I love a mystery. I love a mystery so much, I’ll often go out of my way NOT to solve them. Once a mystery is solved, then it’s obviously no longer a mystery.
Yesterday my companion and I stood for a moment on a bridge and watched a young man repeatedly throwing stuff into the river. I assumed it was something like bits of dried bread, maybe to feed the fish. She thought it might be corn or some sort of grain. It wasn’t at all clear. Not a huge mystery, but enough to make me want a closer look.
We followed the stairs down to the river and I asked the young man what he was throwing into the river. He said, “Candy.” He showed me his knapsack, which contained a plastic shopping bag full of small individual-sized packets of M&Ms. He also had a box filled with packets of some other candy.
“Is this for the fish?” I asked. He spoke in a half-whisper, saying something that included the word fish, but I couldn’t quite understand him. He seemed mildly reluctant to look at me, but was certainly polite and patient and quite willing to answer questions. Rather than pester him, though, I simply said “Enjoy yourself,” and we continued down the walkway along the river.
Looking back at one point, I noticed him standing and watching us. I held up the camera in what I hoped was a universal ‘Can I take your photograph?’ gesture and waved to him. He waved back, which I chose to interpret as ‘Sure, go ahead.’
On the walk back, the young man was still there. As we approached he pulled on a bright blue jacket and I decided I was going to ask if I could shoot his photo. Before we got to him, he stepped onto the small sand bar that had formed along the walkway and began burying some things. Digging small holes with his hands, dropping in whatever he was burying, filling the holes, then patting them down tidily.
He’d just finished burying the final thing when we arrived. “Would you mind if I took your photograph?” I asked. I was going to give him my name and hand him my card and explain why I wanted to take his photo — but he just stood up, returned to the walkway, turned and stood there. Like Gort awaiting orders from Klaatu.
I just took the one shot. “Can I ask your name?” I said. He spoke very softly. “Sakim.” I showed him the photograph and he smiled. “That’s good,” he said.
I wanted to ask him about the candy again. I wanted to ask him why he was throwing candy to the fish. I wanted to ask him what he was burying in the sand and why he was burying it. But if you ask questions, you get answers and I’m not convinced the answers would have been nearly as intriguing as the questions.