Way back when, when I lived down South, I would frequently walk between my apartment complex and the campus where I was taking classes by way of the trails that circled through the park separating the two. One fall day, as I was ambling along, a guy ran by me and we nodded and smiled as we passed. Then, a little while later he passed me again. (This wasn’t unusual as it was a decently long amble and this guy, as it turned out, was a rather well known marathon runner from Ethiopia.) Anyway, there was some more smiling and nodding and then he started to chat me up a little. No problem. He was very polite and seemed like a decent person. I had a friend at the time who had some fun and interesting international friends, so I was pleased with the possibility that I might make some fun and interesting international friends too.
Marathon guy and I decided to go have coffee sometime. He was a regular at a neighborhood place not too far away. We didn’t go that same day but some other day and I don’t really have any keen recollection of that because it was pretty uneventful — as one might suspect coffee with an seemingly nice, polite, international marathon runner who was well known to people around that part of town might be.
We hung out once or twice and then he was calling me a lot on the phone. He started saying that he would like to buy me things. I would like some nice things wouldn’t I? He thought that he would like to buy me… some jeans.
“No, really.” I told him, “I’ve got jeans. I’m good, got lotsa jeans. No jeans. No thank you. That’s very nice of you, but no.”
Well, he then asked if perhaps I would like to have a leather jacket? He could get me a really nice leather jacket.
Hmm, I rather would have liked a leather jacket, but I had to say, “No, thank you! Don’t be silly. You can’t buy me a leather jacket. I don’t really know you that well and -” …. “- Yes, even for my birthday. No.”
The last time we spent any time together was not too long after the first time we spent any time together. I stopped by his apartment for a visit. (I suppose it was just for a visit, although maybe it was because he had a puffy chair to move.) For entertainment he put in videos of himself running in marathons. He had hours and hours of video tapes of himself running (and running and running) in marathons. Surely, I would enjoy seeing those? Surely, I would like to have some wine? Surely, I would not mind if he rubbed against me to pleasure himself but never the sex because that would be wrong and a lot of people have AIDS and as a virgin and a marathon runner he takes very good care of his body and would never do anything unhealthy, no?
“Ehh. No. I’ve gotta go now.”
He kept calling, but only got my answering machine. (You remember those, the machines where you can hear the person talking into the tape?) One afternoon the phone rang. I let the machine get it and heard, “I have something for you and I am coming to your apartment to give it to you. BEEP.”
“Oh shit! (hey wait, maybe it’s a leather jacket?) ACK! No!”
It was too late. If I tried to leave he would probably see me as I was leaving; he called from around the corner. I was trapped. And then he was pulling into the lot under my big picture window. I held my breath and lay on the floor under the window as I heard him come up the stairs.
Knock knock knock?
I heard him go back down the stairs. I had to kick myself for choosing to lay under the window because I couldn’t safely peak out to see if he was truly gone. I waited and waited. Finally I had to assume it was all clear. I’d never graduate if I didn’t. I opened the door to find out that my present wasn’t a leather jacket, nor a flaming bag of poo, but a small statue of a leopard. I think you’d call it a figurine.
I didn’t call to say thank you and I still didn’t start answering my phone. He just got the hint, went quietly away and I never heard from him again.
A few years later, this national news story appeared…
Runner is Charged With Killing Cousin
Published: January 27, 1997 New York Times
A* H*, an Ethiopian immigrant, was delighted when her cousin arranged a marriage for her — so excited that she bought clothes for her first date with the man and showed them off. But the day after the date, Ms. H* called a friend and said that the man was too old and that she could not marry him. A day later, she was found dead along an Atlanta highway, shot in her head.
The police have charged the man who set up the date, A* Ab*, with murder. Mr. Ab* was arrested on Friday at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport on a Federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Mr. Ab*, 35, is a professional runner who has won more than 170 races, including the Atlanta Marathon. He was going to receive money for the marriage, the police said, and he killed his cousin when she balked. The police said they were seeking the suitor for questioning.