A Jog in America’s Capital

Rebeccah Ramey

August 1, 2005

It was a picture perfect Saturday morning in the District of Columbia and I wanted to run off the lingering work—filled week. I put on my tennis shoes, a cut—off t—shirt with the faded words "Just Do It" printed easily across the front over the famous logo, and a pair of jogging shorts. I began my run at a slow pace.

The sky was still healing from the violent thunderstorm it suffered through the night. There was a large pocket of blood red clouds clumped together with a thin layer of clouds trailing behind, smeared from the larger group. I wanted to shout for everyone to stop and appreciate the beauty of the morning with me. Crowds of people already had a start on their day. My eyes darted from one stranger’s face to another.

I ran towards the National Mall to spend a minute with Lincoln, Washington and the others, encountering dozens of friendly people on the sidewalk who smiled at me or exchanged a "good morning." After a few minutes of rest, I headed back. I could see the Statue of Freedom precariously perched on the dome of the Capitol. In her left hand was the victory wreath, and in her right, a sword. Her robed form with the words "E Pluribus Unum" on her hem was my guiding light to the dome.

When I reached the Capitol I leaned against one of the walls to rest. Just then a loud chorus of laughter burst out of a limousine in front of the fountain. It was a wedding procession and the party was there for pictures. Their laughter was contagious and a smile stretched across my flushed face as I watched the lovers with their united families scramble in their gowns and tuxes to the fountain.

My glad heart paused for a moment when I noticed the benches, which would be in the picture plane of the photographs. A member of that category of people who live in this country, whose economic class didn’t even register on the economic board for those who talk about such things, was napping.

I was overwhelmed with humiliation for the man, bundled in newspaper, who faced the wedding party. I watched his movement, expecting him to pick up his tattered bag and leave the scene. Confusing my rationality, he did not. His expression never changed from the blank, tearless, joyless look. I thought I caught his eyes flicker over the curls, lace, and flesh of the vibrant bridal party. My humiliation was the only shame between the two of us.

But then, I thought, if he didn’t move, someone from the party would have to tell him to move. The women and girls clicked in their heels the rhythm to the beat of their laughter. The glitter of pearly white teeth complimented the accessories of rhinestones and diamonds that hung down their bare necks. The men periodically wrapped their arms around a waist to reel in a lady for a kiss.

Nobody approached the man, disturbed him, or spoke about him. Perhaps they noticed on some level, that his tawny hues dulled their canvas; nevertheless, they did not approach him. Certainly the photographer had to take pains to avoid the man in his pictures. Like the man on the bench, there was an absence of shame in the wedding party.

I stood there watching the eerie scene, trying to make sense of it. Neither the man, nor the wedding party acted as if they were in the same area of the city — or world, for that matter.

The wedding party finally finished their photo shoot and filed back into their white limousines. The man on the bench stood up, took his bag, and walked away. I was left alone with the only other human form, the Statue of Freedom. The two of us women, stood in silence, she with her wreath and me with my sweat—soaked shirt. I stretched my cramping muscles and ran home.

I looked up at the sky, now fully recovered from the storm. It was going to be a hot day, and if the humidity meant anything, it would rain again. I wanted it to rain. The brightness of the sun irritated my confused senses. I took my splintered feelings and thoughts inside my house, away from the brightness of the sky.

Rebeccah Ramey is a senior from Fredericktown, Ohio, majoring in Political Science and History.