As I slowed the horse from a jog, below the empty looming grandstands, and fought her into a jigging, uncooperative halt, I reflected on just how foolish I really was. I was sitting on a racehorse, on a racetrack, about to turn and gallop. As if I were ten years younger, as if all the years between had never happened, as if I hadn’t walked away from racehorses shaking my head, a decade ago, and started looking at college catalogs with sincerity – I’d go this time. I’d get a real job. I’d have a career.
But that was ten years ago, and I’d proven time and time again that I hated real jobs. I hated careers, I hated offices, and salt-laced lunch breaks, and, yes, air-conditioning, too – stale and tasteless and fluorescent-colored days – even worse in New York, where the winter sun rises after the business day begins, and sets before it ends, so that the brightest light you see all winter might be the neon and LED madness of Times Square glowing into a snow-filled sky.
Two horses galloped by, nostrils fluttering and snorting with every stride. I saw a break – the homestretch was empty. I gathered my reins, bridged them against the filly’s neck, and sent her back into a jog, and then a canter.
Her ears swung around, pricked, captured the sight of the horses rounding the bend ahead, and she latched onto the light eggbutt snaffle and dug down, with an intensity I’d never felt in a horse before. And if I was still questioning my calling, it was reassuring to feel that this filly, this blooded Thoroughbred, knew exactly why she existed, exactly why she was breathing and living and tasting this city’s dirty-salty-humid air. The wind whistled in my ears, literally growing louder and louder as she settled into faster and faster strides, and I thought that the wind could serve as my clock – this loud for a good gallop, this much louder for a swift, timed breeze.
However foolish, however weak upon pulling up at last, however shaky my arms and legs from the physical effort of staying with, and finally breaking that stride, I had that glowing runner’s high when we walked off the track and back down the hill to the stables. And so did my happy, happy horse. She’d be coddled and kissed and washed and walked dry. I’d get on another horse, try to hold it together for another few miles. Get on with that trepidation and get off with that wild rush.