He was late, so I ordered myself coffee. I had research to keep me company so I did not mind. With puffy red eyes and a dark shadow on his face, a testament to a long night of either drinking himself to sleep or being too caught up in the story we working on, he approached my table.
“Sorry, we’re late. It’s my fault.”
“Hungover, or still drunk?”
He just groaned in response.
But drunk or hungover, or for the benefit of the doubt, suffering from a non-alcohol-induced headache, the man transformed out in the field. I saw his passion for his craft; a craft I have a love-hate relationship with. I was in awe. I tried not to act like some star struck kid, but it took me a lot of effort to keep myself in check.
I observed how he would be in character when he needed to, but he had that humanity in him I could not shrug off. Passion – that was raw passion for the craft he has been doing for years. Despite the frustrations and jaded remarks he would occasionally throw my way, bursting my somehow-still-idealistic bubble, he could not hide that this was more than a job to him; this was his life. He tried so much to distance himself from this troubling story. But from where I stood, I saw how his face would flush red, and something flash in his eyes when a source spills something that aggravates him. The storm in his eyes would disappear as fast as it showed, that at one point I considered I might be reading him too much. I blame my hobby of people-watching. But there was fire there. I recognise it, cos I see that same fire during those times I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Maybe he has felt that same storm brewing inside him for years now, working on different stories, that he has mastered the art of calming the turmoil within.
Yes, he should not get too attached with a certain story. But sometimes with fervid belief comes attachment. He saw grave mistakes, maybe one too many. He knows he could be a passive, detached spectator, or he can translate his intense feelings to change. He has to act.
Maybe years on the field do that to you. Stories one after the other, you could not keep track you eventually stopped counting. Numerous stamps on your passport. Thousands of nameless faces along the way. Or names you have known once but eventually not remember. Life lessons you learn the hard way. A significant other or a number of, which you treasure but eventually part ways with – either because you grew apart, or because the world was too big for them to handle with you. Maybe the passion burning inside you consumed them. Maybe life does that to you and the people around you. Either you crumble from the pressure, or it fuels your passion.
“What do you want to do in the long run?”
“I’m all over the place now.”
“You’re still young.”
“But I see you’re headed in the right direction.”
There’s nothing sexier on a man than passion. Knowing something’s worth fighting for, and pursuing it. One day, I most probably will be one of those names he once knew but will never remember. Or one of those who will be familiar but he would not be able to put a name to the face. And because I’m such a coward I could not bring myself to say it upfront, let this be my way of thanking him for showing me – without him knowing it, how passion makes a man.
“Don’t be a stranger, give me a hug.”
And so I did.