A Graduation Story
Brian held the door for his girlfriend, his parents, and two of his closest friends as they made their way out of the Oak's Place - it was a classy restaurant by day that used to morph itself into an enthralling bar as soon as darkness kissed the serene college town. One of the finest around college, it was the perfect spot Brian could imagine for a lunch after the graduation ceremony. Brian; still clad in his graduation robe, marched down the stairs as he smelt the feel of ecstasy in the early summer breeze with a swollen chest and an elated mind.
Just before he hit the sidewalk at the end of the stairs, a very familiar voice arrested Brian's attention. It was Gary, ten feet to his left, striking down a chord with his roughed up fingers. It was not the best hour for one to see him there, but it was the exact same spot where Gary had been plucking his strings, serving his music with a side of his husky voice to the passers by and the patrons of the surrounding bars for the past ten years or so.
"My music is free. I just need to be alive so I need food. I need to play music and sing, so I need booze," Gary had told Brian during their first conversation four years ago.
"But how do you manage to pay your rent?" Brian; a freshman back then, had asked back curiously.
That's one good thing about being homeless, no need to pay rent," had been Gary's reply.
"Good to see you buddy," Brian said as he gave a big hug to Gary who by now had put his guitar safely aside and got up.
"Woo Whoooo! Congratulations my man!" Gary exclaimed.
"Mom, remember Gary; the musician, I talked to you about? He's the one who used to lift me up with his songs whenever I felt down," Brian told his mother.
"Oh, and this is my Dad, and you pretty much know Rachel and the rest of the company," Brian completed the introduction.
"Thanks for taking care of my son, when I was not around," Brian's mom spoke in her warm motherly voice. She went towards Gary and felt the thick forest of his facial hair that completely hid his hard rubbery cheek. She remembered the story of the young wanderer who dropped out of college and fled from everything in his search for freedom and real knowledge, that her son had told her. She could see that Gary fitted the deion Brian had given him; a Greek philosopher dressed up as a hippie!
After the casual chitchat, Gary was ready with his guitar. He strummed his strings gently and began to play a song.
"....Oh I wish its a happy place you going,
and you'll meet all your dreams there.
Don't worry about me, I'll tune my guitar,
and play how I wish you were here........"
Gary finished his song to a long applause from his audience. Brian's dad pulled out his wallet, took out a hundred dollar bill, and gave it to Gary.
"Alright man, I gotta go now. I'll come visit you whenever I come back to this town. And thanks for the song, I was touched. I got it on my phone" Brian said, flashing his phone unconsciously as he spoke.
"Oh so you'll be leaving for good?" Gary asked.
"I guess so, first I'm going on a vacation with Rachel, after which I have to go to Houston and start this job that I have been offered," Brian replied.
"My man's gonna be a big shot," Gary seemed thrilled.
Someone came up with the idea of taking a group picture with Gary before leaving. Brian took off his graduation cap and put it on Gary's head. All sorts of poses imaginable were captured in the cameras. As for Gary, who did not have one, knew very well, than no matter how hard anyone tries, no matter how sophisticated the technology or the recording devices, one simply cannot capture a moment. One can only live a moment, before it dissolves forever into the infinite continuum of space and time.
Moments after the moment was gone, Gary found himself in the same spot, without the rare gregarious company, back to his usual solitude. Brian and the others had left and were out of sight. Gary realized he still had Brian's graduation cap on. He felt like running after them but he perhaps quit that thought on the idea of having to leave his guitar unattended. Maybe he thought they would come back, or perhaps he clung to it as a souvenir from Brian. Even for the audacious souls who easily give up their worldly possessions for their transcendental aspirations, it can be hard to let go the memories of people they love.
A few weeks later, Gary could be seen playing his guitar at the same spot, with the same vigor, the same melodies, and the same enchanting husky voice. But there was something that was not the same. Instead of the old red bandana that he would spread out in front of him where his listeners dropped their changes, Gary had placed the graduation cap turned upside down. Perhaps, he had realized that a graduation cap yielded him a few more dollar bills than a ragged old bandana.