I was going through a photography phase and happened to be in Wegmans with a camera strapped around my neck and friends walking along, looking at the food, when I ran into this fine man right here.
He complimented me on my Canon A-1, at least I think that’s the name of it – it’s my father’s. The stranger here said that he once climbed Mount Washington and took a camera exactly like it with him.
He said, “I remember when I climbed it, I had a camera exactly like that.” and then he stared off into the distance as though the memory was floating somewhere in the air like a perpetually rambling light squiggly.
I replied with basic surprise. No one ever stops learning how to talk to people and at the tender age of 18 I had only a base grasp of how to communicate with strangers.
I said something like, “Well this one’s my Dad’s”
He made this odd sort of grunting noise with his nose and proceeded to pull out his wallet, which contained a wallet size photo of him next to a nice size boulder.
He said “That’s me and that’s a boulder, but this wasn’t taken at Mount Washington, this was at, well hell, where was this at.” That damn squiggly in his eye must have been flaring up something crazy because he just kept staring off into nowhere.
Meanwhile I noticed that my friends were nowhere to be seen so I told him “excuse me sir, I have to go” and I did a sort of Groucho Marx, impractical, crouch, sneak-away run. My friends were nowhere to be seen and I went outside and their car was gone to. I gave them a call and they said they had left, so I was left stranded at Wegmans.
I made some calls and eventually got my brother to come pick me up, but I had to wait 20 minutes and in the meantime this guy came out and started smoking a cigarette.
He noticed me, but held himself with an air that was half stranger and half standoffish. It was an awkward five minute cigarette, at least for me. The poster in the window for half off romaine lettuce kept him company while Tetris on my phone kept me company. Meanwhile my mind flew between thoughts of my friends ditching me, it had happened before and we’d be back hanging out the next day, and whether or not I had upset this man by dashing off in the middle of his recollections.
He put out his cigarette and started to walk to his car with a grocery bag in each hand, when he turned his head halfway towards me. I gestured a mild wave goodbye and for a second we made painfully strange eye contact. He stood stock still for that whole second. Then he just went back with full focus into loading his car with groceries.
He got into his car and drove off.
Ten or so minutes later, my brother came and picked me up.
I don’t know why I still have this picture.