Charles Torrence—CT, everybody calls him—is 47 now and weighs maybe 110 pounds. He has been paralyzed for 24 years, since Gwen was six. Next to his home hospital bed in a Decatur apartment that he keeps mostly dark are stacks of videotapes, almost all of races that Gwen has run. "I'm probably her biggest fan," Charles says, his head back on the pillow. Yet he has seen her run live as a professional only once—at the 1995 Mobil/USA Indoor Championships in Atlanta, where she won the 60. Charles doesn't get to see Gwen much when she's not competing, either. ("She's so busy," he says.) He hears that the house she lives in is really something, but he hasn't been in it. He is looking forward to the Olympics, only he doesn't have a ticket yet. "Maybe if you write it in your magazine, somebody will send me one," he says.
He really ought to go, because this is fixing to be one delicious 100: Cuthbert, Ottey, Privalova, all of them staring jalapenos at Torrence, and Torrence ready to lay 10-plus seconds of heartburn on them. The only things missing will be the butcher knives. "I know one thing," says Dorothy Torrence. "People give Gwen a hard time, it just makes her run faster."
Gwen has a gorgeous six-year-old boy, Little Man (short for Manley), but for some reason the time he comes home from school is the time she gets up from in front of the television set and goes to do her grueling workout. So Dorothy drives over and babysits Little Man and then, around five, takes him over to her house, where she makes dinner for Gwen and Manley and their boy.
Maybe someday, when Gwen retires and leaves the vogue-a-thon, she and Little Man will sort of grow up together. Maybe she can get that little hairdressing shop. And maybe everybody she sees won't be the next attacker, the next threat, the next cheater. And maybe she will see Ottey at a parade somewhere or Cuthbert at the mall, and they will get close enough to explain, and she will finally understand. After all, how long can you keep coming at the world head down, arms flying, eyes closed?