A short story
A new town, new school, first year in high school, new faces and tightly knit groups. The only good thing was that finally I was given the exclusive management of our family camera. The city was beautiful, I met Mr. Kostas one of the professional photographers of the city. From the first moment I liked him and the feeling was mutual. In his dark room it was the first time that I had seen a picture being developed in the developer tray. He used to fill my empty cassettes with Fortepan 100 film almost for free. Having secured my supply of cheap films, afternoon walks with my camera became my favorite pastime and helped me not to think about the lack of friends.
It was autumn and it rained often. I started walking along the bank of the river that ran across the city. I took pictures of the running water, the stray animals of the city, the trees. Slowly I became more confident and started taking pictures of people who had shops on the river bank, housewives who were cleaning their yards and grandmothers who were gazing lazily at the flowing water, children playing. So it was here that I met Stelios with his long black hair, nose like a hawk’s beak, smeared hands, smudges on his clothes and face. When he refused politely my taking a shot of him, I told him that he was like the Indians who had a problem with being photographed. He had a workshop for motorcycles; his was the most stunning motorcycle I had ever seen. So I passed frequently and took photos of his bike or of his customers’ bikes waiting parked in line to be repaired, and sometimes I managed to steal a photo of Stelios, but from a distance.
The days passed and slowly I became more acquainted with Stelios but he continued to deny my taking a photo of his truly. He treated me to coffee and I used to sit on the stairs leading to the upper floor only on the condition that I kept my camera in its case. The most beautiful photos are those that I didn’t take, especially while the sun was setting and inflowing through the great door of the garage. All seemed out of place, the metal, the figures of those standing at the door, Stelios girlfriend Anna would come to see him. He was impressed that I always had something to say on every subject. Even for the electronic ignition or the self-regulating valves. And that I always had a story to tell, either of my own or one borrowed from a book.
– How come and you know all this?
– I read them in books Stelios.
– Ah, so you like reading? You must meet my father, he will like you! Want to come to my place with me later?
Although I had ridden a motorcycle in the past, I must admit that my pulse was beating like a jackhammer and my adrenaline was pumping. He was speeding.
Introductions were made; his parents were kind and hospitable.
– Don’t speed Stelios!
– Eh mother I don’t speed… I open the throttle so you can hear me coming and prepare the dinner!
In the living room his father was waiting for us and there was the biggest library I’ve ever seen in someone’s home. The debate itself came on to books, the authors, and the lack of a good bookstore in town. I also realized how few books and important writers I had read, they were not even known to me. I started to read a new book every night, from those Stelios father suggested and kindly lent me.
Time passed. Stelios taught me how to ride a bike, he took me to great places, I showed him my photos, he didn’t seem excited about them and he liked my stories more.
– Why do not you write your stories down and become a writer? Are you gonna be a photographer?
One day I wrote a story about him and Anna, which contained my first poem. I showed it to him, he read it and his eyes filled with tears.
– You should become a poet, not a photographer!
Meanwhile, my reputation in the small world of my school had risen sharply. Due to Stelios, in all the shops of the city where the pupils used to hang out frequently, they knew me now by name; I had become his little brother, the protégé of Stelios and was treated as such.
Photography made me popular with the girls; everyone wanted to be in my company on the field trips. I became the favorite pupil of the professor of physics who was also an amateur photographer.
Things were going well.
I was taking photos, writing, reading in frantic rhythms. Stelios always became sentimental with my stories, my poems. Anna liked my photos. His father being more an experienced reader advised me, correcting many of my spelling mistakes; my writing style was a bit nerve-racking for him.
The year passed like a dream, that summer was the best summer of my life. My drawer was starting to fill with photos, stories and poems. I convinced Stelios to register in a secondary school as he had missed a year, to finish and take the diploma. We went out on bike rides across the plains into some long straights many times with the tachometer in the red. I was shouting above the roar of the engine my new poems standing erect on the back of the bike, wild poems, or taking shots with a bulb. On moonlit nights we climbed the only hill of the town and then descended with the engine and lights switched off. Stelios was still teasing me.
– Why do you carry this camera everywhere with you? We said that you would become a writer.
He used to give me his bike to take a ride on my own. All alone! I was proud of myself!
I passed by the main square at 5 km speed and with some revs, everyone was waving at me.
– Hey Taki!
I took my first fall, I forgot to take a corner and in a spin and I found myself in a field, fortunately only my ego was bruised.
We went on a day trip with my school; Stelios had promised that he would come with Anna to see me. I was tucked into a ditch and was taking photos of some wild thorns and heard the bike coming from the distance, I got up, I was almost at the level of the road and I picked up my camera, I waited and when the frame was full, I took the shot.
Their hair was fluttering, their eyes were shining, Anna’s arms were wrapped around him … this was the best picture I had ever taken. I was happy!
One day while I was at school, there was a knock on our classroom door, someone was looking for me. It was one of Stelios friends.
– Stelios is in hospital, asking for you.
– In hospital? Is he hurt? An accident on his bike?
– They went by car to check a bike that had broken down, some people he knew had called him, and he thought not to go with his bike because it was raining. A truck crashed into them, its brakes couldn’t stop it, and it slid. Taki, Stelios is in a severe condition…
– How serious?
– Very serious! And the other two were badly hurt, but Stelios is worse.
At the entrance to the hospital I realized, Stelios was not there anymore!
I saw people gathered, shouting. I turned to leave, Anna was coming, and I grabbed her arm.
– Anna… Stelios is not here, let’s go…
After that, I couldn’t remember anything…
This way we lost Stelios from a ruptured lung. He was 22 years old. His father kept his bike, rusting in the yard, I didn’t see Anna again, I hope she found a nice waist to wrap her thin arms around.
I went to his grave and burned all my writing. I became a photographer.