I saw Jake standing in front of the grocery store as I drove by. A large black plastic bag heavy over his shoulder, wild grayed hair and amazing clear blue eyes. It had seemed that the streets had claimed most of his body, but his soul burned radiantly in his chest. I instantly knew I had to find out more about this man. I hurried to park my car and ran back to the grocery store to find him. I quickly went up and down the aisles and then there he was, in the checkout line. He had two cans of tomato paste and three cans of corn, but he only had enough money for the two cans of tomato paste. He bought them and was on his way out of the store. The woman at the counter had put aside the three cans of corn. I barged into the checkout line. "I'm sorry," I said, "can I please buy those three cans of corn?" The people in line moved aside and I quickly bought the corn and ran after him. When I reached him I stopped running and said "Sir," and he turned around. "Here is your corn," I said. He looked at me puzzled and said "Thanks" and held out his hands. I felt embarrassed and awkward so I smiled and said goodbye. We turned and walked away from each other.
I slowly walked toward my car. I was irritated at myself because just the week before I had promised myself to seize the next opportunity when I saw something that I wanted to photograph for a painting and here I was walking away from him. I began to walk faster across the parking lot, cursing to myself as I went. I jumped into the car, a silver Fiat with the top off, and quickly drove out of the parking lot and up along an open field of dry grass. I spotted him underneath the freeway. The field was fenced so I parked the car at its edge and ran out into the brown grass after him. I got close and called out to him, "Excuse me sir, I…" and I had to catch my breath. "Hi," I said, feeling awkward again. I began to explain myself. "I wanted to ask you a question," I said. He looked back at me but said nothing. "I am a painter and I wanted to ask you if I could take a photograph of you so I could do a painting of you.” He made a small movement with his body and said, "I really need to get to Texas. I'm afraid I don't have the time." I stopped holding my breath and my shoulders fell downward. "Oh," I said. He made a kind gesture and motioned that he needed to get going. "Well, you sure have pretty eyes," I said. He smiled and said, "Thank you" and something like "you have pretty eyes too." We turned and walked away from each other in the open field. When I got back to the car I opened the door and sat down. I watching him walk to the other side of the field and up onto the dirt embankment to the freeway.
I sat there, unhappy that I had lost sight of him again. I started the car and started for the on ramp. I spotted him down along the freeway. I slowly passed him and pulled over on the shoulder. He walked up to the car and raised his eyebrows. I said "Listen, all I want to do is take you to lunch, take some pictures of you and pay you fifty bucks if you will just have lunch with me." He smiled and said, "Well, I'm not in that big of a hurry."
Watercolor 30" x 36" 1994