I would like to know what "until the pain began to prickle and I was out of options, out of breath" means in the following sentences:

The night had grown colder. The street was empty. The light of the street lamps was dim and the cursing of invisible drunk men and women pierced the air. I knew you wouldn’t come after me, and most of me didn’t want you to. But without knowing why, I began to run, fuelled by some kind of elated panic. I ran as fast as I could on the frosted pavements, alongside the battered buildings, across a naked square. I ran without stopping, feeling the cold sting my lungs, feeling it rush through my head and out. Through the warren of the cobbled streets, past the golden dome of the Orthodox church, straight on towards the bridge. I ran until feeling returned to my body, until my legs became heavy, until the pain began to prickle and I was out of options, out of breath. When I stopped, I was standing on the bridge, clutching a rail, bent over like an upturned L. I drew in deep, hot, thorny breaths. My head was spinning. I closed my eyes. I held on tighter to the rail, much tighter. Until I sank to my knees and cried out in pain, and felt the cold, hard concrete push against me.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik (a university graduate) left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he went to the flat of his lover Janusz to report his decision that he would leave the country to the U.S.. And then he ran out of the flat. (The main reason that Ludwik decided to leave the country was the fact that his lover Janusz constantly tried to straddle between Ludwik and a girl named Hania, who was the daughter of some powerful Party officer and was in love with Janusz, and thus, could be of use to Janusz, who wanted to make up in this socialist regime. The second reason that Ludwik decided to leave the country was that he applied for a doctorate after having finished his studies at university, but his proposal was rejected because he had no "contacts." So he tried to make friends with Hania to ask a favour of her to get some help about his doctorate, but eventually he witnessed a scene where Hania and Janusz were having sex during a drug party. Seeing this scene acted like a last straw for Ludwik.)

In this part, I wonder what "until the pain began to prickle" means. Does "prickle" mean that he ran so fast for a long time that his legs stung, became painful?

And I would like to know what "I was out of options" means. Would that mean perhaps that he had no choice but to stop running, because of the pain? Or would it indicate that he had no options to stay in this country but to leave...?

I would very much appreciate your help. :)

  • I'd say out of options, out of breath is an example of zeugma It's also a kind of "pun" - which as my first link shows, has been used by at least a couple of other published writers. But his "prickling" legs is nothing unusual - they hurt, because he ran for so long. The very nature of the "punning" here implies we're supposed to conflate his inability to keep running AND his inability to do something else (avoid dealing with his problems? I dunno). Dec 20, 2020 at 19:16


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