But the worst was probably the time I ran into barbed wire.
At about age 9 or so, I had my first horseback ride (a real one – not one on the chained-up circle-ponies at the circus). We visited some distant cousins, who had a farm and a huge white horse named Marshmallow. I got to trot around in front of the barn for a while. Magical, though I wasn’t allowed to go faster. Running was faster than the pace I was riding.
At that age, I ran everywhere I could. I loved running. I ran at school. I ran home from the bus stop, kids shouting, “Run, Forrest, run!” at my retreating back. (Having not seen that movie, I didn’t get it and didn’t care if they were making fun of me. Just another day in the life.) Running was fun to me, and so I ran at every chance I got.
Fast forward to the summer before seventh grade. I was back on that farm, visiting distant cousins again for some kind of family reunion. At that point, I think they no longer had the horse. But the cousins supposedly had a treehouse out in the woods, away from the crazy ridiculosity of grown-up speak, and away from the green Jello salad with shredded carrots that has attended every family reunion in memory.
It was dusk, and we made our own adventure, crawling under the barbed wire like miniature Indiana Joneses, hunting for treasure against the wishes of others. We crept down the path toward the awesome treehouse.
Actually, I’m not sure if the treehouse was awesome at all. We didn’t climb around in it; maybe it was broken. But it was definitely a haphazard, schadenfreudic collection of former tree branches, nailed together in the branches of a tree.
My cousins (second or third, I don’t recall how distant) were boys, so of course there was the natural no-girls-allowed sensation in our momentary hangout. I didn’t care; I’d gotten that vibe from others many times before, and for true, I wasn’t that keen on hanging out with them either. (Then, as now, I get very quiet around strangers.) So I started back toward the barn, or shed, or whatever building the adults were hanging out in.
Remember when I said I ran everywhere I went? I ran back toward the buildings that day. At dusk, in unfamiliar territory.
I took the curve in the path and was almost in a full sprint, very close to the party pavilion, when I ran into an invisible force field. I flew back several steps, completely shocked. What was that? Had I stepped into an episode of Star Trek? Was there a ghost? Star Wars wasn’t real life; no one could have used the Force on me… right?
That’s when, in the faint light of the setting sun, I noticed the barbed wire. The stuff I’d climbed through to get to the treehouse. I looked down at my arms and saw little stripes of blood starting to appear.
I had cuts all over, which scarred pretty heavily. I still have haphazard pale streaks on my arms and legs to this day, raised reminders of my foolish running off into the sunset.
I try to avoid running in the dark now.