I wasn't really expecting him to show up, but there he is in shorts and running shoes, a handsome man doing stretching exercises on the steps of a Village brownstone, waiting for me.
"Hey," I say, "you made it."
"Sorry I'm late."
"You're not late," he says. "I'm early."
I take in the full measure of this guy, who's pacing like a panther as I do my stretching. He's young and strong, with wide shoulders and a narrow waist. Twenty-five years and twenty-five pounds ago, I looked like that.
And now, we're going running together. No two ways about it, I am about to suffer. I decide to delay the inevitable pain.
"What say we walk to the end of the block, then start running?"
"Sounds good to me."
At Hudson Street we break into a light jog, heading for the river. At West Street, green lights allow us to cross the highway without breaking stride, and then it's an uninterrupted run on the river path, all the way downtown.
Off we go. The Freedom Tower looms in the distance, bigger than Godzilla.
"I like that tower," he says.
"You ever miss living here?"
He tells me about the classes he's teaching in Virginia. At this point I'm gasping one-word replies, but I'm holding up. I keep expecting him to kick it up a notch, but he's letting me set the pace.
Of course he is. He's my son, and I taught him to be polite to his elders, little suspecting that one day, I'd be an elder in need of politeness.
Look, I hate nostalgia, hate it when people long for the old days. It's just that I never pictured this oxygen-deprived scenario back on that May morning in 1988, when the maternity nurse at Lenox Hill Hospital handed him to me and said, "Make sure you support his head."
Now that head, clad in a backwards baseball cap, is bobbing along next to my gray one on the river run. We're both alive, both in motion. Doesn't get much better than that.
We trot up and down a pier near the Freedom Tower, turn around and head for home. We're still together, stride for stride, and when we reach the Christopher Street pier I draw all the breath I can hold to speak a sentence.
"Don't wait for me," I say. "Just go."
He smiles, nods, and kicks it into high gear. I watch him fly down that pier as I continue plodding along, losing ground with every step.
"Go," I say again, even though he's out of earshot. "Keep going."
Charlie Carillo is a novelist and a TV producer for "Inside Edition."
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