He is sitting on the rim of a wood planter box that houses a smallish palm tree providing no shade on this warm day, and looking away from where I am standing. My camera is a second away from capturing this perfect shot. An image photograph for a potential sketch. One final look through the viewfinder and…he’s now turned in my direction looking directly at me. Two pairs of eyes locked on each other.

Lowering my camera I think about the apology and explanation this stranger deserves but all that comes out is-

Hello! May I take your photograph? I’m on holiday and promise not to…

It’s obvious he’s not hearing my drivel. I move towards him to close the gulf that separates us and begin again-

Hello, I’m taking photographs of interesting subjects for potential watercolour paintings. Now it is necessary to give the “no I won’t put you on Facebook or Instagram” declaration to assure him, this perfect stranger, that I mean no harm, or wish to invade his privacy. But again, I ask-May I take your photograph?…and wait.

He stands and without hesitation proffers his hand. I offer mine. We are now hand-clasped together in mutual greeting.

Hello. My name is Robeti.

My name is Raye.

You are an artist? A watercolour artist?

[I pause before answering Robeti’s question. Can he feel the doubt, uncertainty and fear I’ve been experiencing? That these past few months…no years…have been colourless? That even the value of right and wrong has become blurred? Disconcerting events have choked my senses, affected and infected the impetus to create and contribute? Is it that obvious? Then there’s this, Robeti, perfect stranger, continues to clasp my hand while he waits for my answer-]

Finally I do. I answer. Yes, well, yes. I’m an artist. A watercolour artist.

You must continue doing what you are doing.

Excuse me?

Your art. You must continue doing your art. Never give that up. Don’t quit. No matter what. We need colour. We all need colour…this nation, this world needs the colour of Art.

[My eyes begin to water, but Robeti is not done. His feet are now planted askew, a John Wayne side-by-side stance, and begins again-]

There is something you don’t know about me. I’m 10% Irish.

I would not have guessed that.

I’m also 90% African-American, told me.

I would not have guessed that, either.

[Robeti is grinning. I am, too.]

May I take your photograph?

[No longer strangers, Robeti allowed as such. Graciously.

Under my direction he even casually “posed” for several camera shots-]