“There’s nothing quite as depressing as the sunset”, she said to me. It’s not the first thing she had said to me but up until that moment I wasn’t paying attention. I find it so terribly hard to pay attention when I have music playing in my head. And it plays all the time these days.
“Why?”, I asked dismissively.
“Because it connotes the end”, she said as she looked into my face.
I could feel the sun setting behind me. There was a warmth on my neck that I wished would spread through my body like a cancer because I was so cold that day. I was so cold.
“You have a big-ass camera”, she said.
I’d forgotten the camera that hung around my neck because sometimes the music makes me forget.
“I know”, I muttered as the weight of the camera came crashing down upon my psyche like a wave upon a rock.
“Do you want to take a picture of me?”, she asked.
“Sure”, I said. I did not take a picture.
She adjusted herself.
The music in my head went away. It was replaced by an urgency. I had nowhere to be, but as far as conversations with strangers go, this one had gone on long enough. I stood in silence for a while. I looked into her eyes as they glistened in the sun. The sun that was quickly setting behind me as I stood there absently. Maybe I wanted to be back home before I was plunged into the icy-cold of the San Franciscan night, I don’t know. The silence wasn’t awkward. I was pretending to be interested in the dials of my camera between my stolen glances of her person. Her skin wasn’t wrinkled; but she was clearly past her prime. The sunset of her life, I thought to myself. Her clothes were loose and merely functional. Like mine. Her hair was wind-swept and in a bundled mess. Like mine. I thought of going back home.
“There’s nothing quite as depressing as a low-ceiling”, I said to her.
“Is that why you’re out on the street?”, she asked me.
Yes, I told myself. That is why I’m out on the street. So I don’t have to be in the depressing little hole that is my room.
“No”, I told her. “I’m out taking pictures. I’m a photographer”.
“Do you want to take a picture of me?”, she asked.
“Do you want me to take your picture?”, I asked.
“I just want someone to talk to”, she said. “I haven’t spoken to anyone in days”.
“It’s like riding a bicycle”, I said. “You don’t lose touch”.
The irony was lost on me at the time.
She laughed. “I thought about killing myself yesterday”, she said laughing.
The music started playing in my head again. I held the camera to my face to disengage her arresting glance. It’s a habit I picked up as a child. Hiding behind cameras. Such a safe place.
“But one does not simply kill themselves when they’re in trouble”, she said.
I took her picture.
“No. One does not.” I said from behind the camera.
“Have you ever wanted to kill yourself?”, she asked looking straight into my camera. I was caught off-guard by the piercing inquiry of her eyes. I felt it surge way past my psyche until it found rest in the pit of my stomach.
“I have a terribly low tolerance for pain”, I said. “I can’t even imagine having my ears pierced or my skin tattooed. I certainly don’t have what it takes to force the life out of me… although every day a part of me dies with the tragedy of today’s music.”
She laughed. “I constantly hear good music in the subway”, she said.
She was right. There’s good music out there. There’s always good music out there.
“Where do you live?”, she asked.
I pointed to the tree down the road, by the bottom of the hill. “Right next to that tree… that’s me”, I said.
“What’s your name?”, she asked.
I told her my name and wished her well. She promised to call my name the next time she happened by that tree. Some nights I wake up from the sound of my name being whispered to me while I sleep.

The sun had set.