In a nameless diner in a nameless town, a man waited. He was not a young man, but could not call himself an old man. An opening in the far wall let into the kitchen. Steam billowed forth until the figures within were almost invisible. He could not recall how long he'd been waiting for his chicken fingers, but it seemed as if too many minutes had passed. He sipped from his coffee cup, as he always had.
In his hands, he held a photograph. It was a picture of a castle from some time ago (both the picture and the castle). He stood in front of the castle gate with his hand on a bicycle seat, looking young. A young woman stood next to him, and another to her left. That one, he did not know, but he thought he must still know the other one.
While he remained hunched over the photo, another man sat in the chair across from him. The man seemed about his own age, perhaps slightly older. This new fellow immediately put his cigarette out in the ashtray. "A photograph," he said, pulling a lit cigar from inside his jacket, "destroys a memory." He began to puff away.
The slightly younger man steepled his fingers. "What do you mean?"
"When we recall something, we are recalling the last time we recalled it. Passing the information to ourselves. Like telephone."
"When you look at a photograph, all of the information is contained in the photo. This is all that gets passed along to you. The photograph becomes the memory. The memory is destroyed."
"By your logic, a memory also destroys a memory."
"Only if we remember it."
The slightly younger man scratched his chin and looked back at the photo in his hands, but this time trying to look outside it. To recall how far the wall stretched, or what was across the street behind the camera. Or who had taken the photo. Or what they had done immediately before and after it was taken. "What's the difference, then? Isn't the photo better than my memory? It stays the same for every recollection."
The slightly older man shrugged and put out the stub of his cigar. "I suppose that depends how good your memory is. Or what you want to recall." A waitress arrived and set a coffee cup in front of him.
"Do I have a good memory?"
"I guess the only way to know that would be to never have taken a photo."
"Then how would I remember anything?"
The slightly older man laughed. "I think you've just answered your own question."
The slightly younger man shook his head and looked back at the photo. As far as he could tell, it was still the same photo he had looked at a minute ago. "If my memory is the intersection of this photograph and recollection, how do they intersect once my recollection is only the photo itself?" He looked up, but the slightly older man was gone.
He took a sip of his coffee, as he always had, then crumpled up the photo and dropped it in the ashtray. It still remained there in his head.
His chicken fingers arrived. There were three of them, and some french fries. Was this all he had been waiting for?