In Providence

In Providence: Frames

“Nobody hangs pictures anymore, so I thought, ‘I’m going to hang pictures.’”

He got here the week before the pandemic started. Providence was offering a new start, a new job and new possibilities. Like anyone arriving in the Renaissance City, he was excited for WaterFire, PVDFest and all the other city-wide events that make summer here such a special season.

Then the news started to break.

“The joke with my parents back home is, ‘Now you have time to unpack,’ because the last place I lived– I don’t think I ever got around to unpacking all the boxes. When I moved here, I found some that still had the tape on them and I just threw them in the truck and that was it.”

This time everything is unpacked, and he has a lot of time to get acquainted with his surroundings.

“I found this old box of photos and I said, ‘I’m going to hang these up.’ I always wanted to have pictures — I’m a photographer, not for my work, but it’s something I like to do, so I have pictures of everybody — all my friends, my family. I started putting them up and now I have them everywhere. My whole apartment is covered in photos.”

I ask him if he’s disappointed to be here now that all the best things the city has to offer aren’t available to him for the time being.

“No, because it would be like that anywhere. I’d rather be here. It feels really nice here. I can’t describe it, but I feel better being here than I would have felt if I was still living at my old place Florida, because nobody there is taking this seriously. I like how the people in charge here are handling it. I watch the press conferences and it makes me feel better. I think– You want to know what? I think it’s good luck that I got here when I did. My friends, when I moved here, they were making fun of me because this is so different from Miami. They were saying, ‘Have fun in Rhode Island.’ Now they’re saying, ‘You got lucky, dude.’ I did, too. I know I did.”

Has he felt lonely at all?

“Yes, but, uh, I think a little lonely can be good for you. How it was before was– I run around, run around. I don’t even pay attention to what’s going on with all these people that I care about. I’ve probably talked to my friends more in the past few weeks — and my parents — then I had when I was seeing them all the time, because I was just off in my own world. Always thinking about work and what I’m going to do that night, because I was always going out. I needed to get grounded really bad, and that’s what I’m using this time for, to think about what kind of life I want for myself in Providence. I think I’m going to be here for a long time. That’s why I’m not in a rush to have this summer be this amazing summer with all these things going on, because if I just have to sit here in my apartment the whole time and go for walks and do things like that, that’s okay. I’ll get to know the city that way first. That’s okay.”

Curiosity prompts me to ask him if there’s anything he’s seen on his walks that have struck him as interesting or noteworthy. He mentions Prospect Terrace Park.

“That’s a great spot. I like to find a spot in whatever city I’m in, even if I’m just visiting. I love that spot. That view. Somebody told me that when they go on walks now, they feel like they’re in a ghost town, and I go, ‘But you’re not.’ That’s what you have to remember. You have people in all those houses and those buildings, and they’re all going through the same thing you’re going through, and if you think about it that way, it makes you feel better. It makes me feel better, I know that.”

He sends me a photo of his walls, and he wasn’t exaggerating earlier, they really are lined with photographs. I ask him if he had all those frames lying around and he tells me that he did. They were in another unopened box that never got unpacked until now.

“A box of frames with no pictures in them. I never even got that far. I bought the frames and thought that would force me to fill them, but I never did. I think that’s how it is for people. You do something to try and trick yourself into doing something else, but the tricks don’t work. You need time. You need time to do the things you really want to do. We think we want to work and we want to make money and we want to show people what we’ve got going on, but we want to hang pictures. We want to play music. I want to go on walks and be alone with myself and pretty soon I’ll want to introduce that person to somebody else, but I think when the time comes to do that I’ll be a better person and I’ll be way more into the idea of somebody meeting me. I’m excited for that.”

We finish up our conversation, and I start to write this piece. An hour later, I get an email with an attachment. A photo. It’s from him. It’s a photograph of the Roger Williams statue at Prospect Park. The view behind it really is stunning, but I guess if you’re used to seeing it, you could start to take it for granted. Hopefully taking things for granted is something we leave behind us after this, but that might be wishful thinking.

“My vision for a better Rhode Island starts with a simple idea — we are all in this together.”

That’s not a quote from Roger Williams, it’s a quote from our governor, but I happen to like it.

I ask him if he thinks he’ll hang that photograph up in his apartment one day, and he tells me it’s the first thing he’s going to do when everything opens up again.

He just needs to go out and buy a good frame for it.