They are in Brooklyn, though they could be anywhere, sitting on a subway train, waiting in a doctor’s office. Waiting to be called, waiting to get somewhere, waiting for their stop. Passing the time in thought, or scrolling, or texting.
Of course I had my phone out too, taking pictures to draw later. These two sitting conveniently nearby caught my attention, yet I looked at them no differently than I would look at anyone while I was out and about, noticing my surroundings. I didn’t take any particular interest in them. I had my own thoughts and concerns. They were merely part of the scenery. It was only later when I was alone, sitting down to draw them that I really looked at them.
The man across from me was so interesting I didn’t even notice he wasn’t wearing a mask. His nose and mouth were uncovered, and the hoodie pressed close to the sides of his face signaled privacy. Yet his body language, those long legs spread so wide apart, seem to signal the opposite. Unless he was claiming his space, sitting there still as a statue, preoccupied with his thoughts. He never looked at his phone, never took a sip of his coffee. During those five stops I shared with him on the train, he never moved.
The woman in the doctor’s office was off to my side, preoccupied with her phone. Obviously wanting to be by herself, she had taken a seat at the end of the row by the wall, and placed her coat on the seat beside her. She was also claiming her space in this crowded city, in her own world like the man on the train, but she had a purposeful air. She had to wait, but the time was her own. Until I took out my colors, I didn’t notice her sweater was bright pink. She was just another woman in my vicinity, sitting conveniently still.
I will never know their names or their stories, and they will never know that I drew them, then sought to draw your attention to them. But it struck me again how drawing, which is really only taking the time to look, breaks down the barrier of separation. Taking the time to look, I saw their humanity. And the more I perceive the humanity of others, the more I feel my own.