Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We are the Sultans

The street was empty at 11:20 PM, an oddity for a four lane boulevard. It cut through the mostly residential area like a rotten log caught against a riverbed. Formerly green curbs were spotted with refuse from car windows. A McDonald's bag at the stop light, a toddler's car seat next to the freshly poured foundations. A dirt encrusted condom in front of a church. This filth pales to the beauty of the sky, but even that's choked with light pollution.

A man garbed entirely in black paced down the right side of the road, passing houses that should've been more splendid. His side of the street was lined entirely with fences, breaking only for intersections. He could tell the demographics of each family as he walked past by the fences and what could be spied through. A tall white PVC fence with perfectly trimmed grass - the upper middle class family with Mexican lawn care. The chipped brown wooden fence enclosing old Fisher-Price mock houses - the family that suffered when the stock market thought it was best to cower in a corner. The man didn't even bother looking into the chain-links anymore, they depressed him.

His pace was uneven and varied with each song his headphones delivered. He observed that he was shifting more weight to his left side and had been for years, but never noticed until today. He didn't like this fact, but his disdain wouldn't change it. It wouldn't undo his fall down a ladder five years prior working retail, in which he broke his ankle and never bothered to get it looked at. He set it reasonably well himself, but without the aid of medical coverage he couldn't even verify it's status now. He pretended it didn't bother him. The most pressing matter was the letter in his back pocket telling him that he couldn't graduate for another year. It pressed like an iron.

"Sultans of Swing" came on. His mood shifted to bittersweet and his pace slowed. Nothing around him mattered besides finding a reason to smile. He couldn't think about the future now, his plan for the year had just been smashed in it's knees before it could run away with him. Without the degree, there was no chance of finding a job. No job, no apartment. Nothing. For months that had made him smile when he needed to, now it would only twist his lungs.

He raised the volume and sang to himself. Maybe he'd be like Harry. Harry doesn't mind if he never makes the scene. He can play the honky-tonk like anything. Maybe he'd be a musician instead. He could take an old dreadnought guitar and play at public parks for rent. He could get big like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, even if neither of them could sing and Springsteen's only saving grace was the help from his friends. It couldn't be that hard.

He knew this was a lie. They were exceptions, not rules. Most street musicians died hungry and alone. Most of the time they spent their final days pushing shopping carts full of empty beer cans they picked out areas like this. He knew it was no option, but the thought of playing guitar until he couldn't anymore brought the faintest smirk to his face. That was enough to get him home and into bed.

"Thank you, goodnight. Now it's time to go home."

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