Not every journey has to be the same
Great, Christmas is just around the corner and I’m going to have to go to the insufferable office Christmas party with all the dull dickheads I have to put up with the rest of the year. Not to mention the Secret Santa crap they roped me into. Why did I get Geoff? The guy’s a knob. If I have to sit through another story about how he dealt with the blisters he got whilst running the London marathon I think I’ll have to lance myself. Seriously, I’d rather give the five quid to the busker in the high street.
I hate my life. I can feel my soul dripping into nothingness every minute I’m sat behind my desk. The job, even this commute, is killing me. It amazes me how no one looks at or talks to each other. Mind you if you did you’d probably get knifed by one of these chavvy twats. They’re all mindless drones. Look at him over there. Stood holding the handrail, in his long black coat with a grey suit peering out and a black laptop bag on his shoulder. His eyes are glazed over and he has a face like a slapped arse. It makes me feel miserable looking at him, especially when the recognition flickers into his eyes. It’s my reflection taunting me again, reminding me how far I have fallen. I had dreams once until life happened.
Finally we’ve arrived at my stop.
Not one Merry Christmas during the whole hour’s commute. I’ve never felt so alone than being with all those people. Oh well, two minute walk and I can sit opposite Geoff for eight hours. You know what, fuck Geoff. There’s the busker. He deserves five quid for being out here in this frozen weather.
“Here you go mate.” I drop the £5 in his open guitar case and carry on walking without making eye contact.
“Thank you Keith, Merry Christmas,” the man says.
It stops me in my tracks. I turn around and look at him for the first time. He’s sat with a blanket covering his legs. He’s got a beige corduroy jacket on, a scarf tucked inside covering his neck. His beanie is a worn navy blue. He doesn’t seem that old, more my age. His stubble has a little grey in it making him look older than he is. He’s strumming on one of the most beautiful maple body acoustic guitars I’ve ever seen.
“How do you know my name?” I ask him.
He lifts the side of his blanket and taps the floor next to him and says “Come sit with me, Keith.”
“I can’t, I’ve got to get to work.”
“People will think it weird, me sat there.”
“Trust me Keith, they won’t even notice you.”
I look around watching the people pass by. All of them avoiding eye contact, staring at the floor. It’s like a herd of black and grey jacketed wildebeest migrating. I don’t know why but I feel compelled to sit next to him.
He lays the blanket over my legs. It’s surprisingly warm.
“Thank you,” I say.
“Would you like to have a go?” He hands me the guitar. I take it from him out of instinct.
“I don’t — I-I haven’t played for years.”
“Keith it’s okay. It doesn’t matter. Play whatever comes naturally.”
I sit the guitar on my right thigh, cupping the neck in my left hand. I rest the palm of my right hand on the strings. My left hand starts forming chord shapes. Before I know it my right hand starts strumming.
It feels great. The neck is so smooth, my hand glides up and down without restriction. The strings vibrate through my nails with each strike. For the first time since I can remember, the smile on my face is genuine. I’m playing Christmas songs!
I look up and see the world slowly drifting by. Something is different though. People are looking up. They’re not all dressed in drab clothes. A rainbow of colour breaks through the horde. I can see the notes dance their way through the crowd, occasionally bouncing into commuters causing them to sway to the rhythm. They can’t help but look at me and give me a smile. I light up inside. I feel the heat spread through my body, tracing through my veins. I’ve never felt warmer. I’d forgotten how good music feels, how good it feels to perform.
I stop playing and watch the snow fall from the sky. It settles on top of the benches, dustbins, bollards, hanging baskets, lamps and shop signboards. Everything looks renewed and rejuvenated.
A tear falls from my eye and catches a snow flake. I turn to the busker to give him his guitar back.
He’s not there. I look for him amongst the crowd but he’s nowhere to be seen in the sea of grey and black. I drop my head in sadness. My coat has gone, I’m wearing his beige corduroy jacket. What the hell?
Someone drops some money into the guitar case. The face looks familiar.
“Thank you Keith, Merry Christmas,” I say.
He says something but I don’t listen. I begin to lift my blanket then stop. My stomach tenses. It feels like it’s being pulled through the floor. My shoulders buckle. It’s all too familiar. I fight my heavy head and raise my chin. I start playing my guitar and the world becomes a nicer place again. A smile comes to my face as I finally get it. I’ve always had the power to change my world.