Tuesday morning dawned slightly misty, just perfect for a picture that I’d been intending to take in the park. Photography is after all patience and persistence paired with observation and opportunity. There was this lovely little gazebo off in a hidden corner, which would look perfect in an early morning eastern light, especially when wreathed in mist. I threw on some clothes, grabbed my film camera, which was loaded with black-and-white, and my DSLR camera and literally ran across the street so I wouldn’t miss the moment. I got to the gazebo and lined up the shot, but was only able to take a frame or two of black-and-white, before I heard a sob and a sniffle. I pulled down my glasses and looked to my right. Seated in the grass was a young woman in conservative jogging clothes: a loose t-shirt and longer shorts over spandex leggings. Her hair was pulled back into a business-like bun, her forehead resting on her arms. Perhaps she was just tired, I thought, pulled out my DSLR and pushed my glasses up on my forehead. But she sobbed again and I looked over, this time without my glasses and saw the flickering glow of a weak or wounded Christian. I dropped my camera and walked over to the jogger.
“Hey, are you all right?” I asked and she looked up at me. Jasmine!
“Hey, Sam,” she said, her bruised face tear-streaked. I couldn’t bear to look at her like this and pulled my glasses down onto my nose. The bruises were gone, but the tears were still there.
“I’m just working through something,” she said.
“Must be a pretty hard something.” It just popped out of my mouth and in that instant I had a sense that this was one of those divine moments. I squatted down next to her.
“Would you like to talk about it?” I asked.
“No … maybe.” She sighed heavily. “It’s not really … I mean, you’re a guy, and …” She looked away, flustered. I looked for words to say, but couldn’t find them and so sent a silent prayer heavenward. Jasmine looked back again.
“I just needed to get out some,” she said then. “It’s been a rough time since we ran into each other. He’s just so … so … I don’t know.” She rested her chin on her arms and looked off towards the gazebo.
“It really looks nice, doesn’t it,” I found myself saying, noticing the angle from here with the light and the mist was even better than standing. “Look at how the light comes through the mist. It only lasts a few minutes, but it’s glorious, kind of like God wants us to see how He sees His children.” I glanced at Jasmine and saw a smile tugging at the corner of her lips.
“Yes, it is beautiful,” she sighed. “But does God really see me that way? I’ve screwed up so much in these last weeks.” I glanced back at her, suddenly wondering if her wounds were at least somewhat self-inflicted. I thought for a long moment, perhaps she needs a distraction, something else to focus on.
“God thinks we’re beautiful, Jasmine. He’s made us beautiful after all. Then He makes us more beautiful when we come to Him and walk with Him. That’s what I’ve been learning from Mrs. Chung and Dr. Sage these days.” She smiled a little and I wondered what she was thinking.
“Thanks, Sam,” she said then. “I needed that.” She sighed. “I don’t feel very beautiful right now.”
“The clothes?” I asked, coming to a realization.
“Yeah, and the makeup and the hair. It’s not me. It’s what he wants me to be.” She looked at me. “Is it right to change who you are so you impress someone you like?” I didn’t have an answer for that.
“What do you want to be like?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “I can’t figure it out. Sure, I finished college, I have a degree. My parents want me to marry and have kids, like my big sister, but I want to see things, do things, but what … I don’t know.” In that instant an idea popped into my head.
“Are you working right now?” I asked.
“No.” She looked at me, curious. “Why do you ask?”
“Well, I’ve got a big job coming up, shooting a wedding. It’s a really big one and I’m going to need an assistant, who can help me place people and arrange dress hems, maybe hold my extra flash or help set up equipment. Since you aren’t doing anything, would you be interested? I’d pay.”
“You’re offering me a job?” she asked, somewhat incredulously.
“Well, it’s a once-off thing,” I said. “I don’t do big stuff like this really often.” She smiled. “And you can wear what you want, as long as it’s both formal and functional.” That elicited a chuckle.
“Formal and functional? For a girl?” She laughed again. “You don’t really know women, do you, Sam?” I shrugged.
“I’m an only child, Jasmine,” I countered. She sighed and gave me a lop-sided smile.
“Okay, Sam, I’ll be glad to, even if it’s just this once.” She looked away. “It’ll be nice to do something with someone different for a change.”
“Great, we’ll be doing it on Saturday. It’ll be an all-day event. Do you want me to pick you up or will you drive?”
“I’ll meet you here at the park,” she said resolutely. “We don’t have an extra car and I don’t think Baba would approve of you picking me up from our house. He’s particular about that.” I frowned. That was not quite right, was it? I didn’t want to go behind Mr. Malik’s back. I wanted to ask what she was going to tell her parents, but refrained. That was her business. I knew that offering her the job was the right thing to do, but shouldn’t we be above board on what we’re doing?
“I’ll tell them about the job, though,” she told me then, allaying my fears. “Despite his wanting to protect me, Baba has always wanted me to get some job experience. And a wedding should be all right with them.” She wasn’t looking at me as she said it, making me think she was speaking out loud. “Well, maybe it is better if you pick me up from there,” she continued. “If Baba sees it’s you he should be fine with it.” She glanced at me.
“Baba?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s my dad. He said Uncle Will is really impressed with you and thought you were very polite when you talked with him the other Sunday. He doesn’t approve of young men very easily.” She smiled again, shining a bit more.
“Good,” I said to her. “Are you feeling a little better?” She straightened up and her smile was genuine this time.
“Yes, I am. Thank you, Sam. You came along at just the right time.” Those words warmed me like I never thought they would. I straightened from my crouch and thought to help her up, but she was on her feet before I could offer.
“I’ll see you Saturday, then,” she said and jogged off. I watched her go, vanishing down the path. I turned back to the gazebo, but the mist had melted and the sun was now framing the peak of the structure. The moment had passed, replaced by a more momentous one. There would be other mornings when I could capture that image, but another morning like this one would never come.