I was carrying a few groceries but he had a cart filled to overflowing. The top layer was chard escaping from a plastic bag, the large leaves with their red veins drooping over and nearly falling out of the cart. I began to laugh and said, “I see you have bought some vegetables.” And he said, “One must not stop eating vegetables.”
And as he talked, it was as though he was singing. I asked if he was a singer. “A baritone,” he said.
He was tall and slim, wearing a black wool jacket. And though his hair was dyed black with gray showing at the roots, he was ageless, like other angels I have met in the city. He was a troubadour who enjoyed singing and telling stories, descendant of the medieval troubadours from France and Spain.
It was a long line, everyone home from work on line at Fairway, it seemed. We had time to talk. I told him about two other troubadours I had met recently: Gary who played his guitar on a milk crate in the Overlook Passage in my Washington Heights neighborhood and sang “Let it Be” and nothing else. (I wrote about him here on November 1, 2014.) He had disappeared. “If only he were traveling,” I said. “But I fear he has sickened and died during our harsh winter.” And Scott, who played the flute in the same passage, taking turns with Gary who only played in the mornings. Scott was still there; he didn’t know what had happened to Gary. Both Scott and Gary were gifted in their own way, both of them homeless. Gary had never admitted he was homeless, but Scott had confirmed that he was.
“I have been fortunate. I had a privileged childhood and now I work at the Metropolitan Opera,” my new friend said. I never learned his name. There wasn’t enough time for that.