I see James sitting on a green wooden bench in the shade. His backpack obediently stays next to his right leg.
He recognizes me. We shake hands and catch up a little bit.
“Hey, can I get that other photo you took of me?” James says. “The one with my hand on my hat?”
He pulls a photograph out of his backpack. It’s the portrait we made last week and I can see that the surface is scuffed and the corner is bent up a little. “I like this one,” he says, pointing at the 4×6 black and white print, “but I’d like the other one, too.”
“Sure, I can get you a print next week,” I say as I sit down and we start talking.
James tells me he was born in 1954, grew up in San Francisco and worked concessions and ticket sales at Candle Stick Park before he was drafted into the Army. James saw two tours of duty in Vietnam. I don’t ask about the war.
“What’s the toughest part about being out here?” I say.
“Toughest part is dealing with the rest of the homeless,” he says.
James talks about his Mom. He tells me she passed away last year from cancer. He mentions Mother’s Day and shares a few fond memories of her.
“She was a tough woman. She gave me money and put a roof over my head,” James remembers. “She made me omelets before I went to school and packed brownies in my lunch. We got along really well.”
“What my Mom did for me in my lifetime? I can’t put the words in the right perspective.”
James looks to the sky and says, “She gave me the opportunity to be myself.”