The first time she held it in her hands, I knew it was love. Her face lit up in a way it only did when magic pulsed through her veins and the smile that radiated from her lips bloomed out of her eyes. Her smile was never larger than when she held the camera up to her eye and pointed the viewfinder in my direction. It was a vintage camera, one of those old Polaroid’s that spits the photo out after you take it. The kind you could only find hiding in some attic or garage, begging to be given a new life.
“It’s still in beautiful condition,” the proprietor of the yard sale said in a warm New England twang as she waddled over to meet us. “Hasn’t been used in a few years though. Just collecting dust in the attic. But these fuckers are reliable.”
A sudden sputtering left me wondering if she was laughing or coughing. Once her mini fit had ended, she looked over at Gina with the camera looped around her neck, and smiled a smile that showed plenty of yellow teeth. There was something gorgeously American about upstate, I thought to myself. “For you honey, I’d do thirty bucks.” Gina, my girlfriend, smiled politely. “Hell, I’ll throw in all the film for it too. That way you can use it right off.”
As Gina fished the money out of her wallet, she hastily divulged that we were camping in the Adirondacks and that the camera would be perfect to document the experience. At the mention of going upstate the woman’s eyes suddenly turned listless and she spent a few solid seconds staring at the camera. A divide grew in the air between them as her eyes lingered. This distance grew more apparent as she handed us incorrect change and Gina fussed so as to not cheat her. When we thanked her and started to walk away, the faraway look disappeared from the woman’s eyes and a more desperate one took its place.
“That was my son’s camera.”
The sentence came from nowhere, just like a puff of wind on the chill September day. We turned around to face her, our smiles fading in the morning sun.
“Please be careful with it. There’s memories and power in it that you couldn’t begin to imagine. He used it all the time, you see. For everything. Always carried it around with him. I used to think that sometimes he loved it more than anyone in the world. I think there’s still a piece of him in it, bless his heart.”
The last statement hung dumbly in the sunlight streaming through the pine trees. It swirled there like a feather gently weaving in and out of air streams for as long as it could before hitting the ground.