You didn’t see my valentine
I sent it via pantomime
While you were watchin’ someone else
I stared at you and cut myself
— fiona apple
I’m taking a test run on a new course. It combines everything — the watchful eye of Surfing Jesus, the reassurance of a restroom at the turn, exactly a half mile if you add a little zig-zag (don’t tell Mo. Mo hates the zig-zags.)
It’s a triangle, so the hurricane wind comes and goes quickly. It goes around a park and next to the beach. It’s just perfect. Totally smitten.
As I come around for the second loop, I’m at the point closest to the church where Surfing Jesus lives. I’m coming up on a guy who’s walking ahead of me on the sidewalk. As I near the turn, he whips around. I go into defensive mode (preparing to scream like a little girl), when he sticks out his hand. Hi, he says. It’s on. He’s maybe early 20s. The last mullet in the free world. He’s wearing nothing but board shorts and an old pair of sneakers. His eyes are clear, his handshake is firm. I’m (beats me. no good at names), he says. But most people just call me Cutter. I say hello and hit the pause button on the watch. This will not be quick.
He’s a messenger or a performer or something. It’s not really clear. He says people look up to him because he looks like this. This being razor thin; he reminds me of Stripie, the stray cat we sneak food to in the apartment parking lot. He has a little parachute nylon backpack with the strings, like the freebie bags they give out at marathons. That’s all he needs, he says.
He says he travels around spreading his message, although he never really says what his message is. The problem? People think because he draws an audience that he must be rich. Some guys he refers to as The Killers (I assume bad guys and not the band, although he didn’t specify) are after him because they think he has a lot of money. He was able to escape them though. The Killers were on a bus from Austin to San Antonio. He was able to stay behind them (not clear how), and when he saw they were going to San Antonio, he went to Houston instead. He then walked from Houston to here (although he’s not sure where here is) and is worried that The Killers may have followed him.
They scare me, he says. And when I get scared, I do this. He holds up his wrist. It’s covered in blood from a series of slash marks, some new, some old. Blood is trickling down his wrist. Caked blood from previous incidents goes up his forearm. He looks me in the eyes. The Killers scare me, he says. I enjoy a good Crazy Homeless Guy yarn, but this is real.
Anyhow, I’m running from The Killers, he continues. I just needed to tell my story. I don’t need your money. I don’t WANT your money. But if you give me a dollar, I’m going to go to Stripes and buy a burrito.
I look up. Surfing Jesus is watching me. What would he do? What would Fiona do? I reach into my running belt. I keep an emergency 5 dollar bill there. This qualifies as an emergency. All I have is a 5, I tell him. It’s yours. Their burritos are pretty good. (they really are.) He takes the 5 and reaches out to shake my hand again. He says thanks. He means it. I tell him good luck. I mean it too.
I run another 4 miles thinking about how strange life is. I live in this little insulated bubble, running stories about calamities happening in other places while maintaining an aloof sense of detachment to it all. Then life comes along and reminds you it’s all too real. I do all this running to create pain in my life. I’m lucky to have the choice. So many people don’t. Good luck, Cutter. I hope you really got that burrito. And I hope you stay a step ahead of The Killers.