“Even I need some time off every once in a while”

September 11, 2015

That’s what he said to me when I greeted him once I got out of the garage.

The building we live in has a very strict rule about bikes. There are several signs on the front door: “No bikes through the Lobby”. That leaves me with the garage as my only exit. Sometimes I go days without even taking a look at the Lobby, but always know what’s up for grabs near the garbage bins. Ever since I got my bike and started using that route, I saw this man outside, sitting on the ledge right beside the entry/exit ramp.

When I biked to VFS, I met him every single morning, around 8am. He always greeted me, either with a nod or a brief “good morning” with one of the deepest voices I’ve ever heard. He had this tiny shade of smile while establishing this contact. Then I stopped using my bike for a few months and just left home through the Lobby. I almost forgot about him. Finally, as abruptly as I stopped, I got back into cycling, but without the need of waking up early for classes or following any sort of schedule. Slowly I started to wake up earlier and get out earlier too. It didn’t take long so we met again.

One of these mornings, around Pride week, I was coming out and had the camera tied to my waist. He struck a conversation. Asked me if I was a photographer. I told him I was more of a cinematographer, with a degree in film, but was trying to get back to photography as it was something I enjoyed and had sort of abandoned after some time. I introduced myself and asked for his name. William. We shook hands. He connected with the “film degree” bit of my chat. Said he had an idea for a short documentary.

If I had a dollar for every time someone told me “hey, I have a great idea for a movie, why don’t you do it?”, man, I would be fucking rich. This time was a little different, don’t know exactly why. I decided to hear him out, skeptical, but trying to really listen instead of trying to end the conversation in a politely brief way – “I gotta go, dude, sorry! Maybe some other time”. He went on about how some years back there was this director who shot a bunch of stuff about the people like him, who lived of what they could find on the streets. Interviews, day-to day footage, followed some of them around, as her characters. He told me about all his friends who were a part of it, how things were different back then. Trailed off a little bit. “Every one of them is gone now… The city used to be kinder. They just, you know, didn’t make it”.

By this time the gears in my brain are saying “Fuck, how the hell am I supposed to reply to that?”. Lucky for me, he doesn’t ask me anything. He finishes with “I think you can have a really strong documentary with this, very strong characters in it”. I just look at him and nod. “Yeah…” is all I can manage. Guilt kicks in and that politely and coward feeling kicks in. “Listen, man, I gotta go, I’m running late, but I’ll think about it, ok?”.

During the Pride days I was out shooting some tests at Davie and met him as security for one of the clubs less than a block away from home. It was the first time I saw him some place else than in the back alley. We chatted. He asked me to take a picture of him there. No way in hell I’d refuse that. Picture taken, I show him on the camera. He says “here, get the name of the club in there too!”. I take another one, he likes this one better.

I never get back to him about that idea. After a few weeks I stop seeing him around every morning. A couple weeks go by. I’m bitten by that conversation every single day I go out and he’s not there. Then he’s back. I swear I never thought I’d smile just to see someone I barely know, if I know him at all. While I hop on the bike I blurt “Haven’t seen you in a while, Will!” in a playful tone. “Even I need some time off every once in a while”. I smile, I’m really glad he’s back and he’s fine. He smiles, “good morning”s are exchanged. “See you around, huh?” “Yeah”, he answers with his deep voice and a tiny smile.

Now and then that most meaningful conversation comes back into my mind. I want to do that film. I think he’s right, for all I know he’s my main character. And I’m fucking scared to hell to take on this ride, scared of how it could develop, scared to fall short and let him down. If it was something I don’t care about, sure, not a problem, but he’s right, this IS a strong story, one that deserves to be told. I keep telling myself I’m no director, that I’m no good scriptwriter, that this is too much for me.

I hope to find my courage anytime soon.