It was not the life he wanted, but it was the life he now lived.
No home, no friends, no money. No chance of climbing out of the dirty cellar of life he found himself rattling around in. He spent his days picking through dumpsters looking for whatever good thing he might find.
He sat on the bench down close to the waters edge. It wasn’t much but it was his bench. He had claimed it. At least for now. If he got off the bench, it would be up for grabs. That was OK. That’s the way it worked. But for now he was on it and the bench was his.
Most people ignored him as they walked by. Kids on bikes and skateboards whizzed passed. Some made derogatory comments. Others just stared. For the most part no one gave him a second thought. He might as well have been invisible to them all. Just a dirty, raggedy old man who had fallen through the cracks of society.
No home, no friends, no money. No chance of climbing out of the dirty cellar of life he found himself rattling around in. He spent his days picking through dumpsters looking for whatever good thing he might find. Food mainly. Every so often he would come across something worth keeping, like a piece of clothing that almost fit him, or a bottle or can worth a few cents.
He gladly accepted handouts whenever they were offered. Money was always good. Real food like a fresh hamburger or a burrito was a real treat. They didn’t come along that often though. Mostly he just picked through dumpsters. He was living his life in constant survival mode.
He did recall a time not too long ago when he was walking along a downtown street. He came across an old upright piano. It had been set on the sidewalk just waiting for someone to stop and play it. He was intrigued and watched for a time as several people plucked at the keys. Most couldn’t play more than a crude rendition of chopsticks. “What a waste of a good piano”, he thought.
He recalled the years of lessons his mother had given him. She was a player in her time. Gone now, up to heaven and the great beyond. He had gotten pretty good. He even played keyboards with a band for awhile. The drug and booze parties were memorable.
The booze finally got to him. It was a slow miserable downhill slide. Hard for most of his friends to watch. They tried to help, bless their hearts. He was just more than they could handle. He eventually slid out of their lives and onto the street where he remained to this day.
After watching the amateurs pick at the keys for close to an hour he couldn’t hold it in any longer. The urge was too great. He wandered up to the piano. Ran his hand across the top. Caressed the ivory from one end to the other without making a sound. At this moment, the memories were hard to escape.
He positioned himself on the crude bench and closed his eyes. He didn’t need to see the keys. He lost himself in his music for a time. He didn’t know how long he played. When he came back to his senses he realized there were people standing all around him, clapping. Someone had put a jar on the piano and it was filling up with change and even dollar bills.
He was moved to tears. For a moment he regretted his life. Regretted the hurt he had caused so many. Regretted what he had become. Everyone moved on when he stopped. He took the money and bought himself a decent meal and a bottle of good scotch.
Soon the money and the scotch were long gone. The memories and the regrets tired him.
He laid down. The bench kept him off the ground. Tonight it was his.
(The link to part two is below)
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