There’s a quiet rumble in my stomach there, at the exact spot the last of the canned beans used to be… The one from two nights ago. Foraging is an art I like to think that I have mastered, but sometimes I hit a dry spell and that can be dangerous when hunger is the consequence for failure. Might be time to bring out the old violin again. Sometimes, when the bark of hunger is at its loudest, I think back to how I got here, a suppressed memory coming up for air but always pushed back into the deep.
I take up my usual spot nestled on the corner of King and James, with my hat on my head and my violin in my hand. I’m padded up as much as I can be, but everyone knows homeless people are helpless against the cold, so we surrender to it, warmly accepting winters chilling embrace. Tonight, Christmas Eve, was especially chilly. You would think that Mother Nature would let up for the festive season, but the harsh, cold sting in my nostrils when I inhale says otherwise. No matter. Cold nights are violin nights anyway. I go through my usual ritual: all my other stuff is already packed in a trash bag, and I hide it in its usual place, behind the trash bin on the corner alleyway. One of these days someone is going to mistake its contents for trash, and they would not be too far off. I put down my raggedy hat… After all I have to keep my earnings from this someplace; take off one of my gloves (which had so many holes you would think it was fashionable) and wipe down my baby, taking special care between the strings. Then I rest the butt of my violin between the peak of my left shoulder and my left cheek; do a little tuning (of course), close my eyes, and start strumming.
No one pays attention in the beginning… they usually don’t at first. They listen with their eyes, as most humans are wont to do, and all they hear is poor, dirty, drugged out hobo. So they turn the volume up on their mp3 players and keep moving, probably to go play out the rest of their risibly perfect lives. I keep playing though, ignoring the masses, and soon enough when sound starts to override sight, one or two stop to actually listen. Then three or four. Then a score. Still I ignore them all. Even when the clink of coin clapping together on the inside of my hat grows louder, I just play on, bobbing my head and swaying drunkenly to the intoxication of my own strums.
When I finally stop and take a breath, the air is punctured by pockets of appreciative murmurs and ovation. I take a bow – just like I used to on Carnegie Hall – another life. As the crowd begins to disperse I pick up my hat, which by now is overflowing with loose change. Can’t forget the rest of my belongings, which are still right where I left them, behind the bin on the corner. I sling my trash bag over my shoulder and I trudge along, to live out the rest of the year. If I was lucky the cold would take me, but knowing my luck I would probably be back on that corner again same time next year.