I know it's a good thing that I picked up running again. Sure, I like it and I know it’s worth it. Especially now I’m getting older, I can’t take my body for granted any more either. I feel accomplished when I'm back home after the run. I take my shower and have a cup of tea and a bowl of cereals. That’s all nice. But getting out of bed, putting on my running gear and leaving the house, that's a whole different story. I'm not a fan of that.

But here I am, running in the park. It's still early. And yet, there's business people going to their jobs already. There are people cycling, some to work, some as their work-out. I like to cycle as well. Whenever I can, I get my bicycle out on a Sunday and drive along the river. It's not a Sunday, it's a working day. Worse, it’s a Monday. Some people are running in the park like I am. We nod at each other. It’s like a secret code, telling each other what the hell we think we’re doing at this unholy time of day. 

There is a person sitting on a bench. A woman I believe. She has a bag on her lap and her arms rest on it. There’s an insecure vibe around her. She stares in front of her, and I’m looking in that direction, trying to figure out what she is looking at. I have no idea and look back at her. Looking over my shoulder, I'm giving her a smile. She just continues to stare, unaware of me passing by. And quite frankly, why should she care. I’m leaving the park by crossing the road, and continue my run a few blocks into the city. I’m looking forward to my hot shower and my hot cup of tea. 

There she is again. On the same bench. With the same bag and the same pose. Her curly long hair is a bit of a mess. Her army green jacket is shabby, and her jeans are ripped. If this had been the nineties, I’d say she’s grunge. And again, she’s staring in front of her. I look at her while I run past her, trying to get her attention. I give her a quick wave, hoping it doesn’t look creepy. Before I leave the park, I look back and it looks like she’s looking at me. Well, she’s not staring in front of her and is looking in the direction I’m running. Close enough for me. 

It’s that kind of morning. One text and everyone is on the back of their feet already. Did this really happen? Did that guy really say that? I’ve been discussing the English news with my colleagues for at least half an hour before putting on my running gear. I know myself well. One day of not running on a working day, and I’ll have an excuse for the next of not running as well. And that’s not going to happen. 

It’s busier on the streets. More people are on their way to work. More people are running. I understand this. It’s still early but not that early. It’s somewhat acceptable early to go out and have a run. Just before I’m leaving the park, I’m at that bench again. And there she is again as well. This time she has a laptop on top of her bag and it looks like she’s typing. So is that what she is doing? Working on her laptop, outside in the park? 

“Hey dude, watch where you’re running!” I nearly bump into a businessman who’s holding a briefcase in one hand and a beverage in the other. A coffee, I assume. 

“I’m sorry.” I mumble and wonder why he didn’t go out of the way more. He should have seen me coming, right? I set up my pace again, heading for the exit. I look back and see the businessman passing the bench, ignoring the hard working woman and her laptop. She’s ignoring him too and typing away. 

I was deadpan tired when I came home yesterday, and yet I slept terribly. I really didn’t want to go out for a run. I’m glad that I did anyway. Because there she is again. Her hair less of a mess. And she’s typing. I wonder how long she’s already there and can’t help but notice her shoes. I could have sworn she was wearing big, bulky black boots yesterday. But now she’s wearing light sneakers. One big glance back before I’m leaving the park. She’s looking at her screen and wiggling her feet. She seems a lot more relaxed this morning. 

It’s my day off. Yet I’m trying to get myself out of bed and go out for a run. There is a lot of traffic already when I finally make it outside. Not as many runners as I expected. I’m guessing that it’s because it’s past running before going to work time. But there’s a lot of people going to work. I decide to run a bit faster today. I’m late and I wonder if she’s still there, on that bench just before I’m heading out of the park again. 

She is. I’m still a fair bit away when I see her closing her laptop and putting it back in her bag. She remains on the bench and I pass her. She stares ahead. A smile appears on her face when I’m running past her, or at least I’m telling myself that. I look back over my shoulder and she has left the bench. I have no idea where she went, but I know that I want to go back home now. I want that hot shower, that hot tea. 

I’m not going to do this during the weekend. Sure, I’m curious whether she will be there. It’s my knees and my sides that are telling me to take a break. No cycling either! I’m listening and enjoying a long sleep in on Sunday and finally finish that series I meant to binge for some time now. 

There are a lot of people out there today with that Monday look on their face. I’m pretty sure I’m no exception. Every step I take feels like I have extra weights wrapped around my ankles. Even the trees have this Monday look about them. Even the woman on the park bench looks like she’s having a Monday. With the exception that she’s typing frantically, and whatever she’s writing seems something good. She sits more upright than the previous week. Her hair seems more curly. Her jeans aren’t ripped. I look back one last time. She’s still typing. 

I can’t help but notice that she’s wearing a new jacket. It’s a blazer really, dark grey with white stripes. It suits her well. I try to make eye contact with her as I run by, so I can give her a thumbs up, as creepy as that may look. But she keeps staring at her screen and types. Her hair is dangling down and it looks like it’s dancing to the beat of her fingers typing on the keys. She even may be smiling at her screen. I stop before I’m leaving the park and look back. Her hands go fast over the keyboard. Wait, I should continue running, back home. Home, where the newspapers and tea awaits. And my hot shower, oh that hot, rewarding shower. 

For some reason my alarm didn’t go off this morning. I’m late and I decide to take a shorter round. I’m making sure to make it through the park though. It’s like everyone in the park is running late, runners and the people heading to their jobs alike. Everything and everyone seems hasted. Even though I haven’t been running as much as usual, I’m pretty much exhausted by the time I make it to the park bench. 

The woman is typing, of course she is. Her curly hair shining in the morning sun, her blazer complimenting her confidence. Yes, she is looking confident while she is sitting alone on a park bench. Right in the middle of the big city, with lots of people passing by. It fascinates me that she’s able to do this. I look at her while I’m running past, but she keeps her eyes on her screen. As always I look over my shoulder before leaving the park. I’m telling myself that she was looking at me, but quickly turned back to her screen when she noticed I was looking back at her. 

The outfit is cool this day, no denying to it. A great Thursday’s look. The dark grey blazer with the stripes, the soft yellow t-shirt she’s wearing underneath. The dark jeans are slightly ripped but not too much. Enough to give the entire outfit an edge. There are colourful socks peeping out of the light sneakers. Her shoulders are down and she has a general confident pose. While I’m running past her, she runs one hand through her curls. 

I look at her a bit too long and bump into another woman. I hear her scream and while I take a step back I see a big brown stain developing on her white blouse. She is angry. What the hell is wrong with me and what not. I mutter some apologies and tell her that I will pay for the dry cleaning if she would need it. She’s wearing a suit, the coffee is on that too. She hands me a notebook and a pen, and I scribble down the address to where she’s able to send the bill. I hand back the notebook. She looks at the address, then at me and back at the address. Shaking her head she continues her journey. 

I take a deep breath and look over my shoulder. Clearly the woman on the bench has seen the whole incident. She’s giving me a big smile and closes her laptop. She puts it in her bag and gets up, walking in the direction the woman I just bumped into was headed as well. Away from me. There’s a certain bounce in the way she walks, as if she’s happy about something. Right, I was busy doing something here. Running. I continue to do so. 

Even though my first appointment is in the afternoon, I decide to get up the usual time and go out for a run. It’s a lovely day. Even the people walking their dogs seem to be in a good mood this morning. Running goes a lot more smoothly than it did earlier this week, and I’m pleased with myself. The park bench is empty. I stop and look around, maybe she is sitting some place else? I can’t find her. I haven’t seen her since. 

Three months later. 

I enter my office and see a small pile of books on my desk. New books. I sit down and pull the pile towards me. There’s a book about how to pick your own mushrooms responsibly. A biography from a Mexican actor. A book about traffic in LA. And there’s a book from an unknown author. The cover tells me it’s her debut, which would explain that. 

“When Tigers Stop Running” the book is called and I pick it up and open it. I flip through a few pages. I stop to read a few lines on an otherwise blank page. 

“This book is dedicated to the runner in the park who has helped me to finish the book by just running by every day. Thank you so much.”

I quickly close it shut and turn the book around to look at the back. There she is, smiling at me from the picture on the back of the book. I wonder if I should invite her for an interview. You know, to give her some exposure for her debut novel. I turn the book around again. I open it at chapter one and start reading. It’s pretty good. 

October 30, 2021 08:39

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in Reedsy Studio. 100% free.