Robert came by earlier than usual, in tears. He sat for awhile, recovering somewhat over a pot of tea and a bowl of corn flakes. I eventually shooed him out, and we walked down Broadway a bit, untalkative. I could see that he was barely holding himself together, weighted down by his bag, a pained expression, his occasional comments barely lucid. I imagined that once we’d parted, he’d be alone like this, lost on Broadway, crying again, with eight dollars to get him through the day. “What are you doing next?” I asked him. “I’m going anywhere that has coffee,” he laughed bitterly, “But I’m so confused right now – I don’t know where to go.” I rearranged the vague plans in my head and took him down to Bauhaus. He selected the donut with the most colorful sprinkles and then chose the most out-of-the-way table to sit at upstairs. He slowly perked up as he worked his way through two cups of coffee and as he let the words tumble from his mouth. Soon after he’d reached the point where I could picture him making it through the day without crumbling, I got ready leave. “Take care of yourself Robert,” a hand on his shoulder. It was the wrong thing to say, he looked hurt. I tried again, “It sounds like you have a couple of things in the pot brewing?” He answered briefly and we parted ways.
A woman is wailing in Spanish at one of the reserved busker stations in Pike Place Market. She expertly works the strings of a tiny guitar with her bare fingers. I’m surprised that her fingers aren’t bleeding – I’m surprised that the guitar isn’t bleeding. Her voice is loud and confident, amplified by the acoustics of the cement walls around her. If these walls don’t crumble in the wake of a sustained note, then they’ll withstand an earthquake with no problem. I think I recognize her voice, she’s the woman with the unlikely last name, a city or a country. (Yves Las Vegas.) She was in a short-lived band with Krist Novaselic. Her hair is cut close to the scalp and she’s wearing a heavy jacket, she could almost pass for a boy. Her guitar case, open in front of her for donations, is guarded by a trio of naked Barbie dolls. She has a pile of homemade CDs and a little sign that says “Breast-Reduction Surgery Fund – Really”. I listen from upstairs for awhile. Everyone who walks by is compelled to stop and listen for awhile. Eventually after she’s finished a song, I go downstairs. She’s already ringing out the next song. I hold up a twenty-dollar bill before dropping it in the guitar case, to show that I’m paying for the CD that I’m taking. She doesn’t see me, her eyes are squeezed shut. I doubt she’d see me even if she were playing with her eyes open. She’s somewhere else entirely.