The running man

by Adele Leung

Every morning my son and I walk through the hills to school.

Half way along the path, as we come down the slope, we frequently run into a man who also comes to this intersection from another hill.  My son has named him the “running man”, because every time he sees my son, he runs a mile.  He would very nicely pretend he is rushing for the ferry, or keep looking at his watch or that he is jogging for exercise.

We could not blame him.  Oh, not at all.

The path we embark on is one that is solitary, or rather, solitary from human presence, but very full of silence and nature.  Anyone opting to live in such an environment must genuinely enjoy the stillness from within and also feel supported by it from without.  This stillness is very poignant, especially in the morning hours.

However, to a child, this may feel slightly devoid of action and contact.  Therefore, every morning when he sees the running man, he would in his child-like way wish to have more contact, but at the same time cautious to not be rejected.  He would walk briskly to catch up to the speed of the running man, and side by side they would walk together, like in a speed walking contest.  The running man, obviously startled by the presence of an energetic child, would then speed up trying to regain control of his morning silence.  Sometimes my son would gently hold onto his hand or his backpack, wishing to play, and just have very innocent contact, and then the man would really begin to run, thus came about this name.

In the beginning, my son would be sad, obviously dejected.  Not understanding why anyone would not wish for innocent and genuine contact.  Being his mother, the heart break I feel is exponentially more intense.

Today we ran into the running man again.  And in the stillness within my heart, I observed my son.  And he just continued walking, without a remark about the running man.  He did not attempt to speed up or get close.  But the man ran anyway, as now he must live up to the name he created.

And life continues.  But it could also never be the same again.