Running journal. 82 degrees. While stretching at the halfway mark of my run, I was stopped by a black man named Malik*, a 46-year-old lymphoma survivor who had 80% of his right buttock and hip removed when he was 33, the age I am now.
“How far . . . you . . .,” he shouted in my direction, as he sat atop a riding lawnmower on the back of a wired trailer hitched to his truck. “I see you almost every day.”
“What,” I replied not hearing his question fully.
“How far do you run? I see you every day.”
“Six to eight miles usually,” I responded, walking toward him. “Sometimes more. Sometimes less. Depends on how I feel.”
“I wish I could get out here and run like you,” he said. “But there’s nothing there.”
He smacked his right buttock.
“Bone. Muscle. It’s gone.”
We talked for about 20 minutes and I enjoyed the conversation.
He’s bald now, but he assured me as he lifted the cap off his head and ran his hand across his smooth scalp, that when he was younger he had a “nice high top fade” before his kids made him lose his hair.
“I’ll let you go,” he said, cranking back up the riding lawnmower and easing it slowly down the ramp of his trailer. “I know you’ve got a ways to go. But if you ever see a silver Mercedes with MR ME on the license plate, that’s me.”
A few hundreds yards later, I turned back to look from whence I came, thinking for some reason that I would see a ghost where I had spoken to Malik; but there was no ghost. It was a man—living, breathing, flesh and bone—and the smell of grass underneath his tires as he paced his way across the lawn.
*Name changed to conceal identity