I want the shot of the neon camel sign hanging over the tavern door. I keep the motor running, hand him my camera. Please do the honors. And so he does, and he doesn’t. Yes he climbs out of the truck and takes photos. But no to the photos of the yellow and green oasis sign. And no to the purple columns propping up the wagon wheel.
Earlier we had traded shots near the grain store–passing the camera back and forth between us. This is where town people abandon pet rabbits and then make a point of never crossing the tracks again. What if they were to see their daughter’s Moppy on the corner of Minnesota and State? Dozens of anonymous rabbits waiting on the curb with When Are You Coming Back signs dangling from their ears. But for the grain that falls out of the bins behind the store one block over, the bunnies wouldn’t be nesting in the sunlight watching us take photos. He won’t take a bunny photo, he said, unless the photo can be put on milk cartons: Have you seen me lately? You abandoned me on the south side of the tracks.
Now, he is back inside my truck warming his hands over the defroster while I preview the shots he took: Beer bottles overfilling a dumpster; cigarette butts in an outside ashtray; the skull from a cow hanging over a triple-locked door. And shots of window panes. Now I see the way he sees the world.
If you want the Oasis Bar sign shot, he says, you’ll have to take it yourself. I slide the camera back to the point-and-shoot, reach for my door and stop. Two men from the nearby shelter are below the camel sign, sorting through cigarette butts in the large outdoor ashtrays. This would be the shot, I whisper. He reaches for my hand and gives it that No-Don’t squeeze.