Read of the Day: “Fog Count”
6:30 pm, April 30th | by Colette McIntyre
Charlie Engle is one of the nation’s most famous ultramarathon runners: he has run across Death Valley; he has run across the Gobi; he has run 4,600 miles across the Sahara, a journey that was documented in the film Running the Sahara. In 2011, this incredible athlete was sentenced to twenty-one months at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Beckley for mortgage fraud.
Leslie Jamison’s “Fog Count,” published this month in the Oxford American, details the author’s visitation with Engle in a West Virginia prison. The essay is an incredibly eloquent exploration of America’s relationship with imprisonment, retribution, and remorse.
In the following excerpt, Jamison details the complications of her pen pal relationship with the imprisoned Engle:
Writing to Charlie often made me feel guilty. I wrote about something as simple as walking around my neighborhood, with its methadone clinic and its blossoming pear trees, and felt like there was no way to communicate my world to Charlie that wasn’t rubbing salt into the central wound of his life. I wrote about running in the rain—by the end I was so soaked I didn’t even feel separate from it—and how running in New Haven rain reminded me of running in Virginia rain with my brother, past a fish factory on the Chesapeake, after our grandfather died. Maybe I’m an asshole to write to you about running, I wrote, but sent the letter anyway. I thought it might connect to something Charlie had mentioned about running around the prison’s gravel track during a storm. It was the best time to run, he’d written, because everyone else went inside. It was the only time he got to be alone. Talking on the phone with Charlie was even stranger: a voice announced, at even intervals, You are talking to an inmate at a Federal Correctional Facility, and I walked down Trumbull Street in the twilight while he sat somewhere—in a little plastic booth? I couldn’t even picture it—and when we got off the phone, I ate roasted trout at the nicest restaurant in town while he headed off for another stretch of top-bunk reading into the late night.
Read the full essay on the Oxford American’s website.
[Photo via Flickr]