Here, not thirty feet away from the bus stop, there is a raised garden. By ‘raised garden,’ I mean a brick box that ends about four feet off the ground. It holds a large eucalyptus tree and some miscellaneous plants. The walls of this raised garden provide an ideal sitting place for anyone who’s looking for a rest, a thinking spot, or perhaps a place to chill out and strum a guitar.
This particular morning, there was a homeless man sitting on one of the walls and plucking out a melancholy tune on his six-string. He was calm, introverted, not bothering anyone. He seemed content to sit there and let his instrument do the talking. A moment later, I watched a mentally addled, but well-wishing, homeless woman wander across LeConte. Her hair was Trelawney-esque, and she was carrying, of all things, a small pot that contained a single red flower.
Pause. Listen. Let me explain. When I get metaphorical, I think of humans as glasses. Not the kind that help you see, but the kind that you drink lemonade, water, or alcohol out of. I believe that when we are born, we are a shining, unblemished glass, born of melting sand. But, as we grow older, as we get hurt (either by ourselves or by others), as we change, grow, and metabolize, we get chips around our edges, some of them larger than others. So, we become chipped, fragmented, compromised; but, we are lucky to crumble in this slight way because there are others, other glasses, who become cracked deep inside their core. Sure, they have the little nicks around the rim, but their problems go much deeper, deeper than where any psychologist can reach. These people are goblets with gashes and with rivulets of pain and fear that run from the edges of the glass to the middle, to the heart, maybe even all the way through. These damaged glasses are most often the people that we see sitting homeless on street corners, sleeping in doorways, or the people in the asylums that pop culture has taught us to fear. Something in these people’s minds has pushed them to a literal breaking point, shoving these permanent fissures deep into their essence. Did you know that if you sing or play a note at the right frequency, it can shatter glass? Resume. Watch. I will explain.
Having crossed LeConte, the homeless woman began asking in a loud voice, “Will you sing me a song? I’ll give you a flower!” and again, “Will you sing me a song?” I ignored it at first, dismissing it as deranged rambling, then I realized that she was talking to the wall-sitter fiddling with his guitar. She approached him, potted flower in hand, with her voice lowered, and I watched their exchange from a distance, wondering if he would actually sing her a song and end up with that pretty red flower.
He shook his head, saying something I couldn’t hear and causing the woman to beg once again for that song. When he refused a second time, she got the message. She wandered away, talking to herself, beginning to sing a song that I didn’t recognize; perhaps it was the one she had asked him to sing. She caressed the flower as she waited for the light to change, and a moment later she was gone.
I didn’t think much of this at the time, but then I thought about the (lemonade, water, alcohol) glasses and how, at some point, the inevitable shatter will come. Maybe, I thought, the song the woman was asking for was at her frequency, the note that would cause her to cease, to fall apart. And that was when I realized that for some people, it’s easier to break than to live with the cracks.