Copyright is held by the author.
I TRIED asking, once. I asked: “Why do you do this every day?”
The lead singer, like the other three, was whip-thin, long haired, young and aspirational. They were all busy fiddling with musical equipment, getting set up. There was no time for my question but over their shoulder, the lead told me to: “just listen to the songs.”
So I went to stand by the bridge’s railing. As usual, I had ten more minutes on my break. I had time to take this in.
They got themselves ready, then, poised in their places, the lead counted them in:
“One, two, three, four . . .”
The songs they sang were original. This wasn’t a cover band. They brought their own material to the street.
Often, an oblong clump of approving pedestrians would form around them as soon as they started.
But still other people would keep walking past.
I didn’t know how they could stand that.
They were emoting all over the walkway and people ignored them, too eager to reach their destinations. Or too engrossed in thoughts and habits and conversations. Unable to truly be there.
A breeze stirred the water below me and up rose the brine and tang of the slow moving river.
I’d asked: Why do you do this every day?
And in response they seemed to say: to strum, to sing together, to gesture wildly at the crowds, to coordinate, to jump in unison at that song’s last beat, to translate math into soundscapes, to meet the river, to meet the bridge, to become your memory. It all flows . . .
But, technically, their songs said none of that. Most of them were rock ballads about lost love. What teenagers think adults mourn about. It was a nice try.
The chorus to the last one I heard was catchy, of course.
And after I gave them a bit of money, I left the bridge with my question lagging, and the lines caught in the net of my brain.
I left you and you left me,
There is nothing more to see
You left me and I left you,
There is nothing more to do.
Later that day, while at the photocopier, I caught myself singing it under my breath.
And maybe that was why they did it?
So I would not be alone at the photocopier.
So no one would be alone at the photocopier. We get left by so much all the time. Not just “lost loves”.
It happened to them, too. They eventually got into the music business and left the bridge.
The bridge lost them. The river did, too.
My lunch breaks continued but without their sound breaking apart the last 10 minutes.
But this morning, I finally bought one of their songs, digitally, and I heard them through my headphones: there is nothing more to do.
I swear I smelled the river’s tang as I drank my coffee.