The pair turned towards me when they heard the snap of the camera, but I was already walking away. I slipped the camera and photograph casually into my bag and focused on blending into the crowd. Anyone who glanced my way would see nothing of interest; a dull coat, a blank expression, another man trying to catch his 5:30 train home. I let the rush of commuters propel me towards platform 5. I made my way through the crowd and onto the train. Walking quietly towards the back, I chose a relatively empty compartment and sat down across from a man wearing a black top hat with a small red flower sticking out of the right side. The window was open beside him, making the silk petals quiver slightly. He tipped his hat. I returned the gesture.

“Watch the game today?” he asked nonchalantly.

“Caught the tail end of it. Incredible comeback.”

The man nodded appreciatively. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. He took one out and offered me the pack. I took the pack and put it in my own coat pocket.


I casually dug through my bag until I found the polaroid, now developed and clearly depicting the couple I had photographed earlier in the station. They would be on this train too, closer to the front. I handed the photograph to the man, who studied it briefly. Nodding again, he carefully took his cigarette lighter and lit the corner, holding the burning photograph in between his body and the window so as not to draw attention from nearby passengers. In under a minute the picture was charred and unrecognizable.

The train started moving. The man made a fist, crumbling up what was left of the photograph. He casually stuck his hand out the window, opening his fist and letting the small pieces scatter and spread over the tracks. He cleaned his hand on the seat beside him, then leaned his head back against his seat, closing his eyes. We sat silently for a while, listening to the rumble of the train speeding along the tracks. After a while, the man sat up and reached again into his coat pocket, this time pulling out a pair of black leather gloves. Slipping them onto his hands, he stood up and started making his way to the front of the train. That was the first and last time I saw him.

Not many people could do what I do. It took a certain lack of moral code, something I’ve spent years developing.  I put my hand in my pocket and touched the corner of the cigarette pack. Inside would be 10 000 dollars. Enough to get by until the next time I took a photo.

Submitted: May 06, 2020

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