I crossed by him everyday when I went to work. Wearing something black and having a placard with a new message, written in black ink, leaning by his feet, he used to stand at the cross-section whether it was raining or sunny enough to blind. For every new day, he had a new melody, a new chord, a new song to shine. When it all began, he was a musician who crooned by the river Seine. I didn’t even realize when the river became something that was flowing next to where he sang; the songs that permeated through people and were remembered later in random vague thoughts.
I looked forward to mornings now. There was something to hum along in the middle of the usual monotonous balderdash. Sometimes, I recorded his songs wondering if he would object. I practised singing along after evening showers, and marveled at the thought of joining him on that street and maybe just nod along. I smiled at the thoughts of strumming at the guitar when I would be a known face next to his songs where the cross-section belonged. Even the sound of the coins being dropped by admiring strangers were rythmic in his company as if everything was a harmony when he touched the air around. I was guilty of never dropping a coin though. It was like putting a price tag to what he was putting in my pocket; something I could never pick up, fold and return.
I had made up my mind. I was going to ask today. I smiled. I waived. I shook my head. I swung my bag by its long strap and didn’t even gulp down my coffee like I always had. I took a slow sip at every next step and walked with a deliberate ease. I was in a hurry to be at peace. Before I realized, I was at the cross section and he was surrounded by a mob. I twinkled – his day had arrived, and maybe others too have seen how he was the soul who wore the body instead of the other way around.
I tore my way through the mob. I wanted to see his face filled with pride and a hint of joy; how he will be beaming at the prospect of someone willing to buy his songs or maybe offering a job of singing at some popular cafe house.
But, he was gone. The cross-section lay lifeless without him. All that was, was his hat and his placard which read:
“I don’t hear the sounds. The accents. The notes. The rhythms. The lyrics. What I do hear is river Seine flowing next to the one inside mine.”
“Oh! the poor deaf chap,” said someone, stumbling against the hat filled with clunky coins, “It was too cold out there yesterday night.”