“If I’d known you were dropping by today, I would have cleaned up.” He looked down at his worn hands, dirty, broken fingernails, and ancient clothes. He had been resting against his cane, sighing from pain – mental or physical was hard to tell. He looked to be at least 250 years old, I knew he was only 95.
He started to apologize again, but I shook my head. “It’s okay, you didn’t know. I was . . .” I stopped. What was I doing here? Playing voyeur again? He had graciously allowed me to photograph him two summers ago when I was working on my faces project.
He had looked straight into the camera, haunted eyes like a hunted creature. But, the photograph betrayed another layer beneath the dirt and the stooped shoulders – a hunter, not just the hunted.
It was that subliminal/alternative image that had drawn me back. Back to the hills and his hobbit-hole like house. Back to his world, where I was given a small space of welcome.
“Your hands,” I blurted, looking for a rational reason to return. “I’m photographing hands now.” Did he sense I knew there were two people in the same skin?
His empty-toothed smile seemed sincere enough; no wolf-fangs or blood-lust. “One for me?” he asked. I nodded; I’d made a print of our previous encounter.
With shaking hands, he pulled the picture close to his watery blue eyes. Pleased? I couldn’t tell; his grin never waivered.
As I adjusted the camera lens, he took up his position just outside the off-hinged door of his house. He crossed his hands over the head of his cane, wood as gnarled as his fingers.
Snap. Later, I discovered that his cane had become an axe. The camera never lies?