Part Two: Dedicated to Haruki Murakami.
The sun poked its head just over the trees and rooftops adorning the nice, quiet neighbourhood's horizon. Douglas locked the front door, and turned to greet the sun with a satisfactory smile. It was, on the third day after Sunday with Douglas on his last pair of black running shorts and white vest, the perfect time of the year to be out jogging, and indeed, a great day to be alive.
He put the single key (attached to a small, wooden key fob of an elephant painted blue) into his pocket, and produced two small earphones.
They, of course, obviously, played music --
Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Not the most original of choices, but as that day happened to be a Wednesday, Beethoven, like every Wednesday before it (since the week after the 21st of May, which was his final Wednesday as a thirty-seven year old and when he listened to Camille Saint-Saëns' Danse Macabre and Cello Concerto in A Minor which, coincidentally, was composed when Saint-Saëns was 37), was what he'd be listening to.
Back to the point. Just as that symphony might suggest, for Douglas, listening to music while jogging enabled him to break away from life and listen to his favourite music. Which is why he chose the Fifth over the tree hugging Sixth, this isn't about "getting back to nature" or anything similarly bathetic. And in any case, the fieriness of the Fifth helped keep him going.
And he was staying fit, clawing back those years he lost smoking before his fiancée convinced him to quit. Earning extra time on Earth while listening to Beethoven, could it get any better that? Well, yes... but he wouldn't admit it to anyone except for his wife, jokingly. And she never quite liked listening to classical music during their moments of passion.
All the aforementioned, listening to his favourite music which also happened to help keep him fit, outweighed the risks music's ability to supersede situational awareness brought; such as the odd occasion where he wouldn't notice an overzealous dog running behind him or the statistical anomaly of getting mugged.
An anomaly which, mind you, could very well occur today (Wednesday, July 23rd), but Douglas had no way of knowing it. And therefore didn't bother thinking about it as he started out of the driveway to the sweet sound of the three quick G's and one long E-flat of the first movement's opening seconds.
Now, the route Douglas took everyday except for Sunday, when he decided to shake things up and take the opposite direction, was mostly composed of the material now beneath his feet: pavement. It involved a mundane left-right-long straight-right beat with the most spectacular sight being the various trees planted for shade or the horizon (since he ran south, the sun was for the most part to his left and thus made watching the sunrise quite impractical). After that final right, however, Douglas would hit upon a nice, secluded, tree-enveloped path.
It ran through the isolated back of the local park, perfect for anyone wanting the tranquillity of its bosom marooned by civilization.
After the short bit of rustic serenity, Douglas would return to pavement, concrete, and asphalt. All the way, through a right and a very long straight and another right and one final right, until he reached his house.
Where he'd be done, and could get to putting on that shirt he's been fretting over so.
The minute hand on Douglas' watch pointed to the number seven. The analogue watch, I neglected to mention when no one saw him putting it on, was an IWC Pilot Spitfire Chronograph with a black crocodile strap.
And actually, the time was thirty-eight minutes past six, his watch was about forty seconds late. It didn't really matter, though; having already made the first left and now starting with that long straight, he was something like a minute and a few seconds ahead.
Crepuscular rays broke through the trees opposite the street. Douglas jogged at a steady pace. He breathed calmly and methodically to the beat of his footsteps, inhaling with the nose, exhaling with his mouth. The oboe played its cadenza, welcoming the recapitulation of the first movement.
The long stretch of pavement ahead of and behind him, which usually had the bustle of a child-abounding neighbourhood, was, except for the lone traveller passing through, abandoned by the lazy sleepers-in --
A sparkling graphite BMW 130i M Sport passed Douglas.
Their fate, perhaps obesity or coronary heart disease, wasn't of any concern to him. He probably never even noticed the BMW painted by the good people of Leipzig in a sparkling graphite colour that rode past, or the non-existent mugger that stole his purse.
Neither was he interred in some sort of sepulchre of deep philosophical thought, thus unable to hear the calls of the outside world. Truthfully, Douglas was most probably still half-asleep at this uninteresting part of his journey. So much so that, coupled with the awareness-destroying properties of music, he was bound not to very much notice a car or a mugger, let alone ponder over the self-destructive lifestyle of modern Homo sapiens.
Douglas kept the steady rhythm, though, despite being half-asleep. He'd been here so many times before, that the entire process was ingrained by now. It would likely be more difficult to change the rut than stick to its intricacies.
Inhale... left, right, left. Exhale... right, left, right, left. Inhale... right, left, right. Exhale... left, right, left, right. Inhale... Douglas returned to full consciousness as the first movement reached its emphatic conclusion.
The second movement, andante con moto, gave him a brief respite to remember exactly how far he was.
He knew he was already past the halfway mark of this long straight, since he couldn't see that house with half of its chimney stack painted green ahead of him. He checked his watch, and its face told him it was forty-one minutes past six. Just about right on schedule, just about the same as yesterday. And tomorrow.
The brass and timpani gave their brief foretaste of what was to come in the triumphant final movement (which also happened to be his favourite movement). And Douglas enjoyed it. Beethoven's Fifth. The mighty Fifth. One of the greatest pieces of music in Earth's history, possibly the universe's, too.
A brilliant red 2009 Audi A3 prevented him from crossing the street, coming to a halt by the stop sign. Douglas used that moment to listen to the final minute of the second movement more attentively, and get a quick breather. And maybe have a little glance at his dashing, thirty-eight year old face in the Audi's window.
The car started moving again; Douglas started moving, too. Crossing the street, heading a few steps down the pavement, and taking a right detour through the narrow opening of the old, stone wall. Right into the shadow of the trees.