Behind The Tape
Wednesday, July 10 2019
She stares at me with vacant eyes. I ignore her and continue to work. Letting the camera guide me, I shoot my way into the scene. The sycamore leaves above us rattle in the wind. It's cold and I don't want to be here. Another victim of the drug war, she lies curled on the pavement with a backpack by her side.
In our business, we must distance ourselves from the dead; it's the only way to survive. And as cruel as it sounds, while the camera snaps, she is a piece of furniture, another dead prostitute. I ignore her vacant eyes as she watches me.
Her dirty fingers still clutch the strap of a stained and dusty backpack. I gently tug it free. The zipper snags as I pull it open. Even as I rifle through the contents, my mind is elsewhere. I've done all this before. With just a touch, I can identify each item even before I pull it out. People who live on the streets carry the same things -- a toothbrush, a disposable razor, a dirty hairbrush, a tiny bar of soap wrapped in toilet paper.
None of this interests me. And then I feel it.
Inside a plastic shopping bag, inside a plastic bread bag, covered with a blue bandana, is something that makes me pause. It has a bit of heft to it. Carefully, I peel away the wrappings to reveal this Thing that was so precious to her, this Thing that she went to such trouble to protect -- and it humbles me.
As the cloth falls to the pavement, she becomes a person. No longer a piece of furniture, she is a young woman, a victim of society, a victim of circumstance. I stand over her and for a moment, I stare into her empty eyes. Who was she? What were her hopes? Her dreams?
The wind whistles through the sycamore leaves as I carefully place a battered copy of Webster's Dictionary into the evidence bag.