The Incident of the Man on the Bike

A couple Saturdays ago, while Carolyn and I one of our morning walks, we encountered a man on a bicycle. He was coasting toward us on the wrong side of the road, not quite a block ahead of us. White, late forties, weathered face. He was wearing a baseball cap, an unbuttoned long-sleeve shirt over a T-shirt, and jeans. I thought that was odd because it was too warm for long pants.

When he noticed us, he did a circle in the intersection. Then, as we drew closer, he did it again.

Something about those two little loops triggered my sense of danger. He was deliberately allowing us to close the gap. At first, I thought he was going to ask us for money, but I didn’t get a panhandler vibe from him. The way he looked at us felt more like a wolf regarding potential prey.

We were approaching a pile of sticks and twigs that had blown down from an oak tree in a storm. I picked one up. It was about fifteen inches long, reasonably straight, green enough to be flexible, and thick enough to be sturdy. Well-balanced, too. I began tossing it to myself, end-over-end.

When he noticed what I was doing, he steered away at an angle. But he still stared at us. He turned his head as he drifted past, tracking us. When we looked back, he had stopped at the cross street behind us and turned to face us.

We walked a few steps more, turned again. He hadn’t moved. He watched us until we passed an obstruction that blocked our view of each other. I took one last look over my shoulder a few moments later, but I couldn’t see him.

I have no way of being certain that he meant us harm. For all I know, he was afraid of us. Wondering what we two might do to him, circling to assess the situation, deciding whether to flee. But Carolyn sensed something amiss about the situation, too.

I carried the stick the rest of the way home.