Jack wrapped one of his arms around my waist, tugging me back onto the bed.
Let’s just go back to sleep, he urged.
I had already wiggled into my yoga pants and sport socks, and even though I had been fighting an internal tug-of-war not to crawl back under the blankets, the idea that he was suggesting we skip the cancer walk organized in support of my fight galvanized me.
I shot up out of the bed and glared at him. I’m leaving in ten minutes, I announced. You can stay here and sleep.
He gave me a sheepish grin. Okay, you know I was just joking. I love getting up at 7 on a Saturday to walk three miles.
Twenty minutes and two trips back up the stairs later, we were speeding toward Times Square, an umbrella and windbreakers sandwiched between us. The day was overcast and slightly misty, and more than a hint of a chill hung in the air. A perfect day for a massive charity walk.
We located my colleagues huddled up in a corner of an overcrowded Starbucks, the women of the office significantly more enthused than the men. My boss was outfitted in skintight lime spandex, lunging impatiently into stretches. Her wary boyfriend shuffled around near the entrance. More than one reluctant significant other had been dragged along for the occasion, and I hoped Jack would find someone with whom to commiserate.
Introductions all around, some more shuffling. The five minute warning sounded and the runners in our group hastily began fighting to the front of the pack. As I watched the crowd engulf them, I wondered if my boss’s boyfriend would prevail in the 5k. My money was on her.
Times Square was now jammed with groups walking in support of survivors and those less fortunate, all victims of the deadly strains of women’s cancers. The Seamless Web team was just ahead of us, and I nudged Jack, who is quite possibly their most loyal customer, and who had accused them of rigging the caption contest the day before.
As Jack debated a confrontation, giant bursts of red and white confetti erupted on all sides. A shiver awakened the tiny hairs on the back of my neck, and I was surprised to feel a wetness in my eyes as thousands of people lurched forward with the speed of a dying turtle. Get it together, I thought. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to hide emotion at will.
I focused my attention on my non-running boss, the organizer of our outing and one of my most patient supporters at the office, who was proudly brandishing our team sign. With varying degrees of enthusiasm, we set off toward Central Park, weaving through strollers and dog leashes, and stopping along the way for coffee (ahem).
The runners had been finished for well over an hour by the time we disbanded just before the finish line, and we found them choking on an unfortunate sour variety of organic yogurt just past the line of hospitality booths. I set about persuading a dubious woman handing our roses courtesy of Toyota that I should receive one as well.
Survivors only, she announced loudly.
I am a survivor, I whispered with equal strength, praying she wouldn’t make a spectacle of the exchange. After a few more doubtful glances, she cast a pink rose in my direction, and I clutched it and backed away before she could question me further.
A brief photo session was getting underway as I rejoined the team. When all iPhotos had been duly snapped, we set out on a equally lengthy march to the Boat Basin, where we would spend the better part of the afternoon overindulging in spiked cider.