“If there’s a siren, stop whatever you’re doing and hit the ground.”
I look at my bike in its stand, all ready to be grabbed once I’ve finished my swim. I imagine myself calmly pulling over, placing it gently on the ground, gears up, and stretching out on the pavement, hands covering my head. Of course, it would never happen that way. I’d probably fall over in my haste to dismount, hurl it to the side forgetting about all those delicate parts that can be broken, completely out of my mind with fear as I dove for safety.
I’m in Ashkelon for a Triathlon. It’s the 2021 Sprint Championship and, seeing how this is something I do and have done for over a decade, I’ve decided to make the trip.
“Isn’t that where all those rockets fell?” Here in Israel, that question demands no answer.
This seaside city has once again made headline news, its location close to the northern end of the Gaza Strip burying its fascinating archeological history under a pile of freshly uprooted dust and debris.
Mid-race, I can’t help looking at the high rises that line the bike path, especially those whose windows face south, envisioning what the skies looked like those 10 days in May. One long Fourth of July. Of course, then it wasn’t only the dogs shaking with fear.
I pass an awkward clump of concrete, and then another. They look as they have been blasted free. I unconsciously seek signs of the destruction wrecked by the rockets that fell. I know it’s here. I’ve seen it on the news. I think about that little boy. He lived in one of the buildings that looks just like those I pass as I careen around yet another traffic circle, pushing hard, fighting to take a breath while challenging myself to keep on going.
Near the end of the race, when light-headed has become dizzy and I’m desperate for it to be over, I cast my eyes over at the sea, then back to the long line of apartment complexes across the way, each vying for an even better view of this gorgeous coast.
Nothing could be more perfect. No place more desirable.
The horror of a few days will never be able to compete with the pleasures of a lifetime, difficult moments are swallowed whole, down the hatch-—barely a remnant remaining.
I pass the finish line. My heartbeat returns to slow and steady. It’s as if the race had never even happened.