It was a cold, hard, steady rain, the kind that makes you want to go back indoors and sit by the fireplace with a brandy snifter, except I don’t have a fireplace, I don’t like brandy and I don’t know what a snifter is.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t go back inside – I had to be on the West Side of Manhattan for a meeting – so I was boarding the shuttle from Grand Central to Times Square at rush hour. The car was so crowded that I knew the woman on my left had garlic in her lunch and the man on my right kept a whiskey bottle in his desk.
To my left, a man began playing an acoustic guitar and singing what I immediately recognized as the Temptations’ “I Wish It Would Rain.” The strumming was gentle and melodic, the singing was plaintive and soulful. I craned my neck to get a look at him, but could only see the top of his head. He was African-American, but I couldn’t even guess at his age.
I knew I’d reach my destination before the song ended and that disappointed me. I wanted to hear what else he had in his repertoire. I wanted to know more about his life. I knew I wouldn’t.
I wished Linda Seccaspina was there with me. She loves to engage strangers. She would have sat down with him and asked him questions. Was he young and trying to start a music career? Was he just trying to make a few bucks to live on? Or was he older, trying to maintain an even keel despite failures?
Linda would have turned it into a magical post, reminding us of our common humanity and finding the magical force of life in his story. I was saddened that she wouldn’t have that opportunity and saddened that I didn’t have the time.
As the subway doors opened, I wanted to go over to him and toss a few bills his way but the crowd was pushing determinedly in the other direction. I followed the mob and headed back out into the rain toward my destination.
The man continued singing.