The King

arts

Juan Cotto and I had never met. I don’t know where he lives. I don’t know what he does for a living. I don’t know the first thing about him other than I really liked the way he looked when he smoked. Something clicked when I saw him. A beckoning whiff of a cherry-laced aroma drew me to the man wearing the spotless red sneaks below the knee shorts, and a black hoodie. His razor-edged beard and a pair of aviators top off the look. He’s channeled CeeLo Green and looked just as smooth.

Wedged between his fingers was the second half of a well-smoked cigar. Settled back against the black of a wrought-iron fence that bordered a small parking lot and situated just within the shady reach of a small sidewalk-bound tree, he’s comfortable and cool. I watched him pull on a cigar and exhale a thin, blue line. Something in my brain kicked in. I see it and I want it. I am single-minded and selfish like a toddler taking a first trip to a toy store. The whole world is my mind’s photo collection and can’t go on until I get what I want. My camera is a new toy, a pill for what ails me. I see the picture I want and all its possibility: color, black and white, long lens, short lens, motion blurred, and panned versions of the photo appear in my head before I’ve even pressed the shutter button. Blinders on and full speed ahead. I walk up and stop in front of Juan and ask if I can take a photo of his next puff. He nodded, the king of the corner, approving a royal request, and took another long draw on his cigar. As I walked away, he called behind me. “That’s for the Web or something?”

Yeah, sure. Something, I think. …

copyright 2014  Kris Craig/ The Providence Journal

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