I draw the man. Actually, he’s a little bit scary looking. I’ve learned through drawing seven-thousand-four-hundred-and-eleven people that the order you draw people in is important. Everyone can smile when they get a portrait—but it’s safest to draw the scary looking people last.
Tonight, though, I take a chance. I draw him first. While his scarred face looks like it’s been through a lot, he doesn’t act scary—he’s even reading! My two hands start to move, gliding the ballpoint pens across the surface of the paper, this way, then that. As I’m about to finish, the man takes note. He looks up from his newspaper. He looks at me, then his watch. He gets up to leave. Just before he can, I hand him his portrait. It’s for you, I say, wearing a smile. It doesn’t cost anything. He looks at it for a while. He puts his things back on his seat. He walks over to me. “Do you think I look friendly?” he asks. There’s no smile on his face. I don’t understand his question. I’ve never been asked this before. Well, I didn’t draw you because you looked friendly, I drew you because you were in front of me. I like to draw people, so I draw everyone. It doesn’t matter what they look like. “I see,” he said. “But…when you drew me…” he thinks over his words, “…did you think I looked friendly?” I still don’t understand his question. I still don’t understand his tone. Does he not like his picture? Did he not want to be drawn? I don’t say yes. I don’t say no. I’m not sure what to say. At my reaction, he looks a bit disappointed. “My friends tell me that I’m not a friendly looking guy. I thought maybe…you thought different.”
Just then I realize what he wanted. Just then I realize that he’s just an ordinary guy with a scary face. Just then I realize that after getting over the shock of being drawn with two hands, his mind started to contemplate something even stranger: that this young artist could think he looked friendly.
It all took place in the matter of a few seconds. If there had been more time, or had I not been so tired, I would’ve caught on earlier. I would have told him yes, I thought you looked friendly. But it was too late. He was already gone.