Once, he told me about an upcoming exhibit of Ansel Adam’s photographs. “If you’ve never seen them in person,” he said, “ you should come. It’ll be fun.”
A few days later, we took the early morning greyhound to Manhattan. “You don’t need color to capture the essence of the natural world,” he said, referring to Adam’s photographs. “You know his pictures of Half Dome?” he asked. “Magic, pure magic.” He chewed on the remains of his fingernails, already beaten-up and stained with dried oil paint from his time in the studio. He was well versed in anything art-related and at times would rattle on.
Later at the museum, I followed him into the gallery. People were oohing and aahing to their companions. We inched our way around the crowded exhibit. Sam stopped suddenly and pointed across the room.
“Half Dome?” I asked.
“No,” he replied, “That’s Rocky.”
“The Rocky Mountains?”
“No, no. The man over there is Rocky, in the movies, you know who I mean. I’m blanking on his name.”
“Sylvester Stallone,” the man next to me interjected, loud enough for everyone to hear.
Later, after the Stallone sighting and exhibit, Sam said, “Okay if we do our own thing? Maybe you can call your old friend. Couple of artists’ studios I want to get to.”
We agreed to meet at Port Authority for the day’s last bus back upstate. Sam turned right; I walked left into whiffs of roasted chestnuts, steamed hot dogs. Blaring car horns. And then a siren. Another. And another. Then a long screeching run.
Later as I passed time in a coffee shop, warming my hands over a cup of coffee, I heard a woman say, “Big to-do’s just a few blocks over today.” She recounted an incident, a taxi that slammed into the window of a store, killing the driver and nearly a few pedestrians. “There was glass and debris everywhere, I mean everywhere.”
At the end of the day I walked to Port Authority. I was early. Sam, often late. There was a boarding call, followed by a second and then a final one. The bus driver rolled up his newspaper.
“Sorry, miss, we’re out of here.” From a distance I could see Sam running.
“That’s him,” I told the driver.
Sam shimmied into the tight, grimy seat next to me.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yep,” he said, letting out a long breath.
“Where you’ve been?”
“I don’t know,” he said, “This is going to sound really really crazy but the last thing I remember is you… and what’s his name? Rocky.”
“Sam,” I said, picking small glistening pieces from his hair, confirming the sharp edges with my fingertips, “I think this is glass.”