23. Can I Help You?

21While I was drawing this a woman came out and stood in the driveway, hands on her hips, and stared at me for a few, maybe 20, seconds.
I wanted to wave to her, but the idea of her coming over to talk to me and me having to explain to her what I was doing: telling the same story about my hundred houses project, was more than I could bear, so I decided to keep my mouth shut.
Eventually she dropped her arms and turned and walked away, and I put my eardbuds* in and got to work.
About 20 minutes later, a man reversed down the driveway behind me in a black SUV, stopped just before the road and leaned his head out of the window and asked me a question.
‘Can I help you?’ he said, his face expressionless, his voice authoritarian, like a government official with a small amount of power but a big head.
‘No,’ I said to him, sitting there on the kerb on the edge of his land, ‘I’m just sitting here drawing the house across the road.’
Then I heard something I’d call a delighted squeal and a woman leaned forward from the passenger seat and smiled at me and gave me a little wave.
I returned the smile and wave, and then the man, who was wearing a black cowboy hat and had a little goatee beard and spoke with some style of Southern accent, smiled and told me to have a nice day and finished his reversal out of the driveway and drove off down the road.
I sat there for a moment, watching them drive off and thought about him asking me if he could help me, when what he really meant (from a primal perspective) was why are you on my territory, stranger, and are you here to kill me and my breeder and steal my fire stick.

*Today’s podcast: Desert Island Discs- Kirsty Young with Annie Lennox

15. She’s Just Observing You.


While I was drawing this a woman came along behind me, pushing a small girl in a stroller.
I could see out of the corner of my eye that they had stopped just past where I was sitting.
I was fully engaged by my music* and I was getting chilly and losing the light because I had spent a good deal of time watching the police interact with a young black man in a SUV that they had pulled over.
So I did not want to stop what I was doing to talk.
But a few moments later, distracted by the presence of the woman and child, I paused my podcast and turned to them.
‘Hello,’ I said to the woman, who was looking down at my drawing.
‘That’s very nice,’ she said to me, nodding.
I told her thank you, and then waved my hand toward the child.
‘Hello.’ I said, and smiled.
But the child, who was holding a soft brown monkey to her chest, its arms around her neck, did not respond.
‘You don’t want to talk to me?’ I questioned the child who, without expression, was staring back at me.
‘No,’ said the woman, leaning her hand forward and touching the top of the child’s head, ‘she just wants to observe.’
‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘2 can play at that game.’
And so I said goodbye and turned around to my drawing board, putting all of my attention back on my music, the house that was in front of me and the police car that had been left parked in the street outside of the house after the young man in the SUV had finally been allowed to leave.

Todays music: Annie Lennox, Diva