96: Running Through Sprinklers

96: Running Through Sprinklers

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Married Life!

Running Through Sprinklers

March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life’s path.

~Kahlil Gibran

It is almost midnight and the parking lot of the library is empty except for a few scattered cars. It’s finals time and I have just finished a marathon study session with Mike, my new husband and a fellow history major. The football practice field that stands adjacent to the library is illuminating the parking lot with its stadium lights. Sprinklers throw water across the lawn and under the bright lights the droplets appear to dance. I suddenly feel the urge to join them.

“Feel like running through some sprinklers?” I ask Mike.

“Of course,” Mike says with a smile.

We run to his car and put our textbook-laden backpacks in the trunk, excited about the prospect of doing something other than studying.

“Shoes?” he asks, pointing to his feet.

“Leave ’em,” I say, already out of one of my sandals. I wiggle my toes in anticipation as I wait for him to finish taking off his shoes.

We run towards the field and I can feel the weight of finals falling off my shoulders.

“I’ve needed to do something like this,” I say breathlessly, trying to keep up with Mike’s 6’3’’ frame.

“You better hurry or I’m going to leave you behind,” he says as he rushes past me.

With two leaps he is over the empty drainage ditch that surrounds the field and into the sprinklers. I know my short legs won’t be able to cover the same distance so I cautiously begin to make my way across the ditch.

“Ouch!” I suddenly cry out. My bare feet have been anticipating the refreshing feel of wet grass, but are stinging with pain instead. I quickly hop away in an attempt to get away from the pain, but to no avail. The pain follows.

“Ow!” I yell again. I look at my foot and immediately feel sick. Instead of being the color of skin, my foot is the brownish gray color of goat head thorns. They are stuck in the bottom of my foot, covering my toes and my heel. I check my other foot. It is the same.

I start to panic, not only from the pain, but because the idea of my thorn-filled feet is disturbing. I look around and quickly realize that the ditch surrounding the field is filled with thorns. We are trapped.

“Mike!” I yell, trying to make my way to where he is obliviously frolicking.

“What?” he yells, straining to hear me over the sprinklers.

“I stepped in a bunch of thorns! They’re everywhere!”

“What?” he asks running towards me.

“Stop!” I yell, frantically waving my arms in an effort to stop him.

Mike’s smile and happy gait instantly disappear as he frantically backtracks onto the grass and sits down with a thump.

“I’m sorry. I tried to warn you. My feet are full of them,” I say as I make my way to a patch of green grass. I fall down and immediately set about trying to pick thorns out of my feet. The thorns are long and each one leaves a pool of blood in its wake. It sends shivers down my spine. Mike crawls to me and silently starts pulling thorns out of his feet. They look like a thousand tiny swords have stabbed them.

“How did I miss them on my way over here?” he asks me.

“Because your legs are so long, you just sailed right over them,”

I answer, inwardly cursing my lack of height. “How are we going to get back to the car?”

“We’ll just walk up the field until we find a place where there aren’t any thorns and cross there.”

“But the field is surrounded by the ditch. I’m pretty sure they’re everywhere.”

We sit there for a few minutes, staring at the promised land of the parking lot, the sound of the sprinklers mocking us in the background.

“Well, there’s nothing left to do, but live out the rest of our lives here on this field,” I say, falling onto my back in a sign of surrender. Living the rest of my days on a sprinkler filled football field seems like a much better option than attempting to get back to the car. Plus, I won’t have to take any finals.

“You stay here,” says Mike with a laugh. “I’ll go get your shoes and bring them back to you. Hang tight.”

I watch as he walks up and down the field looking for the best path across the ditch, but the thorns are everywhere. He looks at me and shrugs and I know that he is going for it. His takes a tentative first step and then begins to walk as quickly as he can across the thorns. He looks like a man walking on coals and even from my distant perch I can hear him yelping in pain.

“Thank you,” I call out, hoping that the sound of my voice will keep him motivated. He raises his hand to acknowledge my words, but keeps his eyes on his feet.

True to his word, Mike reaches the car and then brings my shoes to me, even going as far as to carry me back to the car because my feet hurt too much to walk. We drive back to our apartment in silence where we proceed to care for our wounds. Side by side on the edge of the bathtub, our pant legs still rolled up, we soak our throbbing feet. The bottom of the tub turns a pretty shade of pink as the blood of our feet mixes with the running bath water. Although we had tried out best to rid our feet of the thorns, many had broken off in our feet, giving them a freckled appearance.

“Well, that was an interesting experience,” Mike says with a chuckle, finally breaking the silence. “I think we bonded.”

“Definitely a memory,” I agree.

“Let’s never do that again.”

“Never!”

For weeks after, we will have tender spots on the bottoms of our feet where we hadn’t quite been able to get the thorns out. They hurt, but they also remind us of our shared misadventure.

• • •

It is four years later and Mike and I have returned to the practice field to reminisce. Our botched attempt to run through the sprinklers that night taught us that shared pain can bring you closer together, a lesson that has repeated itself time and time again over the span of our married life. Although never so funny as our romp through the thorns, the pain that we have shared since college has been just as memorable and has succeeded at bringing us closer together every time.

As we hold hands and walk around the field I realize that I don’t know many people who would have wanted to run through the sprinklers with me that night, let alone someone who would have walked through thorns for me. I’m lucky enough to have married a man who was willing to do both.

 

~Jessie M. Santala

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