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Baptism by Blood

A morning run in Belgrade brought me to my knees.

I hugged the sidewalk and donated some blood and skin. Breathless, I stood and walked to a nearby ledge for a sit-down assessment, hoping I hadn’t cracked a rib. That’s when I met Jelena.

“I saw you fall, and wanted to see if you were really okay,” she said. In Serbian first, then in English for my comprehension.

“I am okay. More embarrassed than anything,” I said, pouring some water from my vest to clean the wound. More bright red blood trickled down, as I moved my knee to demonstrate function and support my claim. Jelena looked on with some skepticism.

“No. No. Don’t be embarrassed. Shit like this happens all the time.”

“You run?” I inquired.

“Yes, I’ve just finished,” she pointed to her long tights, reassuringly. “There are holes everywhere in Belgrade. Let me clean it for you; you don’t need to get infected.”

Jelena pulled a small bottle of clean water from her purse, and flushed the fresh blood and debris from my knees, apologizing for the few drops which hit my shoes.

She encouraged me to keep going in true Serb spirit: “Trust me, it is better to keep going. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to go where you’re going. You must keep going. Don’t stop.”

I thanked Jelena for her kindness, and carried on for eight miles—wiser and more Argus-eyed.

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