I was serenaded by a gentleman on my walk today
Well, not really.
This was my fourth or fifth time encountering the “singing man”. He strolls around the neighbourhood, singing loudly to himself (to the world?) as he walks.
Whenever I hear him, my pace slows. A smile creeps across my lips, exposing me as a romantic.
He has a beautiful, melodic voice. Really, I have no idea if he’s actually any good, but to me, it’s lovely. Someone more versed in the area may think otherwise. Today I pulled out my phone and began to record.
As this video ends, I ducked into a store to browse. When he passed, two women in their mid-fifties noticed and began commenting.
The conversation went something like this:
“There are people like that in our back alley all the time.”
“Oh yeah? Really? In your neighbourhood?”
“Oh yeah. Walking by Kevin’s Maserati, pushing their shopping carts full of trash.”
Now, I don’t claim to be perfectly non-judgemental. Anyone who says they don’t make judgements about others is a liar.
However, this man is, if a bit ragged, clean and fairly put together. He’s not harassing anyone as they go about their business. He’s not asking for change or scaring your children. He isn’t picking through trash cans or looking for cigarette butts on the sidewalk.
He’s just out for a stroll. And sharing his music.
It brought back a vivid memory of sitting on the Metro in Paris. Across from us sat a homeless man. One encounters many homeless people in any big city, but this man will forever be etched in my memory.
He definitely hadn’t bathed in some time – the odor was strong and I was trying not to reveal I was aware of it. Looking down, my gaze at his feet, I noticed he had a black, cloth gym bag. It was clean and tightly zipped, drawn underneath him, the backs of his ankles keeping it in place. Curiosity peaked, my gaze started to rise.
I became aware of how small he had made himself, tucked in like that. His knees together, legs bent past 90 degrees. His arms were pulled in close to his body. His posture upright. Taking up the least amount of space possible.
The man’s hands were folded on his lap. His fingers showed signs of life on the street, his nails dirty and dark around the edges, and somehow, perfectly trimmed. His face, too, showed signs of a hard life. But also in contrast, his hair was neatly combed back.
A few stops into our journey, a woman and her family got on the train. It was immediately obvious she was a tourist (see, there’s me, judging). She saw the last open seat, which happened to be next to the homeless man. The turn in expression on her face between eagerly grabbing the seat, and realizing who she was sitting down next to, was painfully obvious. Mid-way down her body language changed and her knees turned out to the aisle so her back was facing her seatmate.
I see it now in slow motion. I still cringe thinking about it. This poor man, trying to maintain a sense of dignity with his trimmed nails, his combed hair and his polite posture.
I began to smile in his general direction, hoping to send positivity and peace his way, even if he couldn’t see it on my face or in my eyes.
I have always wondered about him, this man on the Metro.
I don’t know “singing man’s” story either – why he strolls, if he’s actually going anywhere, what he’s singing. A part of me wants to ask.
But a larger part of me would rather wonder. And enjoy when I happen to cross his path.