When my kids were younger, they were afraid of ghosts and monsters. They’d refuse to go to the bathroom at night unless I accompanied them. Maybe I bought them too many books about monsters.
Though I grew up in the countryside, I was never afraid of ghosts. Our house was situated right at the end of a long, windy road. When I was in school, I walked home everyday along the mud tracks flanked by rubber trees, passing all my neighbours before climbing uphill on the final stretch home. Whenever it rained, my white canvas shoes would turn orange from the mud puddles. It was fun skipping over the portholes. The roads were so bad, my dad drove his Mini-Cooper at a snail speed of 20km/hour along the 3km stretch.
When I was older, I had to walk home in the dark after work. The entire village would be pitch dark except for the soft glowing lights of the houses in the distance. It was almost like a scene out of Hansel & Gretel. The neighbourhood petitioned to the government for better facilities and one day, workers were sent to pave the roads and install street lights. As you can imagine, it was eerily quiet at night and the street lights were spaced far apart, casting an unnatural orange glow from the weak lamps. My court shoes would go ‘clok clok clok’ on the ‘metallic road’ as I walked home.
Every single day, I would take a shortcut through my friend’s house to get to the bus-stop. CS was my primary school classmate for many years, but we were never close. His parents had a huge yard near the bus stop. One day, they rented out their yard to a married couple who were scrap metal dealers. I started seeing the couple busy at work - sorting out their huge pile of junk.
On the way home one day, I saw his yard being cordoned off. Police were everywhere. I was curious but didn’t linger. I found out later that an explosion had gone off at the site, killing the couple instantly. They were chipping away on a bomb from World War II, not knowing what it was.
My unfortunate friend who was near the premises was badly injured in the blast. I found out from the newspapers the next day that he was badly burnt and blinded. The doctors were fighting to save his life and eyesight. But his injuries were too severe and he died shortly after.
I had nightmares about him for months… images of a charred face and body kept haunting me in my sleep. I stopped taking the short cut through his house. I became terrified of walking home in the night after the accident. I took the longer route so that I didn't have to walk through his yard but there was no way to avoid it completely. Every night, as I walked near his house, my heart would be thumping wildly in my chest. I’d remove my court shoes, take in a huge breath, count 1,2,3 and SPRINT all the way home. I could sprint for a long time, as far as my legs could carry me, until I became too winded to go on any further. I would put my shoes back on again and walk home.
I did that every single night until we finally moved out of the place. Maybe that was how I developed my passion for running.