I'm in the medical supply store looking for a roll-in shower wheelchair for my sister Patti. "Can I help you?" asks this green-shirted store employee with a New York-flavored voice. I tell him what I'm looking for and he takes me over and shows me the one model they carry. It's nice but very expensive. "Do you have any other models costing less?" "We used to, but now this is the only one we carry." "Where are you from?" I ask. "Originally Cuba, but I've lived here most of my life." He goes to his car to get me his business card and I tell him I'm a photographer, which turns out to be like opening a long-sealed flood gate. He tells me how he used to have a photography business, and talks about the equipment he still has -- cameras, lights and more, and how he used to spool his own film, and the love he had for photography, that I can hear in his voice is still there. By now he's followed me outside the store, where our conversation continues. "So what happened? Why aren't you still doing it?" I ask. "Well, I'm taking care of my wife, who's not doing so well..." "And?" I say, sensing there's more. "Years ago I was in business with a partner. Then I got sick and was laid up for over a year. When I came back, he had screwed me over, and after that, I got a bad taste in my mouth for it." But to me, the way he's speaking about it, so lovingly and longingly, and about all the equipment he still has, gives me a different sense than what he's saying. I don't feel as though I'm talking with Luis the medical supply store employee, but instead, more as though I'm speaking with Luis, a fellow photographer, and inside I just know it would be a great blessing if he were to pick up his camera and reconnect with his passion. The final sign for now is that when I ask to make a photograph with him, without my saying a word he positions himself perfectly in relation to me so that the warm glow of the late afternoon sun bathes his face with radiance.
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