The other night at dinner J. and I told our friends about the scantily clad man we had seen on Lincoln Road. "Hermes," I had said to J. and then ran to catch up with the man in the red bathing suit. I had wanted to to get a closer look at his helmet and shoes, which reminded me of the wing-bearing hat and sandals in which Hermes is always depicted. I had wanted to see him from the front. The Hermes on Lincoln Road goes to the gym and rides a bike. He had had to dismount because of the shopping and strolling crowd.
We poured more wine and went on talking about the man with the bike. 'You know about those birds who always follow an old flight path even though almost every thing below has changed, even though planes, towers block the way?' I asked. Our friends nodded yes. Lincoln Road used to be quiet. There had been few restaurants, almost no brand-name shops, no crowds. It was common to see a person undressed for the beach, whizzing by on a skate board or bike. 'The man in the helmet was like those birds,' I said. He had blundered into a crowd. The beach is just a few blocks away. Before Lincoln Road had become a shop-and-eat mall, where people wore street clothes, there hadn't been such a sharp distinction between beach and street. It was lovely then when in the long afternoon Lincoln Road was almost deserted.
'He's an exhibitionist,' J. said. He went there to be seen.
'His face was tense,' I said, and thought, Exhibitionists should at least smile as they preen. A close-mouthed smile would do. In the photo at the bottom he looks imperious, but mostly he looked tense, ill at ease, and angry.
I could have tried to speak to him. Photographer friends I admire speak to their subjects and quote them. They have a moral and ethical position: they share power, so to speak, and allow another's point of view. Timidity may have stopped me. Timidity and his speed. I'm a poet who's on Whitman's side when he writes: "I am afoot with my vision." I like to imagine, envision, eavesdrop, spy. Usually I empathize. About the man in red--brief red--already other interpretations occur to me. Isn't that what we do: interpret?
(From Wiki: Ancient Anglo-Saxon law punished eavesdroppers, who skulked in the eavesdrop of another's home, with a fine; the eavesdropper was also sometimes called the eavesdrop. Eavesdrop also means a small low visibility hole near the entrance to a building (generally under the eaves) which would allow the occupants to listen in on the conversation of people awaiting admission to the house. Typically this would allow the occupant to be prepared for unfriendly visitors.)