There is a man with a suitcase sitting at the bus stop when I arrive. He is younger, maybe in his early forties (though I am not always good with ages). He has blonde hair that goes to the shoulders of his black leather jacket. His suitcase is black canvas, small, the kind that comes with a handle and rollers. When I first approach, I see a rhythmic movement, flashes of white, and I pause, wary of what might be going on in the dark bus shelter. I stand off the curb, in the turnout for the buses. I want to be able to see the bus when it comes around the bend, want to be sure the driver doesn’t pass us in the dark. The man is smoking a cigarette. He has one ankle resting on his knee, and he shakes his foot back and forth. It was his white tennis shoe I saw flashing, nothing sinister or sleazy. I almost laugh out loud. We wait.
After a long silence, I sigh. “I ran,” I say. “I knew I was cutting it close, so I ran.” I am lamenting because I didn’t need to run. I could have walked the distance three times by now.
“I never run,” he says.
“What,” I ask, “you mean, like it’s a rule?”
“Do you know how easy it is to get a concussion?” he asks. I don’t, not really. I think he means if you were to fall, hit your head on concrete. But he doesn’t. He is talking about how running jars our brains, how he has never known a runner who was truly intelligent.
“I think it makes us stupid, so I never run,” he says. I like his conviction, the way he matches it with action. I enjoy knowing he’s had this theory, has been watching people for years, gathering data. Because I find his declaration odd, I know he may be off, unbalanced even. But he blossoms into three dimensions for me as we talk. “None of the really intelligent people in the world run,” he says, and against all odds I am charmed.
Later on the bus I know this conversation is going to stick with me. I can see me examining his unusual premise from this point forward, studying the runners I meet in the world, wondering if they’re concussed, joking about it in my head. I sit in the lighted bus as we move through the dark night, and I imagine a character in my novel surprising me one day with those quirky, unexpected words. “I never run,” he says, and I smile at my reflection in the bus window.