The two weeks of commercial work left Joel drained and tired. He needed this day. Free to wander with his camera shooting what he wanted, trying to recapture how he saw the world and who he was. 

His wandering took him to a corner of SoHo were a row of shops formed an L to a small park. In the park a young woman with a painted face danced, swaying side to side in rhythmic motions like a ballet dancer. Evan at a distance Joel could see the brightness in her eyes and life in each dance move. His camera could not resist the opportunity.

Joel moved closer and disarmingly said, "I'd love to get you picture, you embody so much of what New York is or could be."

She stoped, looking surprised by him, but cautiously said, “OK, my name is Amelia, the island name where I was born, a picture would be lovely."

Everything he sensed from a distance reflected in her warm smile. Joel said, “As you might guess, I am a photographer. You are a refreshing sight. Most people here are so busy, going this way and that, seemly so indifferent to each other. They pass you by on each side but never even acknowledge you. It must be a challenge at times to live here, but you seem above it all. Why do you seem so different.”

Amelia smiled, "I come here every Saturday and dance. I came to New York to be a dancer, but for now I just dance from one customer to another behind a coffee bar. But on Saturday, she sets me free, I can be who I wanted to be."

Joel ask, "Who is the she you’re talking about?"

Amelia exclaimed, "Oh, she is the woman who paints faces, every one goes to her. Every weekend there is a line outside here small shop. People wanting their faces painted, to be someone else just for a day. Funny thing, she never says much, but somehow senses who you long to be and paints it on you face. Some come out looking like rock stars, others fearsome animals, for me it was to be with my god and dance with his spirit. Her shop is just a few streets over, you should go see her."

Joel nodded his head, thinking for a moment about his own life. Everyone thought being a professional photographer was a dream job, problem was it became a real job after a while.

He said goodbye to Amelia and started walking again. Something in him wanted to find the woman who painted faces. Maybe wanting to catch some of the magic of life she offered, not even ruling out a painted face for himself. He turned and glanced at Amelia one more time, she had started to dance again. Joel wondered if she would ever become a professional dancer, hoping she would never lose the essence of who she was.

Joel walked back and forth on several streets close to the park, but could not find the shop of the woman who painted faces. One shop looked similar to what Amelia described, a window framed by a white wood. He stoped and looked inside. He could see a wooden floor with a small desk and chair in the center. A couple of tapestries hung on the back wall, but no one was there. The shop looked like it had been empty for a long time.

Maybe Amelia was still in the park, maybe he got the directions to the shop wrong. He hurried back to the the park. She was gone, the park now as empty as the shop. Joel thought for a moment as if what he had seen was a dream. He pushed the play-back on his camera searching for the images of Amelia. 

Joel paused and remembered her freeness and what she said. Thinking to himself how strangers often bring small wisdoms. Joel realized the importance of keeping his passion alive, to not get stamped out by the day to day of life. Joel looked at the park again, maybe Amelia was the woman who painted faces…

David Young