On a sticky, balmy July afternoon I sit in the London traffic, fruitlessly fiddling with the broken fan controls on my dashboard.
I see a man. He is driving a red, dented car, the tires are worn, the wing-mirrors held on with duct tape. His dog sits in the passenger seat, panting, watching me with large black eyes. The car is stationary, stranded in the gridlock but the man sees nothing but the road ahead, his stare locked on the car in front. His eyes glisten, perhaps with sadness, perhaps from the cold air-conditioning blowing perpetually into his face; his emotionless expression gives away nothing, but his eyes tell me there is more.
What I don't see is the rifle on the back seat, nor the photograph on the dashboard; three figures standing arm in arm, a black labrador at their feet. The woman bearing a content smile, her arm wrapped around the man now driving the car, between them, a young girl, perhaps 7 or 8, crouches to hug the labrador. The dog gazes lazily to the side of the camera, and the man, he has one arm around the woman and a hand on the shoulder of the girl. In the picture he has that same glazed look in his eyes, but this time his expression is one of unfettered happiness.
The dog continues to stare at me and I return her gaze. She is beautiful. But in her eyes, I detect a sense of sadness or confusion, or perhaps a hint of resignation.
The man turns his head as the traffic ahead begins to move away and for a moment our eyes meet. Without thinking, I grin at him and for a split-second I see the corners of his mouth twitch into the faintest hint of a smile. He returns a single nod before turning back to the road.
As I turn away at the junction, our stories going their separate ways once again, one specific detail haunts me: a single tear running down his cheek.