The thick fog that rolled in from the bay each morning dissipated by the time Harold took his daily walk to the mailbox house. He breathed in the salty ocean air and shuffled along the wooden planks. Everyone in the houseboat community recognized the elderly man, who always had his Canon DSLR around his neck. He tried to recall their names and start a greeting, but stopped midstream. Only the name ‘Catherine’ stuck in his mind. The image of her sparkling green eyes filled his eyes with their brightness. He looked at his neighbors with a lopsided smile, shrugged his shoulders, and continued on his walk.
“Maybe it will arrive today,” Harold confided to his camera.
He finally approached the mailbox house that sat on a weathered pier post. The house was a large wooden box painted white with three shelves, three rural mailboxes for each shelf, a total of nine. Only the doors of the mailboxes showed, each painted a different color.
“You are perfect…it’s the Rule of Thirds.”
He positioned himself so that each mailbox lined up along the grids in his viewfinder. Affectionately cradling his camera firmly in his hands, he whispered, “Ready now…won’t shake ya, shutter speed just right.”
This was one of his favorite shots, but most of the time he forgot he already had taken it. Later when he reviewed his pictures, he deleted a half-dozen identical shots.
Harold opened the blue hinged-door and peered inside. He searched with arthritic fingers that quivered with anticipation.
“It’s finally here.”
Harold snatched a padded envelope out from the blue mailbox and it nearly slipped from his grasp. He walked to a nearby bench, carefully opened the envelope; a memory card, lens, and adaptor slid out. Also included was a shiny sheet of paper with an unusual drawing of a camera lens that looked like a human eye. This striking image filled him with wonder and hope as he scanned down the sheet to read the following instructions:
Photographic Memory from PHOTO MAGIC— if you can see it, you can relive it.
- Replace old memory card with new Photo Magic memory card. Allows the mind to play back memories in unforgettable detail.
- Replace old lens with 3D vision lens for a natural immersion into past images.
- Place adapter on viewfinder and then press red button to activate Photo Magic – the latest in mind-eye technology that imprints past memories on the new card.
- Navigate your past with your camera’s Playback Arrow. Photo Magic accessories are compatible with most DSLR cameras. Now you’re ready to go back as far as your eye can see.
Harold stared at the new accessories and whispered, “New things frighten me. I’m not ready yet to try them out. But I really want to… go back… home.” Whenever he thought of home, his mind snapped a picture of Catherine beckoning him to return.
He compared his memory to film photography because his mind sometimes felt like a dark room where the pictures could be over or underexposed. If only he could find his missing, perfectly developed photographs from years ago, he wouldn’t feel so lost. His life lately looked like a photograph of a dull, blurry landscape with him standing far in the distance, all alone.
After stuffing the camera accessories into his camera bag, Harold stood up from the bench. The warm ocean breeze ruffled his gray hair as he walked along the pier back to his houseboat. He continued taking pictures along the way, looking for good composition and good lighting, especially practicing his skills on his favorite houseboat, the lovely little white one with ceramic flowerpots filled with red geraniums.
As a photographer, he especially paid attention to color. Red and white suddenly triggered a glimpse from his past—Catherine holding red roses from their garden, standing in front of their freshly painted white home. A perfect shot…snap! His eyes lit up as he captured the memory, but it was a fleeting moment replaced by a familiar darkness that filled his mind. Then his wife and their home disappeared as he returned to the present.
He approached the next houseboat. The striking colors of yellow and blue with a painted giant purple seahorse on its side encouraged him to bring the viewfinder back up to his eye. He hoped the people who lived there were as happy as the place looked.
Again, he struggled for another glimpse of Catherine, her welcoming arms outstretched, and her black wind-blown hair suspended in time. His eyes welled up as he tried in vain to relive in his mind the happy times they had together.
After a few more houseboats, his dark gray houseboat appeared. Snap…he captured the picture, then pointed his camera upward and caught the crying seagulls swooping overhead. These were great photos but this place would never feel like “home” to him. He quickly deleted the images from his camera’s playback. If only his mind could delete his loneliness as easily.
Out of the corner of his eye, seemingly out of nowhere, a black cat crossed his path, giving him a long stare as Harold gazed into sparkling green eyes. What was usually a bad omen filled him with hope.
He quickly snapped a shot as the cat gracefully maneuvered a leap to the pier’s railing, levitating in mid-air — like magic.
“Oh, lovely Cat!” Harold crooned, remembering he sometimes called his wife that name.
He walked to his houseboat with a little pep to his stride. Once inside, he sat on his rocker looking out at the water, his camera in his lap, and took the new accessories from his bag. The instructions assured him that his mind was like a camera, memories stored, nothing really forgotten. He inserted the new memory card and replaced the lens with the new 3D lens. Attaching the adapter to the viewfinder, he raised the camera to his eye, and then pressed the red button.
He focused on the past, impatiently tapping the playback arrow until she appeared — like magic.
“Catherine, you’re really here!” Harold smiled at his wife.
His eyes opened wide to let in the light.
Copyright © 2017 Elaine Fisher