Queen of the Alley

Queen of the Alley (changed colour balance)

In the beginning, she was the centre of attention. Friends and family came every day to their house to see the newborn, inadvertently re-enacting the Christian Nativity. No, they weren’t kings or shepherds. But they did bring gifts. No, not gold, frankincense and myrrh. You just can’t get myrrh these days. God knows, they tried: Diamaru, Mitsukoshi, Sogo even Watsons, they searched everywhere; but everyone they asked met them with a blank stare and an emphatic shrug. So they brought tiny little shoes instead; and the cutest little padded jackets; and they patted and prodded the infant and made silly gurgling noises to it. And the baby quickly realised that all she had to do was wrap her tiny hand around one of their fat fingers and squeeze with all her strength to send them into paroxysms of delight.

And as she grew and learned to crawl, then walk and talk, her circle of acquaintances also grew, and within that was a circle of friends and within that, eventually, she found the man that she would marry and with whom she would start her own family. Life was a procession of joy and sadness, hope and despair; until one day, as she sat alone in her dark, deserted alley with only a cigarette for company, she realised that she was more alone now than she had ever been. Her parents had passed on long ago. Her own children had grown up and moved away to follow their own destinies. And her husband had finally succumbed to a terminal illness that took him from her. And she recognised that her world had shrunk, without her realising it, to this cold, dismal, featureless place.

Just then, a man with a camera appeared at the end of the alley, stopped and turned to face her. As he raised his camera to shoot, her first reaction was to wave him away angrily. This was not how she wanted to be portrayed. This was not how she wanted to be remembered. But before she could react, another voice spoke up in her head saying, “Yes. Please take my picture. Please tell my story. Not just for me; but also for all the other lonely, forgotten people in their dark, deserted alleys and their tiny apartments where the accumulation of yesterdays leaves no room for tomorrow.” And as she sat there on the step, cigarette in hand, her mind vacillating between conflicting reactions, the cameraman pressed the shutter, turned, and walked away.

Queen of the Alley (greyscale)

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