At the corner of Duboce and Church, where the train pauses but does not stop, sits a man with a guitar that’s held together with torn bits of rope. It’s almost wrong to call it a guitar, because really it’s not a guitar anymore. It’s a broken guitar, or a poorly-mended guitar, but it’s definitely not a guitar. And yet this non-guitar makes a sound like nothing Derek has ever heard.
The man who plays it wraps his hands with torn strips of old cotton shirts. Because of this they too seem broken and poorly-mended, bandaged somehow. But really it’s just the man’s way of keeping warm. Derek knows this because he once asked the man if his hands were alright.
“Oh they’re just fine,” the man said. He strummed the strings three times and an odd sound came out, like a violent pounding from the end of a very long empty hallway.
“Can’t you hear?”
Derek could hear. It was hard to hear anything else.
“But why are they bandaged?”
“Oh that,” the man laughed. “Son, those are just my gloves. Haven’t you ever seen a pair of poor-man’s gloves?”
“I guess not.”
“Well, you should get yourself some. They keep the fingers free to play.”
The man stopped his playing to wiggle his fingers in Derek’s direction. It wasn’t supposed to be, but it felt like a wave goodbye, so Derek dropped the man a dollar and walked home. The next day he went to Urban Outfitters and bought a pair of knitted gloves with the fingers cut off. They had brown and black stripes and cost $18.99. They looked old and worn and that night when Derek lifted his beer to take a sip of foam from the top his hands were warm and dry.
These types of things happen to Derek all the time and don’t mean anything.