Three Minute Mile

Erin Vachon

Your eyes were a heat-shimmer even at night, like your last posted video, weaving up a quiet road, undulating in snow, breath fogging winter. You have three minutes on TikTok, and you run the mile that fast. One hundred thousand likes for your midnight lap of the city park and your oil slick pupils. Always proving something to a crowd, even invisible. We know your attachment style, don’t we babe? you DM’d me after I texted you in run-on sentences, step-by-step accounts of all my emotions. The video quits shaking, because you sit on a bench under a deciduous tree, an amber streetlight overhead and blinking. You exhale January mist, then forget all about carbon dioxide.

The video comments describe and lecture you: good form, sexy. Wear earmuffs. There are birds following you around. And it’s true. Crows cackle above you. They swing and swoop. When I replay the video, I tell myself I don’t care about you. I’m watching the birds, stalking. Black wings flit from tree limbs around the second bend, while you pant about the full moon. We all live under the same sky, you say. I never stopped loving the moon, you say. I worship her glow. The crows come out. You draw them down. They shake icicles from the trees, more birds than I realized, one, three, eight, a flock. Snowballs plop in the park, falling from their perches, everywhere, like they’re waking up. You say, love is the practice of detachment. You rip the velcro of your glove in your incisors, tear the fastening open just to reattach it, but the loops snag in your hair. Fist imprisoned in wool, you fight with your own hand. You’re shaking your mane out, a cloud dancing across the screen.

But the whole frame is a fight that looks like something else.

A dance. A run.

I missed the talons on first glance. They dive down as you sprint around the last bend, low pluck of bird feet to crown, clutching then flying away. I lean forward. You run. What’s your attachment style, then? I’d sent back. You stopped responding. You heave down on the bench, and why is that streetlight blinking? Competing with the steady moon? Your breath is a cloud, gone, exhaled a week ago, when you posted the video, over and done.

Yes. You run. I run. Just in different directions. One toward, one away from.

As the video ends, the feathered shadows are descending. Crows cannot run, just outpace us on wings.

Lover. Runner.

Do you know how to fly?

Erin Vachon is a 2023 Recipient of the SmokeLong Fellowship for Emerging Writers and a 2023 Writer-in-Residence at Linden Place. Their work, which has garnered Pushcart, Best of Net, and Best Microfictions nominations, appears in Black Warrior Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Pinch, and Brevity, among others. An alum of the Tin House Summer workshop, Erin earned their MA in English Literature and Comparative Literature from the University of Rhode Island.