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you are not there

We are taking the little one for a ride on her new sled. It is bright orange, with a fuzzy black and white seat cover to keep her extra warm. Her tiny hands in tiny gloves hold the sides as tight as she can. I pull her down a path, shouting "woohooo" and then she replies "woohoo". N's turn is next, pulling her more schoolgirl than mother for a few minutes. There are other parents with children on sleds passing us. Their eyes straight forward, faces completely blank they slip by in silence. I flash a smile to them, and they do not even look at me. I am not there, just another tree leaning towards the stream that runs below.

There are ducks still, flapping around the brackish water and we throw pieces of stale bread to them. I start to think, not about the complete absence of smiles in this culture. I stopped asking about that long ago, told over and again that smiles are reserved for home, behind closed doors. But I wonder, for the children -  these wiggling bu…

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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