"I wonder who he is," I said to myself as I walked along the flood canals. A worker with a bright-orange vest stood atop the large apparatus that keeps the bay out of our neighborhood. Brief encounters mystify me. So many people come and go throughout a brief life. We never get to know ourselves let alone the myriad passers-by that cross our path. "I wonder who he is," I said again. This time I reminded myself not to talk aloud in public, a bad habit that has gotten worse as of late.
The worker looked down at the giant contraption. He looked right, then left. I stared at his reflection in the water, fascinated by this moment in time. I lifted my camera and started photographing the scene. The worker, too focused on his task to notice me, turned a big valve clockwise. He stared downward, his hunched back facing away from me. I continued to photograph his reflection, wondering if and when he'd notice me.
He never did. He continued to turn the valve, adjusting the water flow to this or that. After a few more minutes I went onward. I looked back and he was still fussing. I went on my way figuring I'd never see the worker again. Our lives barely connected. I saw him, he never saw me. Our eyes never met, I'd never know anything about him. But, I'll always see the image of him—intent in his work—in my image library. An enigma frozen in time. And I'll always wonder who he is.