Sunday, April 25, 2010

Friday Morning

I will never have a child or children of my own, never bear a single one, that is, myself. I sit here trying to pull together strings of words with which I might elucidate these facts--but there is somebody on this morning train playing a harmonica.

At first you think it's a little kid--who're you kidding, a little boy--spoiled and whiny or a deeper problem child; maybe he's had a loss and the harmonica bestowed as pacifier and consolation (though pacifiers are consolations, I suppose--indifferent ones), a harmonica to shape and regulate his broken calm, his teary breathing: in-out-in-out.

But it's too tuneful. Little kids don't play their pacifiers that well. But it's also not a tune--it's not becoming anything you know or recognize, this almost purely rhythmic refrain with minor top notes. Private tootling in a public place: so it's an exhibitionist guy, or a mental patient guy: it's Brooklyn, both are numerous. Somebody playing lonesome hobo on the morning train is playing his harmonica while I make written efforts to bemoan a lonesome womb--lonesome, or wayward? There might be happiness to find in the coincidence but still, the piped distraction is sort of annoying me.

Then it starts to get louder. Which indicates a train musician--oy, not that guy who thinks he's Kurt Cobain! Though he might be dead by now. And he sings and plays guitar, not just harmonica. A Mexican? No, the tuneless tune's not cloying in that way. It's for a lonesome hobo not a woeful; not one sick from cerveza as I used to be most every morning on the train way back in Boston. I look up from these notes that mark my broken meditation on my fruitlessness to see who's coming down the aisle just as the complicated nature of his music strikes me. I can hear, now, the rhythmic counterpoint he blows beneath the simultaneously tongued and tunless melody: an elderly Chinese man, receiving coins and bills into his cap.

I think of Jean Valjean, at the end of Volume 2 of Les Misérables, as he can be observed throughout the years it leaves him in, kneeling outside the chapel window where he'd seen what he'd thought was a horror; now he knows--better. A woman stretched out full length face down on the cold stone floor in prayer, all night, perpetually, is beyond horrifying. To be venerated, horrible.

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