But officer, I was just…
I was stopped by the police last night while out taking photos.
In the evenings, when the light is good, and some evenings (like last night), even when it isn’t, I go down to the waterfront to take pictures of the herons and water birds that fish by the docks. My dog likes it because of the smells. Fetid lobster juice and fish bits left behind, hauled up at the commercial pier by lobstermen mere hours earlier. Quiet clanging of sail lines against masts, seagulls bickering over mussels, great white herons chattering and defending prime fishing spots. It’s all the music of the waning daylight; as I walk, I reduce snapshots of time to pixels.
But, I digress.
Under the bridge, there’s a boardwalk with some chairs and benches, presumably for the fishermen at lunchtime. I’ve never seen anyone here save a random homeless person. It’s an out-of-the-way place, if you can block out the clatter from the trains across the way, or the smell of fish remnants wafting over from the pier, or the sight of piles of old nets and lobster pots and plastic trash clogging part of the waterway beside the dock. I’d sleep here if need be. I come here, after all, to hide from the day.
I still digress.
Beside the boardwalk, there’s a strip of flowers that separates the road from the local fish shop. It’s here I was stooped over the bright pink flowers; a stark thing of wonder against the commercial and fishy presence that surrounds. Metaphor, maybe, for the tug-of-war in my head these days: stay or flee? Find light amidst the putrid smog threatening to overtake our once peaceful reality. Drain the swamp…what swamp does one come from if this is what’s left after draining? I wake up most mornings saying, what the fuck? What in the actual fuck???
The sign on the shop reads, “live lobsters/dead fish”
I lean over to get in closer to the bright blooms and can barely hear the car pull up; a slight change in the din makes me stop, get up, and turn around; dog, oblivious.
“You’re taking pictures of the flowers,” the officer says, more to himself than to me, and quickly changes subject to my obviously aging dog. He seems almost embarrassed now to have stopped me: a perfectly unassuming (and, now that I’ve turned to him, obviously white) girl, walking her dog and taking photos. The brownish legs, big-ish jacket, stooped posture, sketchy location, lumpy dog… all indicators of what? An opioid epidemic among the young in our little suburban cities? A housing market that excludes anyone making minimum wage? A growing national bias against the colour of my skin when I’m out in the sun for an extended period of time?
The officer stumbles around a conversation on pain management for elder dogs and then I’m dismissed. He drives down to the boardwalk…I almost expect a reprimand or a warning: be careful down here; if you see something, say something; beware of…(what???)
And I walk on, wondering how that scene might have been different if I hadn’t just been taking pictures: if I’d been a little browner, a little scrappier, a little worse-dressed, maybe inebriated, or a brown male; what if I hadn’t had a camera around my neck and instead reached into my pocket for a tissue…
I walk on and think, I need to live in a place where the news doesn’t give me bad dreams. Where the divide between the haves and have-nots isn’t a boiling, pus-filled, Grand Canyon-sized cauldron of hate. Where labels don’t brand everything and everyone with a perceived value or implied worth to an egomaniacal cause. Where our leadership actually leads. Where freedom, not hypocrisy, rings. Where my country of origin doesn’t embarrass me when I travel. Where where I’m from just doesn’t factor.
I walk and think, the yoga isn’t working so well right now…I need a stronger drug.
Also, me: it wasn’t even a good photo.