His decline into alcoholism, drug addiction, and constant self-abuse led to sleeping in an alley. What little he still owned was tattered and torn like the clothes he wore. Unkempt, unloved, unnoticed, he slipped behind the veil of polite society. Where a heart filled with hope once dwelt inside a vital body, despair now oozed from the pores of a walking corpse. His only solace lie in sitting at the bus stop, pretending he had a destination and the means to arrive there. Sometimes, people boarding or exiting the bus offered him money but he wasn’t there to beg. He was there to dream.
One morning he discovered that a twelve string guitar had been left at the bus stop. It was a beautiful guitar with an ebony fret board, mother of pearl inlays and tuning keys. The strings looked new and were taut, appearing capable of performing in tune at first asking. He was afraid to touch it. If the owner returned for it, he might be accused of theft. Having been jailed before, he had no desire to return. He did stare at it though, and that caused memories of who he used to be to flood his mind.
He remembered the roar of the crowd. The lights. Sweat running from his brow as he performed. He remembered the sound of his voice as it soared and waned, bringing joy and sorrow in equal measure while he strummed and plucked his guitar strings. The brotherhood he shared with fellow musicians as they toured the world. He remembered the woman who’d broken his heart one too many times. Numbing the pain of her departure with a shot and a beer.
As the day went on, his desire to touch the guitar strengthened. People came and went, but he and the guitar were the only constant. When no one came to claim it by evening, he succumbed. Though his hands were dirty, the feel of its highly polished surface evoked a thrill they remembered. Tears formed when the first strum spread beauty in every direction. Without further thought, he began to play a song he’d written for her when they were young and in love. Though scratchy from years of hard living, his voice stirred and emitted lyrics he’d thought forgotten. Soon, a gentle breeze carried his long abandoned feelings into the ears and hearts of passersby. They paused, smiled, and swayed as his fingers flew over the strings and his voice grew stronger and sweeter with each passing moment.
Hours later, a crowd had formed and gone, then formed again. When he finally tired and ceased playing, they drifted away, having witnessed redemption of a previously broken man. One of the last to leave was a woman who held out a beautiful hand-woven guitar strap and asked him to take it.
“I can’t,” he said. “The guitar isn’t mine.”
“It is now,” the woman replied. “I could never make it sing like you. I’d planned to hock it, but now I know why I forgot it in my haste to catch the bus.”
Speechless, he caressed the strap for a moment before attaching it. Staring at her afterward, he said, “You made this didn’t you?”
“Wear it proudly,” she said. “The world is waiting to hear your voice again.”