“I have all the clothes I need and I’m moisturized and blown dry,” said Mr. Langley.
“Do you feel ready?” asked the camera.
“I do. At least as much as possible.”
“Good enough. You won’t know you’re feet are wet until you step into the water.”
Mr. Langley stared at the camera. “Uh. What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’m not sure. It seemed like the right thing to say.”
“How do I look?”
“Perfect. And what are you going to do if a woman speaks to you?”
“Ask her about Egypt.”
“Right. Excellent. Let her do most of the talking. Be a good listener.”
“I think you better have a snack and then get ready to leave.”
“Okay,” said Mr. Langley. “I don’t know what to eat.”
“Toast is always good and it won’t make you sick.”
“What should I put on it?”
“What would you like to put on it?”
“Then put jelly on the toast.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” asked the camera.
“I think so. I just can’t move my legs.”
“I’m telling them to move, but they won’t.”
“You’re going to see behind the scenes at the museum. You’re going to see things the public has never been privy to.”
“Privy? And a preposition. Good for you. And while all of what you’re saying is true, it’s not helping me move my legs.”
“It’s just fear.”
“I know that. But if I’m going to get there, I have to leave the apartment.”
“Just finish your toast and think of camels and pyramids.”
“I can do this.”
“I’m brave and I know things about Egypt and cells.”
“Tonight is not the night for cells.”
“Okay. I know about Egypt. But what if everyone else knows more than I do?”
“Unlikely, but even if a couple of people do, so what? You don’t have to speak, if you don’t want to.”
“I know,” said the camera. “Love them.”
“Me too. I’m going to use them a lot more often,” said Mr. Langley, walking to the table. “I don’t care who doesn’t like it.”
“You do that,” said the camera. “Now keep walking to the door.”
“Okay. Wait! “I’m walking!”
“Yes. Just go.”
“I won’t be late,” said Mr. Langley.
“I’ll be here,” said the camera, sarcastically.
“Do you want anything before I go?”
The camera stared at him.
“Right, then. See you.”
Long after Mr. Langley had gone and night started coming on full strength, the spirit floated out of the camera, went to the window and looked toward the stars. He stretched, did a somersault or two, and shook himself out. “I don’t think he’ll need me much longer,” he said to the plant on the windowsill. The plant did not respond immediately but then said, “They grow up so fast.” The camera agreed.
Suddenly, there was a thud against the front door and he raced back to the camera. He heard the key slip into the lock and watched Mr. Langley, and the woman in his arms, fall through the open door and land on the overstuffed chair to the right. They were laughing and talking about camels.
Mr. Langley got to his feet, picked up the camera and shoved it into a drawer.
“HEY,” yelled the camera. “I don’t like it in here.”
“Excuse me?” said the woman. “Did you say something?”
“Yes,” said Mr. Langley. “I wanted to know if you would like something to drink?
“I would, but I’d rather see the book you were talking about, first.”
“Sure,” he said, pulling a gigantic tome off of a bookshelf.
They looked at the pictures and snacked on crackers and jelly. They chatted and he put his arm around her.
“It’s getting late,” she said.
“You can stay here if you like.”
“It wouldn’t be an imposition?”
“Not at all,” he said. “I can sleep on the couch.”
“Or you can sleep in the bed, with me.”
“Or that,” said Mr. Langley. “The bedroom is right over there.”
The woman smiled and went into the bedroom and closed the door.
Mr. Langley opened the drawer and pulled out the camera. “She’s staying overnight. What should I…” He shook the camera. He looked into the little glass thing on top. He spoke to the shutter. But no one was there. He was overcome with deep feelings of loss. But then he remembered what the camera had said, over breakfast.
“You do realize that once my job is finished, I’ll be gone, don’t you? I mean when you can function in society, make a friend or two, you won’t need me any longer.”
“But we’re friends.”
“You need to make friends in your world.”
Mr. Langley looked at the empty camera and simply said, “Thank you.” The he tucked it back into the drawer and turned toward the other room.