Picturing

Someone honked.

A honk is the malfunctioning stun gun of Captain Obvious. “Hey! Do you know what you’re doing? Stop that!” Yes, I do know what I’m doing, and since we’re on the subject of stopping, STOP ANNOYING ME.

Well, I was standing right next to the freeway off ramp. But I was behind the concrete guard rail. I mean – really.

Then the someone waved. I may have known the someone. Honking is only effective if I know your car. If I don’t know your car, now I do, and thanks for making that introduction possible, but now, oh, we’re all out of time, and you’re out of sight, and I still don’t know who you are.

I was next to the freeway off ramp, behind the concrete guard rail, to get the best shot of the Esperanza Unida mural. The honk was fine, actually; I needed the distraction to concentrate. Photography is like all the arts in that it makes your view of the world more comprehensible and mysterious. Only it does it in the most literal way.

Under the sunlight, the mural shook its colors like maracas, and they flushed red, orange, green, blue – though it seemed silly to give names to these colors.

Under the sunlight, an abstract sculpture of a man started breathing, smiling, turning its head, yearning for the best angle. I circled around and around, clicking and clicking, eager to please him.

Under the sunlight, a woman squinted and cradled her sign:

HOMELESS

HUNGRY

please help

thank you

I walked towards her like a student approaching a master, barely maintaining eye contact, saying, “Would you mind if I took your picture? I have ten dollars, I don’t want you to feel like I’m taking advantage of you.”

“I don’t care,” she said, taking the ten.

Under the sunlight, her skin hardened. Her wrinkles deepened. Her back bent.

“Thank you,” I said, turning to walk away, “and God bless.”

“God bless,” she said.

Three blocks away I realized I’d never asked her name.

3 thoughts on “Picturing

  1. It is a much harder thing to say “can I be a part of your life” than to say “will you be part of my art,” but sometimes the latter can lead to the former. I think this post relates to your play from what I’ve seen, and I’m eager to learn more about it. God bless.

  2. I often forget to ask a name. Sometimes, I even go the other direction. After all these years, and so much time trying to love people, I still fail like a monster from time to time. But when we do ask their names, they tend to never leave our hearts or minds…..Shayan Becker, veteran, loves the color green. Tenisha Nilson, mother of 4, loves hot dogs and believes in angels.

  3. I remember seeing a portrait in the Nelson Atkins art museum in KC a few months ago, and I guessed that the 1930s cowboy posing for the portrait was upset or impatient at having to sit for this. I imagined a similarly awkward conversation between painter and paintee as you experienced, though prolonged, obviously. Then the docent informed us that the painter was actually the owner of the ranch, and the subject of the portrait was his general manager for may years. They were very good friends, and the cowboy sat for many portraits in their multiple-decade relationship. So… who knows what art can come from relationships, and what relationships from art.

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