I met them back in the summer and I still don’t know who they are.
Sometime in August I did a walk around the Central Park Reservoir with a Meet-up group I had just joined a few days earlier.
It was a nice summer day, the people were cool, and the walk was excellent. By the end of the second—or was it the third?—revolution, I was ready for rest, food, beverage.
We walked over to a bar on the West Side and sat down for what I thought would be good food and stimulating conversation.
Well, the food was passable, but the conversation quickly went south when some people within the group started chattering among themselves and left me and a few other stragglers lingering in social limbo.
I’m not sure how this happened and I guess I have to shoulder some of the blame for slipping into the void—it’s happened before--but it seemed like the stream of talk that came so easily during the reservoir walk dried up as soon as our butts hit the chairs.
Whatever the reason, I decided it was time to bounce, so I rolled down Broadway to a nearby New York Sports Club facility at 80th Street for a sauna and a shower to clear the physical and emotional grime.
And that’s when I saw it: a pile of photographs spread out in the street like so much trash.
I got a little closer and saw they were family photos, and they included a Polaroid profile of a smiling man in a suit and tie and a stained picture a baby waving at the camera.
It was disturbing seeing these intimate images exposed and discarded. Yes, they were strangers to me, but these people were somebody’s loved ones. How did they end up like this?
I wondered if someone in one of the nearby apartment buildings had moved and dropped the pictures unknowingly. But there were so many, it’s a little hard to believe someone didn’t notice their absence.
Perhaps an elderly resident had died and their treasured memories had been callously hurled to gutter by a barracuda landlord looking to clear the place out and jack up the rent.
I feel a connection to these people even though, of course, none exists. I want to know everything about them, where they lived, what they did on the holidays. Where are they now?
And how did they fall into the void?
There could be a very rational and quite boring explanation for all this, but I just can’t imagine anyone willingly parting with these photos.
I shot a few pictures with my smartphone and left the photos right there. I supposed I could’ve tried to track down the rightful owners, but I didn’t see any labels or name tags that could identify these people.
And I’ve brought strangers’ photos home before and I didn’t want any additional drama.
But now I regret it.
I know nothing lasts forever and that for all the effort we put into making our mark in this world, most of us will be forgotten and our treasures will be regarded as refuse by the next generation.
Still this sight was unnerving and it reminds me of the need to connect with people in the here and now.
And if they don’t want to talk with you, then keep on walking until you find someone who does.