I zipped up my long-sleeved blue top and slipped on my tights–the black ones with the bright yellow slashes across the thigh.  I laced my shoes and grabbed a pair of a mittens and a headband just in case. It was cloudy and grey when I left my apartment. I knew that it would be (I’d been inside reading for most of the day). But what I didn’t realize is that it would be so cold. It was 70 and sunny the first half of January. Now anything under 60 seemed cool.

I went back for my zip-up fleece–the gray one with the little NW logo. I got it my senior year of college, right before the Campus Ministry retreat in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I’ve worn it everywhere–at bonfires and on youth trips, camping, hiking, and most mornings in my bedroom as I punch keys and read books. It was the one item of clothing I’d wished I’d had with me in France last spring, in that drafty old house with its “ecological heating” (which was a fire during the day and an hour of heat released at night). I grabbed my coat as well. You just never know.

We’d agreed to meet at 4:30 pm, to work through the paces of a five-mile run before the winter sun set and a rain storm began. I’d forgotten my phone and had to go back for it, so we got a late start. It was sprinkling by the time I met my partner in the marina parking lot. He’d run there from his apartment, two miles away. I was cuddled in my car, the heat still blowing from the vents.

“So, it’s raining…” I offered, wondering if we could just skip to the part where he bought me a burrito. He just smiled the way he always smiles, his bright blue eyes sinking into his face, hidden between bushy brown eyebrows and a matching goatee. “Oh, I think it’ll be alright,” he said with a chuckle. “I like to be optimistic.”

I, on the other hand do not. Or did not. I am trying to change that about myself.I popped the trunk of my car, peeled off my pea coat and tossed in my purse. I thought about the fleece still holding in my body heat. I rarely run in fleece. It usually isn’t necessary. This wasn’t northwestern Iowa, it was northern California. It may have been damp, but it was well above freezing. Still, I was out of practice as a runner. I didn’t trust that the work would warm me up, that I was capable of producing my own heat. So I held to my comfort and slipped on my headband.

Less than a mile into the run my body was warm. I unzipped the top of the fleece and it flopped back and forth, hitting my chin every four or five steps. David kept talking, something about the weather or one of his roommates, maybe he was talking about school. I tried ignoring the heat that was building behind my back. I reminded myself that some people run in sweatpants and hoodies inside on treadmills. On purpose. To sweat. But I am not one of those people. Weight really gets to me.

I flashed back to the day I spent in Bologna–a stop along the way from Venice to Florence in the fall of 2012. I was with my boyfriend at the time and we were exploring for the day, going to an up-scale restaurant he’d found. The weather was finicky and I’d packed a lot into the bag I’d been carrying for the past four days. He added his iPad, something he needed in order to find us a hostel within the next 36 hours. But with the water and the sweater and the maps and the money, the phones and the keys and the passports and the phrasebook, the iPad was too much. It was my tipping point. I kept whining about my shoulder and the weight of the bag. The further we went from the station the worse it got. We ended up in one of the worst fights we’d ever had. I stormed off for a while and I remember feeling justified in doing so. Now I wish I could take it all back and I wonder if that was one of the reasons he left me.

Back on the trail I promised myself I wouldn’t complain. I unzipped the fleece and bundled it under my arm. Cool air breathed down my back, blowing away the steam from the sweat.

“Are you alright?” David asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I shouldn’t have brought this with me. It’s just getting in the way.”
“Aww. I’m sorry,” he said. “Let me know if you want me to take it for a while.”
“No, that’s okay,” I said. It was my issue to deal with. “What I really want is to get rid of it.”
A few yards later we came to a patch of brush and bushes. The trail was empty and the evening was cold. It was a small risk. It might be alright. “I think I might just leave it here,” I said. “Do you think we’ll come back this way?”
“Sure,” he said, slowing down pace and waiting for me to wad up my comfort.
I stashed the fleece in the center of the brush, knowing it could be claimed by someone else, but hoping it would be there when I needed it again. We carried on with the run.
“Feel better?” he asked.
I breathed in the dewy clean air. I felt the breeze along my arms and around my body. I felt light. Free. “I do,” I said.For the remainder of the run I paid more attention to my partner and less to my discomfort. I thought about baggage. I thought about weight. I thought about every terrible metaphor I’ve ever heard about laying down burdens and letting go of the past. Once in a while I thought about the fleece, but mostly I thought about the steps I was taking.

By the time we returned to the bushes, the sun had set and they were hard to make out. We stopped running for a while and started searching for the fleece. “I don’t see it,” I said, my heart falling. “I’m sure this is where I put it.” It was sad, but not surprising. I’ve lost things like this before. Many things. And I’ve had to learn to deal with that. But what would I wear every morning after I got out of bed? What would cuddle me close before I went to sleep?

I sighed, resigning myself to a fleeceless future. David pointed out a second bunch of bushes just down the road. I insisted that the place I was standing was the place I had left it, and he gently wondered if we weren’t too far south. I searched a while longer and David went on ahead. Two minutes later he brought me my fleece. I didn’t mind that I was wrong. I was glad to have it back. But I didn’t put it on. I didn’t need it anymore. Maybe later on I would, but for now I was warm.