Focus (October 2019, Week 3, Day 5)

“Kelly, look at that!”

“In a minute.”

Janell crossed her arms. “In a minute there won’t be anything to look at.” She held her tongue as Kelly made a big to do out of closing his laptop and putting on his glasses, taking his time as he did so.

“What exactly am I looking at?”

“That guy, across the street.”


“Seriously? How many rollerblading photographers have YOU seen lately?”

“One, he’s not taking a picture of you, me, or anything I care about. Two, we’re near campus – the are freaks everywhere. Three, it’s not like he’s famous.”

Janell threw her arms up and turned around in her seat. With her back to Kelly and her eyes on the rollerblading photographer, she said, “so sorry to have disrupted your important work. Carry on.”

Janell wasn’t sure if Kelly’s “thank you” meant he didn’t get the meaning behind her tone or that he didn’t care. In that moment, the mystery man had her attention. 

He was in the street, on rollerblades, holding a fancy 35mm camera. She couldn’t tell how old he was from where she was sitting, but she imagined he had to be young. Kelly was probably right about him being connected to the nearby university. Aside from the rollerblades and the camera, he was pretty normal looking. Dark jeans that fit, a leather jacket, a messenger bag – all generic and in shades of gray. He wasn’t moving even though he was on wheels. She couldn’t see much of his face because it was obscured by the large camera. 

His subject appeared to be a nondescript apartment building across from him, and he didn’t seem to care about anything else. People walked past him with expressions ranging from curiosity to annoyance and he didn’t shift or twitch. Cars rolled past him with drivers craning their necks to see what he was up to and he didn’t lower his camera. He would, from time to time, pull his face back from the lens to consider the building. He’d tilt his head, adjust the lens, adjust the angle, and reposition it for more pictures. That kind of focus was what Janell craved. She let out a sigh. It was what had attracted her to Kelly.

“Do you want a pair of rollerblades?”

Janell turned back around to find Kelly staring at her with his head tilted to the side. “What now?”

“Is that why that guy is so compelling? Because you want a pair of rollerblades?”

“He is compelling because he’s unusual.”

“Is he, though?”

“Kelly, I’ll ask again – how many rollerblading photographers have you seen lately?”

Time stretched as Kelly pondered this question. Janell softened. “Look, it was a rhetorical question. Are you done? Can we go?”

Janell could see that Kelly was still thinking back through all the rollerbladers he’d seen, and all the photographers, in an attempt to answer her question as he packed up his laptop and notebooks. He really was sweet under his obtuseness, and it’s not like she was going to interrupt the photographer. 

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