He worked at a kiosk in the mall that sold covers for iPads. I didn’t know his name. I only knew what he looked like and what I heard about him. He was a middle-aged white man and he was as on level with Robin Williams in the hairy game. I imagine him at home in the morning getting ready for work by brushing his arm hair. Balding men passing by him were probably envious of the amount of hair on his hands, generally more than the amount of hair on their heads. He would always wear a short sleeved polo shirt in a bright color almost complementing the iPad covers he sold, maybe that was the point. His mustache was thick and glorious and you know he’s had it since he was twelve years old. Most days he would wear a plain baseball cap and sit on a stool with his back facing the Apple Store.
The story I heard was from one of Santa’s Elves, the ones that work during the holidays taking pictures of children. I guess she’s been around the mall for years and knows all the hot gossip. She came in to borrow a screwdriver from my store and asked if I had heard what happened.
“You know that guy. The extremely hairy one that sits at the iPad kiosk?”
“Oh, yeah. Robin Williams?”
“Well, I heard from Vicki - the lady that works at the mall information desk right near there - this crazy ass story. I don’t even think Vicki believes it, but she heard it right from him, so it must be true.”
“He left work one night, after cleaning up and stuff, and stopped at the Starbucks to get a latte or something. I heard from Ben, you know the guy who draws cute pictures on your cup, that he had some coupon and was trying to get a mall employee discount. Something they don’t do, but he insists, and makes a scene every time. Sounds like a real cheapskate if you ask me.”
I shook my head. I didn’t care, nor ask, but she went on anyway.
“He got a phone call while standing in line - now this is where it gets weird. He said to whomever was on the other end of the line that he didn’t own a camera so why would he need to pick it up. Oh, Ben told me this part by the way. Robin Williams told the person on the other end of the line that this was the wrong number. I suppose the person on the other end read of his name to him,because he said, ‘Yes, that’s me. How did you get my number?’ Anyway, his latte was finished by this point and Ben had drawn a little gorilla on his cup. Robin Williams looked at the cup, shook his head, and walked away without saying thank you. Can you believe it?”
I shook my head again while I watched as a customer came in my store and then promptly left after glancing around.
“Now this is the part he told me. I guess he needed to tell someone, maybe he was lonely or scared or something. He went to the camera shop that called him directly from the mall. The clerk said she would stay open a few minutes late for him to come and pick it up. He arrived at this little camera shop in Melrose. He had never seen or heard of it before and he’s lived in Melrose for almost twenty years. So that was weird, right?”
She continued after briefly pausing even though I didn’t reply.
“She told him the camera was loaded with film and was ready to shoot and that he just needed to turn it on. He took the camera home and inside the bag the clerk packed for him was a receipt with his name, address, and phone number. So, Robin Williams put the bag on his desk and left it for a few days, almost entirely forgetting about it, until he needed something from his desk and saw it. He opened the bag and took the camera out. He didn’t really know that much about those old manual cameras, you know the ones they put real film into and stuff? Where do you get that shit developed any ways? He took the lens cap off, turned the camera on, and looked around the room through the viewfinder settling on the open basement door - hanging from the door handle was a set of skeleton keys that locked the basement door. Click. He said ‘Click’ to Vicki too
when retelling the story so I added it in too for effect. Walking around his house for the next thirty minutes proved to be an interesting exercise in looking at his house in a whole new way. For instance, he never realized there was a small crack in the wall in the spare bedroom. The next day he brought the camera back to the woman at the photo store where he got the camera. He asked them how to get the film out that was inside without ruining the pictures he took. The clerk, not the same one that gave him the camera, took the camera and showed him how to rewind the film and open the camera. He also asked Robin Williams if he wanted the film developed while he waited. Robin Williams said sure and he would run to grab a coffee next store while he was waiting.”
Santa’s Elf looked out at Santa and gave him the thumbs up and continued the story.
To be continued…