perfect stranger 1/

Throwback to a crisp, beautifully sunny morning in March. I was walking to the park before work, when I crossed paths with a guy; tall, white-haired, red-cheeked. Dancing with a broom and beaming in hi vis yellow.

With his face to the sun like a daisy, I hear him say: “I’m loving it”, as I walk past. To himself, I think, with me a happy eavesdropper. I felt it too. The weather was beautiful.

I couldn’t help but smile. I walked along, but then the glue of this perfectly happy stranger made my shoes stick. It pulled me back. I looked over my shoulder, and he was still there. Glowing. Pushing a broom. My camera hung like a brick over my shoulder. It knew it would become two bricks, and then three or four bricks of regret if I walked away. It took me a moment, but eventually I psyched myself up to go back and ask if I could take his picture.

He’s Polish. Says: “I don’t want to be famous”, but he proudly lifts his chin, when I lift my lens. We wait for a bus to pass. And then the sun hits his white hair and hi vis jacket just so. Through the lens; a perfect stranger. His cheeks are red from the cold. Mine are red from daring to take “one more for good luck”, walking away feeling like I captured a moment of pure joy. And possibly the best portrait I’ve taken in years.

Later, a few blocks away, I look down and notice the multi-exposure lock of my camera had been on the whole time. I didn’t capture this perfect moment perfectly after all.

Still, the memory of this brief, but joyous interaction lasts.

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