The other day I had to take the bus downtown for a meeting. I knew about where I was going, but I still get a little nervous about recognizing landmarks and finding my way. The buses and streets get crowded closer to the center of the city, and I was afraid I wouldn’t recognize the plaza that marked my stopped. I could have asked the driver, but I couldn’t remember the name of the plaza, which I had written down and then lost. Also, the driver had a plaque at the front of the bus that read, “Warning: Sex Addict.” I’m sure he meant it as a…I don’t know how he meant it, but it wasn’t encouraging me to run up front and ask his advice.
So I was nervous about getting there and I was watching the street signs long before I needed to watch them and I was wrapped up in my thoughts about getting to this meeting and not being late and finding my way and what I would say during the meeting, when the bus stopped and a man with a guitar got on. He and the driver spoke for a moment. The driver turned off the radio. The man with the guitar walked to the back of bus where I was sitting. And I was thinking about how I needed to get to the plaza and trying to remember where I needed to get off and wondering if this was the place where the road forked or if it was farther along.
The man with guitar started to talk about the song he would play. I wasn’t really listening because I was wondering if, like a couple of weeks ago, the bus would without any warning take a detour for half the route, and if it did if I could still find my way. The man strummed the first notes of his song. I noticed the smell of his body, unwashed but not really unclean, just musky and tangy and powerfully strong. I thought about how I was not in the mood for some guy who smelled so strongly to be playing music just behind my head.
He started to sing. I forgot about my meeting. I forgot about my forgotten directions. I forgot about the woman next to me, yawning incessantly like she was Dorothy in the poppy field. I forgot about my annoyance and about his pungent smell. His voice was so purely beautiful and so unexpected that I cried. I heard the words of the song and I understood them, but I can’t remember a single one. I only remember his voice and how it sounded singing just behind my ear.
Just as suddenly as he had started he was done. He thanked us for our applause and pointed out that money was nice, too. He collected a some coins from passengers and he was gone. My plaza came up and I recognized it and I went to my meeting and eventually I went home on another bus.
What’s the point of this story? I guess the point could be a lot of things. It could be that a man with a voice that beautiful is bus hopping, getting pesos for his songs while no talent hacks are making millions. It could be that my fretting nearly distracted me from something amazing. It could be that beauty shows up in unexpected places. In the moment and now, it’s not so much any of those things or it’s all of those things. It’s that the other day I was riding a bus and I heard the man sing so beautifully that I cried.