My cousins, Cece and Carolyn, and I were headed to the large meeting hall at an ocean-side campground in Maine. The one that promised WiFi. I brought with me my laptop, hopeful that I would soon get to access the internet after several days of travelling. Who needs a sunset view of the Atlantic? Not me, apparently. I walked in, fortunate to find that the hall was vacant. I went to a nearby table and set up, while Carolyn joined Cece in the corner. I was stretching my cable to a nearby outlet when an elderly man and his wife entered. From where I was seated, I could hear an exchange of words, and soon the man came down and sat beside me, far too close considering that the building was empty. I slid down the bench with a sigh, as if to say “get the hell away from me.” The man discreetly moved down with me. I moved again. He was resilient. Uncomfortable, I called over to Carolyn from where she was in hope that she would be sympathetic to my situation. She too felt that the man was at an unusual distance. Unfortunately, she was just as uncomfortable as I was, and left. I decided to keep to myself. Soon, the man engaged me in conversation.
“Hey, what’s the password for the internet?” he asked in a thick French-Canadian accent.
“I think it was posted on the door.” I did, of course, know the password. But I hoped that this answer to his question would draw him away from my table.
“Really? I didn’t see it. What did you use to sign in?”
I mustered up all of the willpower I had in my body to not be dismissive. I slid him the password that I’d previously written down.
“Thanks son.” After a few adjustments of his thick glasses, he logged on. I hoped that he would soon move away, seeing as I gave him the information that he had requested. I was wrong.
“Do you like trains?”
“I’m sorry?” I replied. My American ears had a difficult time making out his words.
“Let me show you.” He opened up a video on YouTube. To my surprise, he appeared in the video. He stood over an elaborate and detailed fictional recreation of what he claimed to be his home town. Before him, trains rolled along the plastic tracks. The old man launched into a story about his love of model trains. I politely nodded along at the key points, something I’ve become quite good at in my years of listening. At the conclusion of his story, he took to the internet once more. This time he googled a name: Sophie Nelisse. With the search came a picture of the girl. The man said that she was most likely my age (at the time, around 13). He clicked on the “images” tab to bring up more pictures. Having found one to his liking, he enlarged the image.
“This is my granddaughter.” He said proudly.
“Ah.” I replied in confusion. Why did he search his granddaughter on Google? And why did she come up with abundant results? If that was really his relative, why did he not have access to pictures other than Google? My suspicion rose.
“Pretty nice, huh?” The man said with a slight tone of lust. He wasn’t wrong, but that was unimportant.
“Alright, I’m done here.” I said aloud, no longer able to hold back my sarcastic nature. I began to pack up. To this day I’m unsure exactly how the man reacted to my sudden exit. My cousins and I left the building as fast as possible, convinced that he was a pedophile.
I returned home, the event still fresh in my mind, eager to tell my friends about the bizarre occurance when school returned. It was a week after I returned home when I received a phone call from Cece.
“Did you see what I sent you?”
“No.” I responded.
“Check your Instagram.”
I did. A link appeared before me. I followed the link to the social media page of Sophie Nelisse, where I found that she was an actress, who had recently gained fame for playing the role of Liesel Meminger in the movie adaptation of The Book Thief. The link took me to a short video, with a caption that read “All this made by my grandfather.” The video showed the man, standing with his granddaughter, the famous Sophie Nelisse, fondly staring down at his train table.