yet tainted by my deceit. Familiar paths would force past conversations violently into my thoughts as I jogged with various men. The effort required to differentiate between the particulars of their lives grew unbearable. Which guy had been to Egypt for a work conference? Who was allergic to bees? Were there two from Munich, or just the one? I needed them but couldn’t keep up the demands required to juggle so many individuals. I needed to thin the group down. My growing guilt soundly agreed with my horribly overtaxed mind. Painful at first, I cautiously wove my true feelings into those breathless early morning jogs. As my manipulation came to light, the extent of the insult they endured dawned on them; thus fulfilling the intrinsic power of an insult. I hope it granted them relief to see the pain mirrored in my eyes. After much suppression, the guilt had finally managed to escape the corners of my mind into which it had been perpetually shoved out of sight.
Unsurprisingly, the growing infrequency of my male accompanied jogs correlated exactly with their heightened realization that my fit legs were not going to open for them anytime soon. I felt simultaneously horrid and free. They saw me for what I was. I saw myself for what I had become. It disgusted us mutually. Eventually, only one partner remained. He genuinely thought I was great. The insult just hadn’t sunk in. Poor soul.

Natalie Schättin

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