I dream that I’m running.

I don’t know where, but I am running.

The freedom’s the first thing I feel. Then the motion. There’s no jarring as my feet hit the ground, no jostling of my body as it accommodates every stride, no burning in my throat and lungs as I gulp in air.

My body’s light but strong, an engine that has neither known effort nor duress. I am one with every motion. My heart may be pumping euphoria into every cell.

I could be made just for this.

Nothing else matters.

The world whizzes by, streams of empty landscape that could exist just for me, just for me to run, to feel this unbridled bliss.

Running’s never been a passion, outside of it being a necessity in the sports I used to play, like football, cricket, and tennis.

I was quickish, but not excitingly so. My greatest asset has been my desperation. I would push myself and push myself, even when my legs were locking up with tightness and I couldn’t suck in another breath.

But here, there are none of those restrictions.

Here, I wish could run inexorably.

But the façade cracks – and it is a façade.

I don’t know the last time I would’ve run – it would’ve been prior to 2011, perhaps running around playing football or something with my partner’s kids. But even then, I’d slowed thanks to back tightness, and a loss of coordination from neck problems.

I always think dogs are happiest when they’re sprinting – they look so gleeful, but to truly appreciate the last time I would’ve felt anything similar would be back in my early 20s, when I used to play indoor cricket.

That’s so long ago, though.

So … done.

When the car struck me and broke my leg, the fractures wishboned, hooking the nerve and keeping it distended until the first surgery hours later released it.

What seeps in is this isn’t reality.

I can’t run.

It’s physically impossible now.

Propulsion comes from the top half of the foot, and the top half of my foot has clawed thanks to the nerve damage. Sensation in that area is dulled, but the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome also exaggerates and misreports what’s happening down there – stepping on a vacuum cleaner cord, for example, feels like I’ve stepped on the blade of a knife. Since the fracture went through the joint, the ankle has stiffened and lost most of its flexion.

At best, I can manage a fast walk or, if I really push myself, if I can shut out the consequences and how painful it is, how ugly it all feels, I can manage a lumbering hop-skip that might better suit a hunchback from some old b-grade black and white flick.

Any attempt at rapid movement also aggravates the chronic pain and, worse, the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Among other things, the CRPS can generate unbearable burning pains, or stabbing pains like somebody’s jabbed me with a needle.

Worst is just letting any awareness of what’s happening down there into my consciousness. It’s my normal, so most of the time I can accept the injury’s baseline as being part of me.

But if it blips off that baseline, it demands acknowledgement, and then every pain, every discomfort, every unnaturalness about what’s happening down there, jarringly remind me that this new normal is just a gaudy mask that sits on what used to be.

If that gaudy mask is yanked away, all I’m left with are the maggots of truth feasting on what used to be.

So I know I’m not running freely now.

I can’t be running freely now.

There is no freely.

The sudden disappointment is tinged with growing insight that I’m dreaming.

The world around me shreds, like it was tissue paper being torn away.

The realization is I won’t run again. Ever.

I don’t wake. It’s like I don’t need to.

I leave this euphoric dream world and segue into a restless sleep.