Alice is a black woman first. She wears her color with pride. In a room of a hundred people I have to tell myself not to stare. Who is she? I ask Jason.
That is Alice Barnes. She works for the board of education. You want a drink?
I thought we weren't staying long enough for that.
Oh just have a glass of wine.
Okay but you have to tell me who caught your eye. Five minutes ago we were leaving in two. Who is it?
The guy standing with Chip at the bar.
I scan the room, catch a glimpse of a thirty something in a suit, definitely Jason's type. Nice. You guys always get the good ones. It's just something I say. Though Jason has had some nice friends I have never found myself sexually attracted to any of them. Forget the wine. You have thirty minutes. You know it's Friday night. I hate these shoes and there's a House marathon calling me.
You're such a party animal, he smiles, checks his watch and walks away.
I turn my attention back to Alice. She has four children with her. They are all standing at attention and are the only kids in the room. Normally I hate these things and wonder how much money we could give to charity if we didn't spend it all on nice dress. Tonight though I can't help but think Alice for whatever reason could make this party interesting.
I want to photograph her. I imagine her home with a big porch and her sitting there with such dignity and posture which could only come after walking half your childhood with a book on your head. Maybe there'd be a rocking chair and by now she would have that book in her lap. Her children could be surrounding her however she would want them. They could stand or sit.
I tell myself to shut up. I'm already seeing too much. Ten minutes later I am shaking her hand, introducing myself as a photographer, tell her I'm working on a book and asking if she would be interested in being photographed.
I am grateful for whatever it is, I don't know what it is and I don't care, which tells me what's next.