Friday, April 1, 2011

Comfortable on stone

She was sitting in the back of a
café in Springfield Massachusetts writing. We sat at a table nearer the front. She never looked up from her notebook until, quite suddenly, she closed the book, got up from her chair and stepped towards the door. She passed our table looking neither to the left or right nor saying a word to anyone. I lost my nerve at the sight of this forbidding young woman dressed entirely in white. She disappeared out of the door. Well, I thought, that was that. A chance to photograph someone special gone. You idiot, why didn't you just get up and say something to her? Anything. But to sit there in silence, watching her go by...

Before we left the caf
é I asked at the counter if they knew who she was. "Oh, yes! She comes here all the time."

"May I leave her a note?"

"Certainly, I'll be sure she gets it."

A week later the telephone rang and several weeks after that Elizabeth turned up on the train for lunch, with her two-year-old son. This is one of the photographs I took. We soon discovered that she was far from forbidding; she just had had things on her mind. Caroline and Elizabeth became friends and, as she reminded me the other day, Elizabeth and her son came to my sixtieth birthday party and visited us on other occasions for summer weekend lunches.

Nearly twenty years later she still sends us a Christmas card every year from her home in Virginia, where she married and had a second child.

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