When I listen to him, all things are possible. His voice, so throaty-rich, so pure. I think of Jesus on the cross. Life becomes smeared light, death a dark-blink interlude. Dear God, I think. Dear, sweet God, make us better, make us free of the blame that holds us back, take from us the violence that squeezed us from the womb. Dear God, I think, dear sweet God.
A final strum on the battered guitar, and his song is finished. I reach out. Notes tremble on the breeze. I want to hold them to my face. I want to make them real. Dust falls from my fingers into the slanted light.
He picks up a beret holding a few dollars and coins. His skin is dusky. "You like?" he says. He jingles the hat. His fingers are callused, half-moon fingernails stained.
I turn my pockets out. Coins spill onto pavement, a key ring, a pack of gum. Quarters bounce and roll through tight spirals.
His expression does not change. I take my wallet out, and dump it too. Bills flutter down, credit cards and business cards. The sidewalk litters with my life.
Still, his face remains impassive.
Tears come into my eyes. "Is that not enough?"
"It's all I have," I plead, "all that I have with me. Please, tell me it's enough."
He pulls a cigarette from his shirt pocket, and presses it to his mouth. "Do you have a match?"
I pat my shirt, squeeze the cloth ballooning from my pockets. "No, no I don't."
He leans the guitar against the building. "Come back when you do, okay? I play again."
"Yeah," I say. "Sure." It's never enough. I never have what I need. I start walking. A breeze pushes from the north. I shiver. I look back.
A crowd has gathered around him. They jostle for position. I want to understand that they're after the money, but in my heart I know it's more than that. They're cleaning the ground of my residue, preparing for someone more worthy.
Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania, which used to rival Pittsburgh in industry. His work has appeared in various places, most recently Cease, Cows, Lucid Play's Glass Eye Chandelier anthology, and the Catherine Refracted anthology from Pure Slush Books. His collection of very short fictions, Glass Animals, was published in January by Pure Slush. Find him at http://www.stephenvramey.com.