Slice of Self
I Took Your Picture Without Asking and Then You Ran Away
We were both climbing the Tower of the Palazzo Vecchio at roughly the same time. There was no one else, other than two carabinieri at the entrance.
You were first in line, buying the ticket while asking through the glass panel if they allowed your camera bag upstairs.
“It’s okay, signore,” the lady confirmed.
I followed you to the entrance, waiting briefly to allow for the unfolding of a permissible distance. Not many chances to step into centuries of history alone. It seemed like a respectable thing to do.
You went on your way, and although I was following you unintended — there’s only one way up — I went on mine.
We were strangers.
Travelling atoms on a world stage, intersecting only by chance, perhaps out of a mutual desire to witness the sunset painting the Florentine buildings from one of the highest vantage points in town.
And take some pretty awesome pictures while at it.
The golden hour was creeping in the background, enveloping the nostalgia of a Renaissance era in a warm orange.
When I reached the top, you were already with your camera strapped across your chest, finding the spots where the rays touched the stone the softest.
I noticed another family in the opposite corner. Two kids running around the bell chamber, peeking through the tower frames.
Turns out, we weren’t alone.
You seemed around my age. Almost the same backpack and jeans. A buzzcut hidden underneath an off-centred hat.
After framing your shot, you bent your legs slightly and took a step to the left while jumping over a shadow. You seemed focused.
What you didn’t realize, perhaps, was that from where I was standing, you were perfectly centred in between one of the tower frames, your silhouette engulfed in the burning sky.
I positioned my camera in your direction and cemented that moment forever.
What a beautiful photo, I thought. I was proud of it.
With your silhouette still on my screen, I approached you.
“Hey, sorry to bother.” I paused. As an introvert, I was patting myself on the back. What a bold move to approach this total stranger; an inner pep talk was unfolding.
“I was standing there and I took a photo of your silhouette. It’s nice. I can Airdrop it for you if you’d like?”
“Sorry dude, not interested.”
I froze. And before I could say another word, you fled the scene.
My eyes searched for you, to apologize. I felt silly. I felt like a perpetrator.
I couldn’t process if I overstepped — I must have — why I overstepped.
I know we didn’t owe each other anything. Not even the acknowledgement of this interaction.
However, as the initiator, I wanted to make peace. I must owe you the apology.
But you were nowhere to be found.
Two strangers stood briefly at the top of a tower, on top of a medieval civilization. And now one ran away.
I deleted your photo. I felt uncomfortable with its presence there.
IMG_5396.jpg gone forever.
Beautiful, innocent, harmless. Now destroyed.
A chanced encounter. A chance at a friendship. A common ground. Two cameras. A step outside the comfort zone.
Two people on foreign territory, one seeking connection. A romantic ideal, yet not born out of romance.
Dude, if you ever read this, I am sorry.
I never thought vulnerability would ever lead to fear. I always thought it was the opposite of fear.
And I never intended to scare you.