paco, “i drink coffee, ya know”
my interaction with paco will haunt me for the rest of my life. not because it was scary or disturbing. but it was devastatingly sad and eye-opening.
as i’ve said before, i like to engage my subjects as much as possible before taking their portrait. for me, it’s like doing research before writing a thesis paper. getting to know them, even over the duration of a few sentences, helps me reveal their story and, hopefully, their character.
getting off of an f train in brooklyn i was swept toward the exit by the crowd. but there one man walking in the other direction. slowly shuffling by, dodging people as they rushed passed him. i always kick myself when i don’t at least try to engage people like paco. so i caught up to him on the empty platform. it wasn’t hard to do, he was walking so slowly. walking like he had absolutely nowhere to be.
“how ya doing tonight, sir?”
he looked at me with doe eyes and feigned a smile. “fine.”
“are you waiting for a train? you just missed the f.”
“no, i’m not going anywhere.”
he leaned against a pillar and let out a long deep sigh. i took my opportunity to grab my shot.
he heard my shutter click and looked up at me. “i drink coffee, ya know.” i gave him a couple dollars. as he took the bills in his hand i turned mine over, gesturing to shake his hand.
“nice talking to you, sir. i didn’t catch your name, tho.”
he took my hand and said, “paco. can’t remember the last time i shook hands with someone.”
“o……well take care, paco. be safe.”
i came back to the subway station a couple hours later and saw paco sleeping alone at the far end of the platform. very alone. i caught the next train back to manhattan. i stared at this picture the whole way.