His name’s Mario.
I’m out for a stroll on the track. I’m on day 2 of a fast that has me fuzzy, but it’s a beautiful day and it seems a shame to waste it.
An old guy is finishing up his run in lane 2. On the other end of the field is a really strong football player with a little kid.
I try to run, but my body appears to be on the beach. I trot the straights and walk the turns. Who came up with the term “fast” anyhow?
The old guy is stretching now, and the kid is all over him. It looks like they’re having fun. It’s two days past MLK Day, and it’s a joy to watch an old white guy and a little black kid having fun. No races, other than those on the track. Just people.
As I come around, I see the Serious Guy is wearing a NIKE FOOTBALL shirt. A Saints backpack sits next to the track. Seems too soon for an actual Saints player to be here, but I guess working out never ends.
The old guy leaves, and as I come down the stretch, the kid spots me. The race is on.
He pulls up in lane 7 and turns on the jets. He’s all the way down the stretch before I realize we’re racing. He turns around and beams.
He does the same thing for the rest of my laps, crushing me each time.
On the last lap, I ask him his name. “Mario!” he exclaims. “I’m super fast!!!” I reach out my hand to shake his. He hands me a set of vampire teeth. Apparently I’m not familiar with the bonding ritual of 5-year-olds. I thank him for running with me. In my defense, he has probably had food in the last day and a half.
I walk off, 2 miles in the bank. Dad jogs around the perimeter of the track on the grass. Mario chases imaginary butterflies. It’s a happy moment.
The racial thing is so insane. I thought we had made so much progress only to reach the point now where red caps can double as white hoods. But then Spike Lee finally wins an Oscar nomination, Kamala Harris can run for president, and a kid on a track can bond with random old white guys. Maybe this will be the generation that doesn’t see people in colors. Maybe.
Good luck, Super Mario. It’s your world. Make me proud.