Classic NYC Story

Words of a poet… Soul of a musician…

Sunday, May/19/2013 11:04am

On songs and sunken cheeks

He gets on the train at Penn Station. He is carrying what looks like a tall and narrow clear glass flower vase with an old school florescent light sitting in it. He has a bookbag as well. Or a duffel bag. Now I can’t remember. His hands are full. He starts by intruducing himself as someone who had been singing gospel for fourteen years and so “knew a thing or two.” His introducing himself that way makes me decide not to like him. I hate arrogance.

He is good though. Not impressive. Not deserving of the arrogant introduction, but good. He doesn’t know if he wants to lean against the subway doors or stand up straight. He sings a simple church song, one that I know and whose entire lyric is “Alleluja.” I could sing with him, but I don’t. Instead I watch him silently. He is bald. His cheekbones are high and his cheeks are soft and sunken in. If my husband were here he would assume that this man has AIDS by the way his cheeks look. I want to ask, but there’s no good way to ask something like that on a crowded subway.

He becomes more and more unhappy as I watch. He straightens up and does a few simple dance moves. I keep watching. I don’t think anyone else is watching him. I don’t think anyone else is listening.

The second song he sings is one I don’t know. He dances as he sings that one mournfully as well. I’ve stopped disliking him. If he sings a third one, I think, and I know it, I’ll sing with him. He doesn’t. He thanks us all for our time, picks up his bags and his flower vase and his florescent light and gets off the train.

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