Such a nice day today. Crisp cold and I can almost see my breath. Sunny with sharp shadows, the kind you see in space photography. My outdoor shoot, distant across a green field, the blue sky almost as deep as black, a picnic with happy people. It’s coming together for me now, the sharp crack of the shutter, me guiding the camera, compensating for the black shadows, seeing a friend or three there, I wait and move to the left, and her face opens right up. I watch and wait and more smiles appear, clicking and playing with their reaction. Some smile and wave, some turn and frown. I’m a professional photographer and it’s hard to have a better job in the world.
Ten minutes before, I was shooting for National Geographic, and I had come to her county to shoot the bridges. We met, we wooed, deny it as we might, we loved and gained and lost a lifetime in brief visits. She knew her future wasn’t with me, though we both hoped to find a way through. But the night ended and days of noisy responsibility returned, followed by regret and yearning and something big missing.
And then she was there. I’m leaving her county for the last time, and she knows this. I see her sitting in the passenger seat of her husband’s truck, her hand almost turning the door handle enough to open it, looking ahead at me with desperate longing. I’m in front of her in my truck, waiting at the light, a silhouette in the bright rain, hanging her cross from my rear view mirror, waiting for as long as I can, my signal blinking. But she doesn’t move and I turn for the long drive onwards…
Reality hits. I’m not in Madison County. I’m in Chicago.
My signal is still blinking, so I turn West and drive directly into the sun, its light warming my cold wind-blown face with my new clothes and my sad-seeming music, destination unknown.