Turning a corner is an adventure.
On a downtown street he was tucked into a doorway niche that I walked by many times.
"Is that a Leica camera" he asked.
"Yes, it's a Leica."
"Are you from Germany" he wanted to know with the clear knowledge that a Leica is a German camera.
"No, I'm not from Germany." And that was our beginning.
He told me his name was Ben. ”I'm Philip." We shook hands. His hands were as strong as his eyes.
He knew a great deal about cameras and photography, that was evident. Not the bragging kind of intellect that people use to fill dead space. No, his wisdom was honest and sincere.
Ben told me he hoped to save enough money for a camera so he could start taking pictures again. Long ago he had been a photographer, he told me. I believed him. I wanted him to have a camera again.
"Can I photograph you?" Something inside told me he was waiting for me to ask. Without objection, he allowed me to work around him as we continued to talk. That's when I noticed the knife and sheath around his neck. I wanted to ask him about the knife, but for some reason I didn't. Perhaps I wanted to imagine my own story about Ben?
And I did.
Ben was a warrior. He traveled to protect others who were not as strong as he. No one ever needed to call out for him. Ben simply knew when he was needed. That was his purpose. He wasn't a Robin Hood. Ben was selfless; a true Good Samaritan. When necessary, he threatened with - but never struck with - his knife. He didn't need to. Ben's fierce eyes were enough to abate danger. The knife? It was given to him long ago (who knows how long) by his Master. Or by his father? Or both.
The wind whispered. Ben grew quiet and looked to the street. I knew that was my signal to leave.
I still look for Ben around corners.