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the empty

The fat girl as they call her, came to school with a hypodermic needle in her backpack. It may have been to defend herself, it may have been to instigate something. She comes from a broken home and this is her second or third school. E steers clear of her, and the bullies she tangles with. It was never understood  - how things began, who threw the first insult, the first punch, the first grabbed book but the end is a chronic cycle of violence. At one point, the girl's mother got the police involved and this was seen as offensive, a step too far. The police did not resolve anything so it was all just a lot of saber rattling. That is the most common sound here. The empty threat.

Last week, there was a sobrani, sort of a cross between a parent-teacher conference and a school meeting. I was busy, so E went by herself and took notes. Five minutes in she messaged me, that I was wise not to be there. Nothing about this girl was going to be resolved.
"Boys will be boys" was all …

I am a fisherman


He has pale blue eyes. Our feet are almost touching on the wet floor of the little bus that lurches alongside the river. I sit facing him, looking out the back window so crusted with mud you cannot see through it. He tilts his head back, slugs from the tall can, and lets is dangle form his hands. It is dead cold out. I can smell the cheap beer on him, or maybe it is from other cans rolling around empty below the seats. He stares hard, at nothing.

The Leica is tucked inside my jacket. I don't see a way to take a picture. I am too close, the ride is too long. His face is such a perfect map of exhaustion and frustration, the beer somehow bottomless as he slurps from it. No, this is not a picture to take. It is one to let pass by. 

My father is a fisherman, as his father was. He can spend a day in a tiny boat with nothing but the wind and water around him. He catches plenty, but coming back empty-handed is nothing to be sad about. It is the process that matters, the getting ready, the going, the being there, the eventual return. It is a neat circle, perfect actually. I tried to fish with him as a boy, bored and complaining an hour into any session. Cold, hot, needing to pee, hungry, I made him nuts. I accepted the fact that I was not a fisherman, that baiting a hook showed no glory for me. 

Now, I think of that young man as one I threw back into the water. It was not a lost shot, but one I traded for a better one. 




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