by Richard R. Barron
Also see: The Rain Comes Down
Long underwear, hiking boots, a wool sweater, a big coat, a yellow rain jacket, and a black ball cap gave me the look of an all weather photographer. I toted a duck-taped, garbage-bag-wrapped 600mm lens as well.
Feeling like the emblem of a working professional photographer, I stepped onto the rapidly icing football field and glanced around. The rain was still coming down and freezing as it hit the artificial turf.
I scanned the field for something to watch, something to keep my mind off the numbing cold all around. A cheerleader or a mascot would do. I didn’t want to feel like I was alone on this frigid night.
Looking toward the west end zone, I saw her. Dressed in black, with no gloves, she looked cold.
I halfway turned to another photographer and muttered, “I’m going to go see a girl.”
He didn’t hear, and I didn’t care.
I hoisted the enormous lens to my shoulder and made my way across the end zone in the ever-deepening slush.
She faced away from me now. I wondered if it really was her. If it was her, would she be glad to see me? Please, I thought, let her be glad to see me.
I tapped her shoulder with my gloved left hand, and she spun around to see me, a genuine look of surprise on her otherwise beautiful face. Obviously she didn’t recognize me dressed as a waterproof lemon, so I smiled and said, “Hi! How are you?”
“Hi. It’s you!” She glanced at my face, at my bushy red beard. Oh, yea. She’s never seen my beard before. “You’ve changed!” she chimed.
I didn’t say anything really, at least not that I remember. I do remember her face. It was soft and round, smiling sweetly, bracketed by her softly waving auburn curls. Looking at her, I wanted to be alone with her, to hold her hand and have her laugh at my jokes and listen to my stories.
But we were two perfect strangers in the freezing rain in a crowd in the end zone of a football field. And I was the only one who wanted the quiet and the warmth.
“I didn’t answer your letter,” she said, obviously trying to make me believe that she felt guilty about it. She didn’t, I knew. She and I had been through years of my letters and her absent responses. But in the latest round, in my usual overly dramatic style, I had finally confessed my love for her.
I narrowed my eyes and leaned back a little. “Answer it,” I said flatly.
When other close friends see each other, they hug and smile and laugh and say things like “I missed you so much.”
But I missed her more than she could understand, and she missed me less than I wanted to know.
Her eyes were so bright and beautiful.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m sitting with the band,” she told me. When she went to this college, she was in the band.
“Are you busy at halftime?” I asked.
“I’m going to watch the band play. I’m going to try to take pictures. I have a camera.” She laughed, holding up her Instamatic, obviously embarrassed that her camera was so tiny compared to the huge 600mm on my shoulder.
“Okay,” I said, trying unsuccessfully to hide the disappointment in my voice, “maybe I’ll see you around.”
I turned around and started to walk back to the sideline through the ice that coated the ground, my camera, my clothes, my soul.
Already I missed her. I wanted to turn around and go to her, be with her, see her for just another minute or two. But I didn’t. I just walked away.