He looked like a quiet retiree and I didn't notice him until the moment he interrupted my reverie. I was at the hardware shop on my way home studying the different types of sanders, trying to compare their power, their rpm, their weight. Puzzled and lost by the choice, I hear a smiling voice saying from just behind me "Are you buying it for yourself?" I turned around to meet the face of the old man. He has a mass of rebel white hair, blue eyes and the white shadow of a beard. One of them bobos? He smiles and I know that something is not quite right. He has just one tooth left in the middle of his upper jaw. I can't help noticing that all his mouth seems rotten. I replies that yes, the sander is for a project I have, all the while trying to not look at his mouth too much but attracted by its car-wreck fascination. We started to talk for a while. He lived for several years in Berlin, speaks a bit of French (not much though so we switched back to English). He worked in the military, some kind of electronic intelligence, he says with the air of someone who would like to tell more on the subject but can't. He was there when the wall came down. "Do you know this famous photograph of that night?" he asked.
Of course I know the photograph. "Well I was there but you won't see me in the picture: I was right behind the cameras and the photographers. You understand, in my line of work, I had to stay unseen". I nod and smile. The discussion soon cover Germany, Berlin, the city architecture and the resentment of the Wessies toward the Ossies. I have stopped staring at his tooth but I am still puzzled by what could cause such a devastation in someone's mouth.
The tooth is there, standing alone, a visual reminder of what should be.