Conversation in the provinces

 

I was taking pictures. Camera slung around my neck – the international sign of the tourist. A white man in his 70s stopped me on the street for a chat. Mussed grey hair, blue knit pullover, tired polar fleece jacket. Pudgy. Lonely. Lives in the next town over. Asked me where I was from. Surprised when I said Auckland. Then I explained I was born in the States. Next question: did I have a partner? I could not say yes fast enough.

So much of life written on his face: the yellowed skin graft above his eyebrow where he had cancer removed, the missing teeth. As we parted, he said, “I raised children for 25 years and now they don’t talk to me.”