It was a gloomy, quiet morning in Harvard Square, and as I waited for Felix’s Shoe Repair to open, I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching me. I looked around, searching for a pair of eyes that might meet mine, but found nothing. I laughed at myself as I sat down on a hard stone bench and thought, “You’ve got to stop doing this.” I had hoped that by my second semester I’d be less afraid of the city.
Five minutes later Felix’s opened, and the man I believed to be Felix handed me my favorite pair of boots, good as new. I thanked him, left the store, and headed for the T station. I bought a coffee while I waited for the T to arrive, and again, I felt eyes on me. I didn’t look around this time.
The T pulled into the station, and everyone piled into the cars. It was crowded, but there was an empty seat next to me. Just as the car doors were about to close, a man’s voice yelled from outside,” Coming through! Hold your horses! Halt!” I shut my eyes and thought, “Please, please, please don’t sit next to me.” But, when I opened my eyes, there he was.
I studied the silver-haired passenger out of the corner of my eye. The man was in his mid-fifties, I guessed. He was pretty dirty, but didn’t smell too bad. Ripped khakis, jean jacket, and a red bandana tied sloppily around his neck. His salt and pepper beard came down to the middle of his chest, and his dark glasses made it impossible to tell where he was looking. Turns out, he was looking at me.
“Ah, there you are.” He said this as if we were old friends. “I saw you bopping around all morning!” I looked at him, half with fear, and half with the satisfaction of knowing I had been right about being watched.
“I was just picking up a pair of boots,” I told him.
“Boots?” he asked, “And for what occasion will you wear these boots?”
“Well, for going out, or for performing, I guess.”
“Going out OR performing! Well, I NEVER heard of a pair of boots appropriate for both going out and performing. What kind of performing do you do anyway?”
I hesitated, but decided no harm could come from answering. “I’m a singer,” I told him. “I’m a student at Berklee.”
He beamed. “Well of course you are! How wonderful! I’m a musician myself. I Just finished a 30 hour gig on a bench in Harvard Square!”
Out of nowhere, the man produced what looked like a makeshift guitar case. It was really just a lot of newspaper held together by strings around a beat up guitar, and as he pulled the “case” apart, he threw the strings and paper on top of me. People began to stare, and by the time the guitar was freed, I was covered from head to toe in dirty newspaper. I couldn’t help but laugh, and in doing so I seemed to put the other passengers at ease.
“Now,” he said, “a private performance for my friend.”
Song number one was about some sort of bank robbery. The lyrics were very involved, and as the chorus came around the second time, he asked me to sing with him. “Come on now!” he yelled. “You know this one!”
“You’re doing great!” I told him.
The other passengers were clearly getting uncomfortable, but he sang the last verse and chorus with even more gusto than before, and ended the song abruptly. “Damn, you didn’t know that one. I don’t blame you though; it’s one of my newer songs. I’ll sing a classic from my earlier days. I know you know this one!”
As this enthusiastic man began to sing me a song he had written about clouds, I looked at the faces of the passengers around us. I saw expressions of disapproval, and even disgust. Some people were quietly mocking him, others were moving away, afraid of him. I had never heard the song he was playing in my life, and from the way he played it, I guessed he hadn’t either. When he shouted again for me to sing the chorus with him, I sang. We finished the song, and with tears in his eyes, he said, “Thank you, my dear. I haven’t had that much fun in a long, long time.” He rewrapped his guitar, silently shook my hand, and got off at the next stop.
I don’t know what happened that day, and it could have been nothing at all, but I’m glad that man sat next to me on the T. I’m even glad he sang to me, because maybe I was exactly what he needed. Sometimes you just need someone to sing with.
Kelsey Worley is a second semester student from Thousand Oaks, California. She is a voice principal, and hopes to major in songwriting.