He had a tripod. I had an elbow. We both showed up to catch the sunset at Long Beach. The clouds weren’t doing much. We shared a nod that meant we understood that not every sunset is a winner. But it was still nice to look at and it’s the beach. Even on an off night light reflects on the water and someone or something of interest usually happens by. I put my camera on the dashboard, turned up the music. Coltrane’s Blue Train fit right in. He stood by his tripod. I liked that he didn’t called it a day just yet. A little something started to happen. A cloud shifted and a burst of red appeared. We both took a shot and then I went back to listening. I thought of raising the volume but I hesitated, maybe he was a purist, maybe he preferred the sound of the beach and the cars to Coltrane. Another cloud shifted. Another streak of color appeared. Of all the cars flying by not one felt the need to land. I didn’t blame them. It wasn’t much to look at. The sun peaked out from the clouds then dropped back behind then peaked out again then dropped back behind like she was daring us to stay. Or leave. Or stay. Her taunt persisted for another ten minutes or so. I took a couple of shots. I think he did too. And then she let it rip.
We glanced at each other in between shots like two kids who just found a big bag of toys next to a bigger bag of candy. Cars would pull over. Someone would get out and take a shot and then they would drive off thinking they had captured something. But they had no idea what they were missing. You had to stay and watch every single second. It was like a stunning piece of ephemeral art was being created, like Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Renoir and Walt Disney all got together for cocktail hour and decided to throw us east enders a bone.
Now if Einstein had dropped in for a glass of red he may have tried to explain what we were witnessing. Perhaps he’d say as the sun sinks toward the horizon air molecules scatter away the shorter wavelengths of light, violet and blue, and the only light which penetrates through the atmosphere are the longer wavelengths of light, yellow, orange and red. Maybe he’d comment on the influence of the clouds and the various refractions. Or maybe he’d just kick back, sip his vino and take it all in, remembering all the captivating Long Island sunsets he had sailed through.
I took so many shots I had to replace my battery midway through. I tried to stay in the moment and not get so caught up in trying to capture it but I couldn’t do it and neither could he. When it was finally over. When that last streak of color left the sky neither of us wanted to go. Neither of us knew what to do. We felt such a connection. We looked at each other and smiled. We knew we had gotten lucky. I had no idea where his photographs would end up or if our photographs were the same. It was a cold day in April so he had to work harder than I did being outside and standing for an hour. When you see such beauty it really makes you feel inconsequential and yet, touched. I was so glad I stayed. And so glad he stayed. Something wonderful is so much better when shared with someone. Anyone. Well probably not lots of people but anyone else. A great ending to this story would be if right there, at that moment on Long Beach, with the climax of that incredible sunset, we fell madly in love and lived happily ever after to the envy of every soul we ever encountered, both here and abroad, and got to share the story of how we met replete with, identical to the exact detail even though I had a much cheaper camera, photos to the tear jerking amazement of all who heard it. But alas no. We got lucky. But not that lucky.