Day 32 – Part 2: So You Like History, Huh?
Pieces of roofing were still falling from the collapsed sugar mill so Federica and I explored smaller abandoned buildings around the perimeter. There were beautifully creepy offices and cafeterias, but it was getting dark and I didn’t want to stay there long with all the scrap metal scavengers.
They were looking my way a little too often.
I took a few long exposure shots of Federica walking around the interiors. She looked like a ghost, and they came out nice, but it was hard to be creative. I felt more and more nervous about being there.
We walked outside, I took a few more photos and then I heard a deep male voice yelling in a distance. I looked over and it was a big, pot-bellied fellow without a shirt on. He was walking towards me in an aggressive manner, swinging his thick arms and yelling words I couldn’t understand. (I never got the hang of Puerto Rican slang.)
I straightened my spine, opened up my chest and walked slowly towards him. I was trying to mimic Jack’s walk. He would always bob his head from side to side when he walked and it looked intimidating in a primal, dominant male kind of way – especially when he did it slowly.
I did the Jack walk and it came naturally. It had to. This guy, whoever he was, looked like he was sizing me up. I made sure to keep eye contact as he approached and stopped in front of me.
“So you like history, huh?” he said in Spanish, breathing heavy with a thick sweat over his face. His eyes were open wide and stared deep into my own.
“Yeah, places like this are very interesting to me. I came from New York to photograph your old industrial sites,” I said, holding my camera against my hip. I felt like a dork.
“Que Bueno, so you’re a photographer?” he asked.
“Yeah, I work for The New York Times, they sent me down here on a special project,” I said. I always lie about working for the Times.
“That’s good my friend, but you have to watch out around here, you could get jumped, you know, there’s a big complex of projects on the other side of that fence over there.”
I turned around to see where he was pointing and moved towards Federica. Just then, I saw the silhouette of a man inside the building next to us. I put my hand on Federica’s shoulder and pulled her as I walked backwards.
“It’s ok, we were leaving anyways, thanks for telling us though,” I said.
Federica and I walked quickly towards the entrance of the sugar mill. Most of the scrap metal scavengers had left and there were only a few teenagers hanging around, climbing things and breaking what was left to break.
We got to the car and drove away.
“That was close,” Federica said. “I thought that guy was going to rob your camera.”
“Me too,” I said. “That’s why I did the Jack walk.”
Soon after, it became dark and we had no place to go other than Federica’s mother’s house in Caguas. Oh boy. Federica called ahead this time and her mother said it was fine for me to stay the night.
When we got there, we had cereal. Milk tasted amazing after living a month without refrigeration.
In the end, I had scored another day with Federica. I was happy. She was happy. Life was good.
© Diego Cupolo 2011