The words over at Three Word Wednesday are karma, obey and wither.
On the corner near my building, there’s a street musician playing a mournful tune on a battered violin. The case is open at his feet, a catch-basin for a little change and a whole lot of folding cash.
A cardboard sign hangs around his neck with rough twine. On it, written in a child’s hand, is “wither.”
Tears stream down the man’s weathered face as he plays.
It’s a busy corner, near a subway entrance and the neighborhood market. People uncomfortable with the man’s tears obey the music, the sign, and drop their crumpled money without making eye contact and hurry on.
Many stop and are moved by the haunting tune he plays. They too, feel the swell in their hearts, find their eyes going wet. Absently, they take out $5s, $10, $20s and place the cash in the red-velvet-lined case with a quiet devotion.
The man stops and the spell is broken.
People return to their busy ways in the evening rush, bumping shoulders, avoiding eye contact, stare at the uneven concrete.
The man scoops up the cash, smoothes out the crumpled bills on the bow, places neat stacks into a zippered bank bag that’s fat with donations.
I go to him, curious how one street musician who wasn’t particularly good, could make that kind of scratch.
He feels my presence, and anticipates the question.
“It’s a matter of karma,” he says. “Some people feel obligated to contribute out of a sense of forgiveness. Others, out of a sense of guilt.
“But in the end people give to cleanse their withered souls. The sign’s just good marketing.”
He smiles as I hand him a crisp $20 from my wallet.