The Cameraman

1.) I had read the reviews online beforehand, so I thought I was prepared. The Cameraman would be located in a basement apartment, holed under the posh shops of Newbury Street. He did have hours of operation, but I should call in advance. There would be camera bodies scattered all over the floor, he would quote me one price and I would pay another, I’d be told to pick it up in a week by which he would mean months, maybe. The place would be filthy and unorganized. He would forget everything he ever said to me.

But: he was literally the only person left in Boston who repaired cameras any more.

It was either him or pay shipping.

And I am a woman of small means.

The metal-grated door was dark, and there was a hand-scrawled sign next to the doorbell. “PLEASE KNOCK.” On what? I wondered. I placed two fingers in between the grating and tapped dully. Could anyone have heard that?

The door swung open. I stepped inside.

2.) The first thing you will notice about The Cameraman is that he is afraid of you. Immediately after opening the door he backs away from you at such an extraordinary speed that by the time your eyes adjust to the darkness, he is behind the counter already, hands gripping glass.

“Hi,” you say. “I’m . . . Adrianne. We talked on the phone just about an hour ago, about my XSi, and the compression damages from a bicycle accident?”

He stands there frozen, with eyes darting back and forth.

“Perhaps,” you say, “I was talking to someone else,” even though you both know that is impossible.

3.) The next thing you will notice about The Cameraman is his glasses. They appear to be actually from the late ’40s or early ’50s; not some cutesy recreation, but well worn and heavy. Brown and thick at the top, with little silver decals at the edges.

You may be tempted to compliment him on them. I wouldn’t recommend it.

4.) The Cameraman will rarely if ever touch your camera. He seems to be afraid of getting too close to anything; instead he points, hovers, traces. His nails are trimmed to the pink; his hands are white and dry like day-old cake. He draws an outline in the air around your lens to explain the damage, then manifests a three-ring binder from behind the counter and flips open to a diagram of parts, tracing, always tracing just above the object, as if he were manipulating auras, perpetually playing some invisible theremin.

All of the pages in his binders are perfectly smooth. He wears a button-up shirt, neatly ironed and tightly fastened at the cuffs and neck. Over this he layers a starched navy lab coat. When he speaks, he enunciates each word carefully and repeats each sentence at least twice. “We will write this down. Compression damage. Remove lens. Do not repair lens.” Pause. “We will write this down. Compression damage.”

Arranged on the counter in front of you is a small display of dismantled digital cameras, tiny green and silver innards exposed, bright veins snaking in and out of black holes. A sign reads: “DO NOT TOUCH CAMERAS.”

Everything is placed at precise 45 degree angles.

5.) Behind The Cameraman is another doorless room, pitch black. Halfway through your visit a black and white spotted cat weasels out of it.

“When the repair is done, I will send you a card. This card,” he says, holding up a black and white printed postcard, reading THE CAMERAMAN. “When you receive this card, you may pick up your camera.”

“Okay,” you say. “And that will be a hundred and twenty dollars?”

“It will be one hundred and nineteen dollars and twenty cents.”


“Cash only. Or, personal check.”

“No Visa. Got it.”

“Personal check is fine. Or cash.”

“Right. Great. Thanks.”

“Right. Great. Thanks. Goodbye Adrianne,” he says abruptly, placing his hands together at his chest. He backs away from you, heel-toe heel-toe the entire way, disappearing into the pitch black room with the black and white spotted cat.

” . . . goodbye,” you say. You resist the urge to run, and instead walk very, very quickly to the door, back into the light, the bright and bustling of money on Newbury Street.

6.) Four days later you get a postcard. It is black and white. It reads THE CAMERAMAN. Compression damage. Remove lens. Do not repair lens.

Your repair is ready.

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  1. My repair shop in Brooklyn is full of black dudes who sit around all day on stools talking about radios. They really know how to make a nerdy guy with a stereo feeling like the coolest kid in school pulling up to the dealership in a camarro.

  2. Yikes! So well-written, I feel like I was there…and consequently am fighting the urge to run away from the computer or wash my hands or something.

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