Lunch time

She sat there on a chair from a nearby bar, two dogs quietly lying in the shade beside her. Patiently waiting. I have passed her by at first, hardly noticing. I took a photo of the dog instead. But then something kicked in. Something was not right.

It was nearly 40 degrees, why was an old lady like her sitting alone in the middle of a busy strand during lunch time. I took a step back and pointed the 50 mm lense at her. Check the frame, composition, light, click.

Nobody in the crowd paid attention, she was a ghost, almost invisible. Her dogs got more glances than her. I approached her and we had a brief conversation about one of the dogs. He fell from the stairs; he was in pain and barked loudly.

Then I looked at her hands. She was black and blue all over, both arms. In her soft voice she explained that she was out of hospital and it was due to blood tests. She was to go for more next day.  She was waiting for her daughter to get the medicines from the pharmacy.

She was thirsty, sitting there for nearly an hour. I went to the bar to get her water. When I emerged with the bottle, she first offered the water to the dogs, before taking a sip herself.

Our conversation continued. Her name was Margaret, she was the eldest of five, mother of two, she couldn’t remember her birth date, never went to school, and was illiterate. She lived with her daughter, and was cared for by younger siblings, she loved the dogs and  took them both on her daily walks around the village, to the church and back. She had a hard life, working and raising her daughters, putting spaghetti on the table everyday much to her daughters’ displeasure. She had a stomach cancer and was often at the hospital.

She posed for me and held her beloved dogs to the camera. She was quiet, spoke decibels above the whisper but was not intimidated by the stranger with a camera.

When finally her younger sister arrived, I learned she was 76. Margaret then said her goodbyes and walked away slowly following her sister who was obviously in a hurry.

Hardly anybody noticed us talking, but it was one of the most intimate encounters I ever had when photographing. I hope my photography did Margaret justice.



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