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A Chance at Hope
Gentle snowflakes are just beginning to sprinkle down from the sky, leaving a light, white blanket over the bustling, bright streets of Midtown Manhattan. Under a tree above the sidewalk, sitting on a bench, is a young man whose long disheveled hair just covers his eyes. The dark outline of a guitar sits on his lap, almost melding into his shadow as he moves his hands with the slightest of movements. Though his form barely moves in the twilight, the sounds that emulate from his figure are immense and deep, resonating between the passerby people and off of the steep rising skyscrapers. The change bucket nestled in his guitar case is humble, and most would not know that it is all he has to live on. In the dusky light, a person would not be able to make out the ripped, worn clothes that hang off of his slim body or the dark shoes on his feet that are starting to wear a hole in them. In the time just before the darkness settles in, a stranger would not notice anything except his music. Which is exactly what he desires.
As the cold becomes unbearable, he packs up the beautiful structure of strings and wood, a deep black, shiny color with caramel-colored wood in the shape of angel’s wings decorating the edges and sides, reaching up to the neck. He pulls his black knit hat down over his ears and wraps a crimson scarf around his neck as he turns to walk down the sidewalk, back to the New York City 30th Street Intake for Homeless Men. Walking down the street, he thinks back to how many days he has had to rely on the homeless shelter just to battle the cold, not just for months but for well over a year now. He has barely enough to eat, no roof over his head, just a guitar and the clothes on his back. He thought back to his mother, who he sold everything for just to get her help and try to cure her illness. Tears formed in his eyes and his muscles stiffened at the hard memories that returned to him, as he knew he should have tried harder all along, should have done better in school and should have tried to get a good job. When the time came that he had to step up, it just was not enough to save her. But he did not sell his guitar, the one he was given in high school from his great uncle. Because he knew that as long as he had that guitar, he would find a way to make it through the obstacles life presented to him.
Up above in her apartment, a young woman slowly brushes out her long, brunette hair after a long hot bath. Sitting in her silk bathrobe, surrounded by a feather mattress, designer furniture, and classic artwork originals framed on her walls, and all she can look at is the mirror. A plain mirror, simple, but it is what is inside the mirror that bothers her. Her own reflection, two bright green eyes staring back, with nothing to show, nothing to prove. Empty. The window is cracked open, just enough to let a cool breeze in and release the steam from the bathroom. Suddenly, her gaze is broken by a few broken notes that float through the air and into her apartment. She places the hairbrush down, hoping she can just catch a glimpse of him, as she finds her slippers and scurries to the window. The sounds is now gone, but a silhouette of a figure is walking away, down the sidewalk and out of her vision. Disappointed, but not certain why, she shuts the window, and lays on her bed, staring up into the ceiling and slowly drifts to sleep. She wishes she could know him, after passing him everyday on her way to work. Then again, she wishes she could know herself and she sees her reflection everyday.
Light streams through the trees as the sun rises up above the skyscrapers as morning routines began. Sitting under the tree, next to the bench, music lyrics arose from the young man and his guitar:
Every morning, she walks on by
Walks on by, she wonders why,
Wonders why she can’t help but sigh,
Sigh at what she sees.
If she could only see,
If she could only look past,
She could understand,
She would know, she would go,
She would blow her world,
And shatter it all to pieces…
Slowly approaching him, the young woman fumbles with her Louis Vuitton handbag hanging beneath the bangles and jewels that cover her wrists, twisting and turning up her arm. In the other hand she holds a cardboard tray, holding two medium coffees from Starbucks. The young man does not look up, he stays focused on his guitar, but he can see the fuchsia, shiny patent leather heels approaching him with the same clock, clock, clock on the sidewalk that he uses for the beat of her song. It is only when she is standing two feet in front of him that his strings stop vibrating abruptly and he looks up at her.
“Hi…” she begins, awkwardly trying to find her words and speaking slowly but thoughtfully, “I pass by you every day on my way to work, and I just wanted to thank you for making every morning special. You’re music is just AMAZING, and WONDERFUL, and– sorry, um…it just means a lot to me and….I bought you a coffee!”
He looks directly into her eyes but does not see, just like every morning when he notices her.
“Thank you,” he finally responds, clearly and intentionally, “and this is great. Really great. Thank you so much for thinking of me.”
“You’re welcome! I’m glad you like it! I wasn’t sure what flavor you like or if you’re more of a dark roast kind of guy or a medium roast but anyway, yeah, I guess I better be on my way now, but thank you,” she responds as she throws a twenty-dollar bill into his tip cup.
She starts to walk away, starting up the beat again, when he yells,
She turns around quickly, trying to cover it up but secretly pleased that he wants her attention again.
“What’s your name?” he yells, out of pure curiosity, hiding his clandestine intentions in asking yet searching for her eyes to hear the answer.
“Annabelle!” she responds, eager at the opportunity to learn his name as she quickly replies back with a little flip of her hair, “And you?”
“Chris,” he says, and gives a small smile as he gives a head nod and turns back down to his guitar. She turns around and starts to walk again but he pace is quicker, with more energy. It’s the best morning she can remember in a long time.
“Clock, clock, clock……”
He hears her coming down the sidewalk and looks up gently, between his long shaggy hair. Intimidated to speak but feeling he ought to, he speaks up just as she is passing by,
“Hey,” he says, just loud enough so that she can hear. She turns her head and gives a quick smile,
“Oh, hi…” nervously but audible all the same, she is confused as to what he’s about to say.
“Just…thanks for the coffee yesterday. I really enjoyed it.”
“Oh! Your welcome!”
“And—” he begins to say, but he is cut off,
“I would love to chat, but I’m sorry, I really have to go” she replies curtly, as she turns and continues walking down the street.
“Clock, clock, clock…” Chris listens as he starts playing his guitar to the beat of her steps. He gives a small sigh as he turns to see her figure, bouncing down the sidewalk, far away and about to cross the street as the cold wind slaps his face and he pulls his scarf and hat over his head.
The next morning, as birds chirp in the trees and taxi drivers honk obnoxiously in the street, Annabelle makes her way down the sidewalk as Chris’s music becomes perceptible:
Longing, longing for talking
Longing, longing for walking
Longing, longing for loving
Longing for someone to just understand…
“Hi…Chris…” she pipes up and he raises his head to her eyes.
“Good morning” he smiles back, not looking for too much conversation after being cut off the previous day.
“Um… would you…I mean…do you want to go get a coffee? I understand if you’re, you know, occupied but um…” she blurts out and continues, “My treat!”
“Yeah, that would be nice,” he replies, joyful that she asked, “but I’ll pay this time, I owe you one. This one is my treat.”
“No, no, no, I insist, I don’t want you to use your money, that’s all you have,” she says, hoping not to offend him but not wanting him to use the little earned cash he has for something as meaningless as coffee.
But he puts his guitar away and grabs the tip cup without a word, takes her hand, and starts leading her down the street next to him. She is startled, but goes along with it, knowing that deep down she really is happy he took the initiative.
“I know this place only a block away,” he tells her, and they continue down the sidewalk,
“I think you’ll really like it.”
They enter a small coffee shop with a little sign over the door, “JUST A DROP COFFEE SHOP” and immediately the smells of cocoa, cinnamon, hazelnut, and caramel fill their nostrils as they get on line together. He still has his guitar in one hand, and he is still holding her hand in the other. She looks around in awe of the cozy couches, faux fireplace, and charming pictures hanging on the walls. He insists on paying, and eventually she lets him. Just this once.
“I’ve never been here, but this place is just lovely,” she says.
“Yeah, I used to come here all the time, but I haven’t been here in a while” he responds as he seems to drift away into a memory.
“Used to? You don’t come here anymore?” she says.
“No, things changed and…” Chris hesitates, not knowing if he can trust her or not, but deciding he has nothing to lose, he starts his story. He tells her everything, how he always had a passion for music, how he wanted to just play in coffee shops and clubs, live on a low income and only have things he really needed in life. He also told her about how his mother got sick, and how he gave up everything he had trying to save her. Except his guitar.
Annabelle is stunned, but does not know whether it is the shock of him talking to her and revealing his whole life or the story itself.
“I can’t imagine…living like that….” She replies, searching for words she knows she can’t even begin to find.
“But,” she continues, “I admire how hopeful you are, I mean, I’m going to be blatantly honest, I have everything in the world. Everything. But I’m so lonely. It’s like people don’t see that I’m a person underneath my clothes; they judge me and use me for money and pleasure just for themselves. I just want…a companion…just a real person that could understand me and who I can understand.”
“I know where you’re coming from,” he says, “it gets really lonely out there.”
They sit in silence for a few minutes, looking around at the strangers surrounding them, pretending like they are interested in other scenes when they are really just avoiding an awkward moment of eye contact. Finally, they do make eye contact but do not shy away, just smile and give a small sigh. For some reason, it does not seem uncomfortable. Actually, it is nice. To be able to sit and just be with another person, not worried about what they think or how they perceive you.
The odd couple finishes their beverages and made a move to leave the shop, heading toward the door but moving slowly, as if relishing each step and wanting it to last.
“Would it be okay with you if we could talk more often, and maybe met once and a while? I know we are different and come from different places in life but I really feel connected to you.”
“Yeah, I would like that.”
They walk out together and down the street. Chris hears the clock, clock, clock right beside him and for once it is not just the beat for the rhythm of one of his songs, but the rhythm of his heart’s joy at knowing he has a chance. A chance not to be lonely for once.
I guess he knew it all along, that if he just kept to his guitar, he could find a way to make through anything.