He doesn’t really want to buy anything when he comes into the store. He acts like he does, at first, choosing a sandal or two to try on. Slipping his sock foot into the leather, kicking his leg up, demonstrating a martial arts move and smiling at me slyly.
“Ever practice Tai Chi?” He asks, spinning his foot around and sitting back down.
I shake my head, bemused.
“You should come out sometime, I teach it. You might notice us, in the Public Gardens in the summer.”
He winks at me, pulls on the other sandal and stomps his foot on the ground a couple of times.
“I’m a photographer.”
“I’ll give you my website.” He stands up and makes a show of patting his pockets, finding no pen or paper.
I study him for a moment. He seems harmless. Just a middle-aged Asian man trying on some sandals and making small talk. So, I walk over to the kiosk and provide him with some. He beams at me when I return with the pad and pen, marking carefully in block letters his name and the website, underlined twice.
“What kind of photography?” I wonder aloud.
“Cultural. I travel all over. Usually western rural China, though.”
He looks me over, settling on my hands. “You like jewelry.”
I look down, turn the rings around a few times that cover most of my fingers.
“Me too,” he smiles. Jabbing a finger to the Tao broach on his lapel. “Pure gold.”
“So, how do the sandals feel?”
He holds my gaze until I look away and then chuckles. “Okay… is it alright if I don’t buy today?”
“Sure. Absolutely.” I start to pack them away, smoothing the tissue paper, replacing the lid.
He follows me to the store-room.
“Maybe, you message me through my website? I can send you tickets to my show.”
“At SMU. My pictures. The real thing. No digital. No fake Photoshop. It’s important.”
“Yeah. Yeah, maybe.”
“Thanks, Lindsay.” He says peering at my name tag. “Goodbye.”
He reaches out and squeezes my shoulder. Holds it, tight, for an extra second or two. I stare into space until I hear the door close. I put the boxes away. Unseeing. Finger the paper folded in my pocket. Change.
I walk home hard. Heel to pavement. Hoping that by some trick of fate, in that brief moment of connection, he transferred something to me. Some kind of peace. Some sort of energy.
Maybe a flicker of fire to ignite these exhausted coals.