The Race, circa 1977
I could hear her behind me.
She was nine. I could tell. I think she had brown hair. Her breathing told me somebody in her family wanted her to win. But I wanted to win, and I wanted a trophy. I had seen them lined up on the table at the beginning of the race. I ran faster, so fast I could feel the separation of body and running, my legs now in charge as they took me in the direction of the Hudson River and the finish line.
I ran down the hill. It hurt to run so fast. I knew to hold on and let my legs take me there. When I got to the finish line, a man with a whistle told me I was the first woman. I smiled, held my sides, breathed deeply and nodded.
I walked over to the big trophy table, the tall golden statues.
I looked up at the man standing behind the table. He had stern skin, long eyebrows.
“I’m here for my trophy,” I said.
He looked at me.
“I won,” I said. “I was the first woman.”
The man shook his head. “The trophies are for the men,” he said.
“But I won,” I said.
He repeated himself.
I repeated myself.
I couldn’t understand it. What was he talking about?
People talked behind the table as I stood there. They leaned in to each other, whispering into ears. I watched.
“Here,” said the man. “You can have the third place men’s trophy.”
I smiled as I reached for it.