Leslie Piggott has been a Buda resident since July of 2009. She is currently a stay-at-home mom. Previously she was an adjunct professor at Houston Baptist University, teaching Introduction to Microbiology. She has an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering and a doctorate in pharmacology. When she isn't running, Leslie volunteers at local elementary schools and her church, Manchaca United Methodist. She also enjoys quilting, general sewing, and reading. Her first writing project as an adult was a Christmas play for the children's choir at MUMC, which was performed in 2014. She finds that writing, much like running, allows you to get lost in your thoughts, but also enables you to create a world that others might enjoy too.
Starting Over by Leslie Piggot
August 1, 2012-Lucy
Every day for the past three years, I have sat on this bench at 5:30 a.m. waiting for the city bus to pick me up and take me to work. And almost every one of those days for the past three years, the same woman has jogged past me. She always smiles, waves, and says, “Good morning.” She seems to actually enjoy the fact that she’s sweating before six in the morning.
Of course, I wave back and smile. I imagine that she considers me to be one of her fans, cheering her on as she gets her run in for the day. She probably even has a name for me: Bus stop #44 lady. She is probably one of those people that always has something positive to post on Facebook or Twitter. “Ran 10 miles today. Feels amazing.” “Date night with the hubs. #blessed” “Best kids ever.” Because, of course, she has kids…of course she’s married to the next Captain America. I haven’t decided yet if I think she’s a professional or a PTA mom. I mean, I know, it’s been three years, but it’s not like I’m stalking her. I just watch her.
I know what you’re thinking. I am not “Girl on the Train.” Obviously, I’m riding a bus here, people.
August 3, 2012-Paige
Every morning since a few months after I lost my job, I’ve gone for a run. I run past some of the same things every day, partly because they are right by my house and partly because I like to have some familiarity, though not too much. You never know if there are any crazies out there stalking you or trying to stalk you. It is kind of fun to see familiar faces along my route too. Like the girl at the bus stop. She’s there pretty much every day. She always waves when I wave now, though I doubt she hears me say, “Good morning” as I pass. She always has her headphones in. I still say hi though. It’s good to be friendly. That’s what my husband says anyway.
“Stay positive, be friendly, people like friendly.” I am positive, darn it! Positive that I’ve failed. He doesn’t understand though. He hasn’t failed or experienced failure firsthand. He knows only success. He doesn’t have the faintest idea what it’s like to be anxious or afraid. He has only confidence.
August 4, 2012-Lucy
I have started trying to get here early, just so I don’t miss her. When she doesn’t run past me, I try to imagine why. Did she over sleep? No, she seems like the type that wakes up before her alarm and is excited to go running. Is she sick? No, she is probably one of those people that still runs even when she is sick. Are her kids sick? Is she out of town? She probably takes amazing vacations. Part of me wants to take up jogging again so I could run alongside her, see where she goes. I won’t do it, of course.
I wonder if she notices when I am gone. I’m only gone when I’m sick, or pretending to be sick just to have a day off. Maybe she has an imaginary life pegged out for me too. Probably not. I’m vanilla. I’m nobody.
She is obviously a dedicated runner. I’ve noticed that she is often wearing shirts from races that she must have participated in. She probably plans her amazing vacations around her races. Then the social media post can include the amazing view along with the amazing accomplishment. “Grand Canyon today. 10k tomorrow.” She does marathons too. I’ve kept track of her shirts…I think she’s run about 12. This makes me think that she’s the PTA mom, not the executive mom. Who else has time to train for that many marathons? It’s incredible how much information you can glean from fifteen seconds of observation.
I tell myself that this could be my life too. My life had the potential for being amazing. Sometimes I think my life is the result of making the wrong choice in one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. You remember those, right? Where you have to choose to follow the mysterious dog into the forest or floating down the river on a raft only to discover that the river ends in a treacherous waterfall and…well, you remember. The choices seemed innocuous at first, but inevitably one of them ended much worse than the other, though I’m pretty sure there were several ways to get the worst ending option. I always got the worst ending option. It seems only fitting that I’d have a life that no one envies.
August 6, 2012-Paige
I think about the girl, well, I should say woman, she’s obviously an adult. I’m just pretty sure that she is younger than me. Anyway, I think about her a lot while I’m running. She’s the only one I see with any regularity. There aren’t a lot of people up and at ‘em at 5:30 a.m. She probably thinks I’m crazy for running like this. Maybe I am. I always said that I wanted to be a runner, well now I have the time to do it. I only run this early because he gets up for work at the same time. We used to carpool to work and I’m used to the time. Our budget is tighter now that I don’t have a job, so I had to get all my running gear, well not the shoes, you can never skimp on shoes, at Goodwill. I feel a little duplicitous wearing all these marathon finisher shirts. I’d like to run a marathon one day. Maybe that would give me some confidence.
August 11, 2012-Lucy
I was a good student. I even got a college scholarship. I had good friends. I had great potential. I went to college, I didn’t even skip my classes. Okay, I didn’t skip my classes very often. Everything was going as it should until the unthinkable happened. My brother got into a horrible car accident. Drunk driver. I still remember the phone call from my dad. “There’s been an accident.” That part of the conversation is clear in my mind. Then it jumbles: “Fatalities…drunk…hospital…totaled.” At first, I thought it was my brother who’d been injured, who’d been the victim. But no, he was the perpetrator. He was the one who ruined other people’s lives that day. He was the one everyone would try not to hate, try not to judge, try not to condemn. I was the one who no one remembered, no one thought about, no one considered.
No one, that is, except the scholarship committee. They were supposed to be impartial, but my scholarship wasn’t completely based on my grades. I received it because I’d been such a model citizen, such a good example for those coming after me. I guess when you brother gets convicted of involuntary manslaughter, 2 counts, your community service and charitable acts get overlooked. Lots of people said that it was unfair, that I should fight the board to get the money back. I just wanted to hide and never tell anyone my last name again.
I had a boyfriend back then. I thought it was serious. I’d met his parents. He’d met my parents. We’d thrown around the “m” word. We had one year of school left. The future was bright. Then the future didn’t happen, well, not like I had planned. “You choose your own adventure,” they’d said at the orientation for college. “You make your own way.” Yeah, all that’s true until your brother takes it away in one terrible decision. I was no longer marriage material. Clearly, my family was not capable of making decent people.
August 11, 2012-Paige
Thinking about the bus stop woman is easier than thinking about where my life went wrong. They said I had potential. That I was going to go places. I foolishly believed them. That was before, when I was young. When the world was my oyster and I didn’t think about all that could go wrong. When I had my innocence.
I sometimes wonder what the bus stop woman thinks of me. Does she think I’m one of those exercise-obsessed freaks? I know she’s married. I checked her finger and saw the ring. I wonder if she is happy. I can’t tell, she never shows much emotion, though who does at 5:30? I wonder if I have fooled her, or anyone else for that matter with my cheerful face and active-looking lifestyle.
August 15, 2012-Lucy
At first, I thought I’d get a job, save some money, and finish school on my own. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for my last year, so I had to get a leave of absence. They said that if I came back by the next fall, I wouldn’t have to reapply or take any new achievement tests. But, getting a job in a town where everyone hates your family proved insurmountable. Besides, I couldn’t imagine returning to classes. Everyone knew. I could see it in their eyes, in their body language. I could finish school somewhere else. All was not lost.
Moving in with your grandparents when you are 21 years old is probably not the tack that anyone hopes to take as an adult. But when your parents get divorced because they can’t stop fighting about whose fault it is that their son turned out to be a total loser, you do what you gotta do. Plus, I couldn’t take any more of the pity looks that everyone around town was ready to dole out at a moment’s notice. They felt bad for the collateral damage, but not so bad to give me a job. Yet another reason why you shouldn’t go to college in your hometown. No one forgets. You’ll always be the sister of the person that got drunk and killed people with his car.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that I sound selfish. Poor me, my brother ruined my life. I am mortified by what happened. Two people were taken from their family without any warning. Two other people now live in a world that no longer includes their close loved ones, their spouse and their child…their dad and their sister. Every year on the anniversary of that day, I think about writing them a letter. A letter apologizing for my brother. But every year I have no words. What do you say to someone who has lost almost everything that mattered to them? I don’t know either. Plus, I’m afraid that they hate me so much that my letter will just make it worse. Or someone will find out where I went and this undesirable life I’ve created will have to move somewhere else. Again.
August 16, 2012-Paige
I took up running because it was something I could control. It was something that I could improve about myself. It had some predictability, which was comforting considering all the unpredictable parts of life. So many people have these lives that seem so simple: go to college, graduate, get a job, get married, have kids. That’s what you do in America. 2.2 kids and all that. I was on track for that. I graduated, with honors even, I got a job, fell in love, got married, and had a miscarriage. And another miscarriage. Two more miscarriages later, my anxiety had hit the roof. Whenever the two little lines showed up on the tests, I would gather my hope only to have it dashed time after time. I am a failure as a woman.
August 20, 2012-Lucy
Something they never tell you, or maybe it’s something young people never listen to, is that once you start a job and start making money, your desire to continue making money is very high. Sure, I had a dead-end job as a checker at Wal-Mart, but I had money. I could save enough to get an apartment and then go back to school. There was always more time for school later. I only had a year left.
Every fall, I tell myself that I’m going to find a school that I can transfer my credits to and apply to enroll. I have even gotten so far as to print out an application from one school. It has a lot of compatibility with my old school. It’s part of the same system, just in a different city. Going back to school means giving up my apartment. I can’t finish school in a year and pay for the apartment. I’d have to move back in with my grandparents. I would feel like a failure again, or maybe I’ve never given up that feeling.
August 22, 2012-Paige
I hid the anxiety pretty well at first. It’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life. Anxiety is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t have it. It can be paralyzing, which is apparently not a good quality for an employee of a cutting-edge Fortune 500 company. I had some paranoia that I was causing the losses either by sitting too much or not sitting enough or being exposed to some teratogen on a phone or a file…the fear of loss was so great that I couldn’t do anything. I was afraid that my marriage would end because I was such a failure. My mom often suggested that I see a therapist, talk through my troubles. I think I scared the therapist. She suggested running and cut back on our visits once I started doing it, said that I seemed so much better. Maybe I am better.
I didn’t tell my mom about the babies at first. I didn’t want to hear about what Dr. Google told her had caused it or what foods I should eat to make myself more fertile or whatever. Eventually, her nonstop not-so-subtle hints about having grandchildren became too much, though in hindsight, I might have not shouted my troubles at her if I’d just told her to begin with. I was afraid to look like a failure. My husband has taken it all in stride. I’m still afraid that he’ll give up on me sometimes, but he still loves me, I think he might even be proud that I’ve been running so much. It feels good to have someone be proud of you after being a failure for so long.
August 23, 2012-Lucy
The first month, living at my grandparents was great. My grandma made cookies and did my laundry. I was living the dream. They didn’t even charge me rent. I think they thought I was going to go right back to school…with student loans or something. They asked me each day if I’d applied to the branch of the college in their town yet. It gets depressing to disappoint people every day, so after 3 months, I moved out. I’d saved enough and had a good enough paycheck to get an apartment. I know I could save more if I wasn’t paying rent, or utilities, or everything else.
I don’t have any friends. I don’t even try to make friends. Friends want to know about who you are and what you do and where you came from. I don’t want anyone to know that about me ever again.
When I first started watching the running woman, I thought I’d try to steal some of her motivation. She clearly had some to spare. I could take a night class and still get my shifts in. Or I could start running again. Get some confidence that way. Have some success where I used to have success. “I used to love running too, right?” I’d tell myself. Maybe we could be running friends. That could work. Because running friends only talk about running. Or I could make up a story of who I was. But what if she saw me at Wal-Mart? Then she’d know I was really just a loser. Besides, my 6:00 a.m. shift wouldn’t work with her schedule. Who am I kidding? She probably barely notices me anyway.
August 25, 2012-Paige
I sometimes wonder where the bus stop woman rides the bus. I’m guessing it’s to a job somewhere downtown, though she seems pretty young…maybe she is in graduate school downtown and she does always have on jeans. She has her whole life ahead of her. She’ll graduate with her master’s or even her doctorate and start teaching at the university or maybe she’ll get a part time job so they can start their family. The options are endless…so much potential. She is still young enough to have hope that her dreams can happen. She hasn’t seen her hopes dashed like I have. She is carefree, with her headphones and her cell phone. Those days are gone for me.
August 31, 2012-Lucy
Some of the other checkers at Wal-Mart have tried to get to know me. But everyone eventually gets the hint when you turn them down for after work meet ups enough times. Some of them think it’s because I’m a newlywed. I wear a fake ring to keep from getting hit on while riding the bus or by creepy customers.
Starting over in this new place was exhausting. This is another of my excuses for not starting school again. I just need to get settled. Find my rhythm. I don’t have the energy to re-create myself yet. At first, my mom used to encourage me to see a therapist. Ha! Like I could afford a therapist. I got a self-help book instead. I’m sure I’m just a few more positive thoughts away from getting my life back on track. But, when one of your children is about to go on trial for manslaughter or murder, worrying about your other child kind of stops or just gets put on the back burner until later. Much later, apparently.
About a year after I started riding this bus, I started creating this dream life for the running lady. She has an amazing life, complete with fantastic kids and an incredible husband. She made all the right choices in life and her family is proud of her. Her friends are proud to be her friend, proud to say, “I go to church with her.” No one thinks that about me.
In the world I’ve made for the running lady, all my dreams have come true. The college degree, the doting husband, two perfect kids—a boy and a girl, of course—all of it. She volunteers in her community, donates to the food pantry, and goes on all her kids’ field trips. She only buys organic produce and meat and never feeds her kids macaroni and cheese. I’ll admit it, even I am proud of her. Thinking about all she has makes me want to try harder. I want to have that dream life. They said at college that we can be the change we want to see. Maybe part of me still believes that.
September 2, 2012-Paige
Last week, I started looking up races that I could run. Turns out, there are lots of local races here, especially 5k races. My husband saw what I was doing and said that he thought that was a good idea. I smiled at him, but inwardly judged him for patronizing me. I signed up for one anyway. It’s in a couple months. I’m a little nervous that I’ll be too anxious to do it. I know that sounds crazy. Baby steps. I can work up to this.
I know that I can do the race. It’s a shorter distance than I run every day, but there are so many things to worry about. What if I forget to have my favorite socks clean? Or get lost on the course and run further? Or get lost and don’t actually finish? Maybe I should find someone to run with me. Not my husband though. I’m sure I’d slow him down and disappoint him. He never says that he’s disappointed in me, but why wouldn’t he be?
September 3, 2012-Lucy
Tonight, I’m going to go for a jog after work. I’m not going to eat a snack on the bus, I actually splurged on some running shoes, well, as much as you can call it splurging when you buy them at Wal-Mart, and go for a run. I’ll get back in shape. I’ll ask for a later shift. And then, I’ll introduce myself to the running lady, see if she wants to run with me. Maybe I shouldn’t though…maybe she likes her time alone. But, I could really use a friend, I haven’t had a friend in so long. I thought being isolated would be healing. Maybe it was for a time, but I need a connection of some sort. I need someone to be hopeful with me. Hopeful for me. Maybe she needs a friend too. I mean everyone can always use another friend, right? It’s going to take a lot of courage to say hi and ask if I can join her for a run. I hope that I don’t slow her down. That would probably be frustrating for her.
September 9, 2012-Paige
The bus stop lady has seemed different the last few mornings, almost eager or hopeful. She seems quicker to wave, like she might actually be looking forward to seeing me each morning. I wonder if she knows that I secretly look forward to seeing her too. I wonder if we could be friends if we actually knew each other. Probably not. I’d probably depress her. Though it would be nice to have a friend. I wonder if she is a runner too, she seems like she is in pretty good shape, like she exercises in some way. Sometimes I think I could use a friend. Someone who could listen or just be present. They say exercising gives you endorphins, that endorphins make you happy. Maybe you get more endorphins when you exercise with a friend. I don’t know why I’m imagining us as friends. She probably has no desire to know my name. I mean, how would we get together? She is obviously on her way to her job or school when I pass each day. Like she would give that up for a total stranger.
September 15, 2012-Lucy
Jogging is gradually getting easier. I’m able to run a minute longer each night than I was the previous night. I wonder how far she runs each day. Maybe I wouldn’t have to go the full distance right from the start. Maybe I could just do a couple miles, tell her I’m getting back into it. What if she thinks I’m lame? Is that a risk I’m willing to take? It’s been so long since I’ve had something to look forward to…something to work towards. Besides saving for college, obviously, I mean, I’m definitely still doing that. I think. I’m just forming a new support network first. A network that doesn’t know about my past, or my inability to put it behind me. This could be the first step in good choices for me, not that bad choices got me here. Maybe my loss of motivation was a bad choice. You can be the change you want to see.
I put in for a shift change last week. I heard back yesterday that they approved it. It will be an adjustment, but I’ll still be up at the same time each morning. I’ll just be running first, working second. Tomorrow morning is the day. I’m going to do it. I’m going to show up at that bench, ready to run, and take a risk to make a friend.
September 16, 2012-Paige
Well, the unthinkable has happened. Well, maybe it isn’t unthinkable because I was thinking it. The bus stop lady, I mean, Lucy, wasn’t sitting on the bus this morning. She was standing by it. In running clothes. And we ran. Together.