10 July 2016

There is a man living somewhere in the Elmwood Village strip of Buffalo who plays saxophone or air-flute, closing his eyes willing into existence the sound of jazz through pure, unapologetic imagination.

The instruments do not exist, and I hear no sound.  I’m not a musician, only a listener, pale ears in a crowd, calloused hands that clap at the end of a tune, dry eyes that blink when the wind speeds up.

He sits on the front porch steps of various local businesses, or leans against the graffitied-wall of the 7/11, or perches on the bus-stop bench and leaves the bus driver waiting.

His cup is filled with (someone else’s)(day-old) coffee.

He does not collect tips.

The man does not appear every night.  I assume he has a social life, though he does not talk when we wish him well.  He comes sometimes, his white sleeves rolled up, and moves his fingers to the sound of pedestrians growling to the hum of traffic-ants crossing the city streets, traversing the distance, bridging the gaps.

They say he comes from Chile to live with his son, who married an American he met in a club.

He always wears a bow-tie.

Many think he’s homeless.

Today I passed a service in memorial for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.  The eyes of the mourners beckoned me over to join them. Still, even now, the whole thing leaves me confused.

The man’s cup is filled with someone else’s day-old coffee.

He does not accept tips.

The coffee is not even his.

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