I have never considered myself a girly girl. Growing up, I preferred pants over skirts, baseball instead of Girl Guides, and building forts rather than playing house. My Barbie van, once pink and pretty and new, quickly became a muddy bumper car that my brother sat on while I pushed him at top speed into speed bumps, ditches and friends.
It comes as quite a surprise then, when on one particularly gloomy day, I find myself squealing like a pre-teen about to meet the latest boy band. There were no cute boys on hand, however, when it happened.
When I was attacked.
The clouds were settled low on that day. A misty rain fell softly and I would have been content to stay curled up on the couch all day. But my dog, oblivious to weather patterns, was anxious to go out. Out of a sense of duty more than will, I pulled on my runners and raincoat and set out for a jog.
Normally when I run, my mind creates grand scenarios of rescue and valour in order to forget the lack of oxygen in my lungs and pain in my calves. Whether envisioning beating off an attacker, outrunning a coyote, or rescuing a drowning fisherman, the elaborate stories of bravery help to propel my feet forward. (Yes, an Ipod may well better distract me but my fantasies are free!)
Today however, there are no such thoughts. I am simply trying to breathe. Being November, the air is crisp, the ground is muddy and my sole focus is to stay on my feet. I jump over a fallen log, skip over wet exposed roots and barely avoid a puddle covering the path. As we approach a large murky pond filled with fallen leaves and log jams, a thick haze hovers around the trail. Besides our impacting feet and paws, everything is silent. There are no bird calls, squirrels running or wind blowing.
And then I scream. A high-pitched piercing cry of fear.
Beside me, out of nowhere, a bush rustles violently. Leaves, once innocuous and unassuming, lunge along with an as of yet undetermined beast, directly at me.
Immediately, I understand I have no desire to be a hero. I do not want to beat off attackers nor jump into the horror show looking pond to rescue anything. I cry out, rather I squeal in terror. Worse actually. Imagine sucking on a helium balloon while sitting naked on a cold tile floor while giving yourself a bikini wax. That was my screech.
And I don’t just shriek. I also flail. With arms lurching up in a spastic flurry of action and legs leaping high and away, I feel like Scooby Doo jumping into the waiting arms of Shaggy.
There is no Shaggy to catch me however. Instead, my feet fall back to the ground and I ready myself to run. Be it a bear or a cougar or a murderer entangled in the bushes, I am going to run away as hard and as fast as my legs will take me.
But not for a duck. No, for a duck I will stop dead in my tracks and watch dumbfounded as it flaps its vibrant wings into the middle of the pond. I will swear explicitly and glance quickly around to make sure no one heard or saw my Macarena Jig. Seeing no one, I will meander along the path, pretending nothing ever happened.
My dog however, does not pretend. To defend me from the aforementioned duck assault, Riley chases after the duck into the grimy waters. Pulling myself together, I bring out my best macho voice and yell “Riley, Come!”
She ignores me.
In surrender, I concede the truth. I am not the tough, brave, invincible woman I would like to think I am. I finally fetch Riley, and giggle like a schoolgirl at my ‘bravery’ the rest of the way home.