I was walking to the river when, on the other side of the street ahead of me, I could see a dark-haired woman sitting against her apartment building. Her legs were splayed in front of her, a fluffy golden dog curled up in her lap. A fence surrounded them to make a sad sort of concrete yard, the space barely large enough to contain them.
O visual symbolism! On your way back home, I resolved, you’re going to take this person’s picture. Taking pictures of strangers always makes me nervous; what if they see it as an invasion, what if they get angry? Will I have enough time to compose it correctly the first time? Ah! But lately I’ve wondered what would happen if I just asked.
Probably, I reasoned twenty minutes later on my return, the woman would be gone by the time I came back.
But no; as I approached I saw that now, sitting in the same position, she was cutting the dog’s hair, his bright pink tongue lolling out of his mouth in sleepy pleasure. I took a deep breath and stepped forward, tried on my friendliest, undergrad-est tone of voice.
“Hey there! Would you mind if I took your picture? Just doing what you’re doing?”
The woman looked up at me as if I’d struck her.
“I HAVE BEEN CRYING ALL DAY,” she said.
“Oh! I’m sorry!”
“. . . But go ahead,” she said.