… and then there was a photo not taken.
I’d walked a long ways, from downtown Boston, across the Charles River and into Central Square. It had seemed a good idea in the beginning. Walk. Take pictures. But by the time I hobbled into Central Square and parked myself on a bench, I was done. I took one last look over my shoulder into the bushes behind me. A sea of pink blooms and a single stalk of white. This is it, I decided, and then tucked my camera away.
After determining that despite aches and pains I could complete my journey home by foot, I rose and began to meander down Mass Ave. Ahead of me was a man clearly seeing impaired based on the white cane he swept before him. I was planning how to slip past him at the next street light when, all of a sudden, his cane knocked over a homeless man’s Dunkin Donuts cup full of change.
Now, this homeless fellow has been a regular in Central Square, an elderly gentleman curled up in a wheelchair. As far as I knew, he’d never wheeled himself about by hand. I’d only ever seen him move himself by one foot, very, very slowly. I suspected he had a compatriot who occasionally whisked him from one side of the Square to the other, else it would take him all day to move one block.
In any case, the homeless man was twisting in his chair trying to reach for the overturned cup and speaking unintelligibly all the while. The blind man was reaching out but not having much success. I was close enough to gently take the blind man’s hand and say, “It’s okay, sir, I’ll help him.” He nodded and moved on, cane once more sweeping out. Then I knelt and scooped up the coins. As I wrapped the homeless man’s hands around the clear cup, I better understood why he did not wheel himself. His hands were gnarled, the fingers twisted. I felt like I was holding carved oak.
“Here you go,” I said.
He garbled, “Do you have any change?”
That was when I looked into his face in a way I’d not done in all the times I’d seen him before.
Like his hands, his face was like oak. Dark golden brown and deeply lined. While I thought him elderly from afar, up close I could see that most likely he was not. It was the elements, and other life events, that had chiseled his face, browned his skin and grizzled his unkempt hair and beard. His eyes were blue and shone with such intensity that if we had not been in shade I would have thought they were lit by the sun. An unforgettable sight.
That was the photo not taken.
“No, sir,” I said. “I do not have any change.”
I patted his hands and made my way home.