“Do you go out much, Frank?” Gerard asked, taking a sip of the coffee he had just recently brought.
I stared down at the coffee he had brought me aswell and mumbled, “Not really.. I only ever go to the lake because it’s relaxing..”
“Fair enough.” He smiled.
“What about you? You seem like the type that just wonders around town drawing whatever they feel like.”
“That’s pretty much what I do.” He chuckled. “I like to draw my surroundings, it helps show what the world really is.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked, looking up at his face.
“Nothing’s what it seems.” He told me with a small wink.
“And what do you mean by that?” I repeated.
“Everything has two sides, I guess.” He shrugged. “You’re a really curious kid, aren’t you?”
“I guess..” I mumbled.
“What’s your second side?” Gerard asked.
“My second side?”
“Yeah.” He smiled. “There’s got to be so much more to you than this socially awkward, shy, quiet teenage boy you’re showing me.”
“I don’t know if there is any more to me..” I said quietly, looking to my feet.
“I think there is.”
“Well, what do you think it is?”
“I think you’re actually a very happy child.” He smiled. “You just never get the chance to show it.”
“No.” I shook my head blankly.
Gerard looked a little taken back by that, but he just causally took a mouthful of his coffee before saying, “Tell me a little about your childhood, then.”
“Well.. I had a pretty normal, happy childhood. But that doesn't mean I was a happy child. I was alone and ignored for most of my childhood, and, eventually, I got so used to being alone I started to like it. I started to like my company more than anyone else’s. In fact, I started making imaginary friends like myself. Voices.. In my head.” I mumbled.
“You liked being alone?” Gerard asked.
“Yeah, because the best part about being so alone and unnoticed is that you don't really have to care about anyone else but yourself. The only time you actually have to start worrying about anything is when you stop caring about yourself.”
“You know, you don’t have to be alone, Frank.” Gerard smiled.
“That’s what it feels like..” I mumbled.
“Well, if you’re more socially open, you might make some friends.” He smiled once again. “I classify you as a friend.”
Neither Gerard nor I said anything for a while after that, I just kind of stared at my feet or my coffee as we walked with my eyes wider than they usually would be.
He’s my friend. For sure. I haven’t had an actual friend in so long. This is so.. Oh my god.. What.. But I’m like socially retarded. How did I manage to make a friend like Gerard?
I don’t even know anymore.
I was brought away from my thoughts when I heard the sound of a guitar. There was a busker on the other side of the street from Gerard and I playing guitar and singing. A few little kids were sitting around him and smiling and giggling as if they knew him like a close family friend. He was singing and playing All I Want Is You by Barry Louis Pollisar and, I’m not going to lie, he was fucking good at it. I can see why all the little kids were enjoying his performance so much.
When he saw me watching him, he smiled at me and gave me a small nod as a hello. But, being the socially awkward idiot that I am, I looked to the ground almost immediately not knowing what to do.
I swear I could hear him chuckle at me as he sang, “If you were a wink, I’d be a nod.” And that just made me feel even more socially retarded than I already was. Complete strangers laughing at my stupidness, great.
“That’s Keith.” Gerard told me, slightly waving at the busker. “He’s one of the people that you look at and think, I wish there was more people like him in the world.”
The busker smiled at Gerard, and when our eyes once again met, he gave me a wink.
“I think he likes you.” Gerard smiled.
“What’s so special about him?” I asked, looking up at Gerard.
“Well, he’s the perfect example of what I was trying to explain before; he has two sides.” Gerard told me. “What do you think when you look at him, Frank?”
“I think that he’s a really talented busker looking for money..” I mumbled.
Gerard shook his head. “Wrong.”
“Wait, what?” I frowned. “How can that be wrong?”
“Because you’re only seeing his first side, not the two of them together.” Gerard told me. “Look at him again and then tell me what you see.”
Heaving a heavy sigh, I looked back to Keith.
He was singing a new song now; Stairway To Heaven by Led Zeppelin. The kids were no longer dancing and giggling, instead they were sitting with their legs crossed staring up at him as he played the intro. They didn’t break their eyes from their gaze on him once when he began to sing.
“There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold. And she's buying a stairway to heaven.” He sang as if he was telling a story to the children. “When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed, with a word she can get what she came for.”
I titled my head and whispered, “He’s more than just a busker, isn’t he?”
“So much more.” Gerard said, watching him play as he placed his hand on my shoulder. “You see, Keith’s first side is a man that stands outside of a shop playing guitar for whoever walks past, occasionally drawing in crowds, and receiving money for it. But he’s second side resembles an angel. Keith is a busker, yes, that is true. But he doesn’t do it for money. You see, Keith had a child, a beautiful son around four years old named Toby, but, unfortunately, Toby was hit by a car one day while trying to receive his ball that had bounced onto the road or something like that. This upset Keith greatly, and so he quit his job as a music teacher at the high school a few blocks away so that he could grieve. After he had grieved, Keith didn’t return to the school to be a teacher once more, instead, he picked up his guitar and began to play for the world and the children in it.”
I looked up at Gerard’s face and Gerard looked down to mine.
“Frank, Keith doesn’t busk for money. Keith busks for happiness; for the smiles that he receives daily from the children he plays for.”
I looked back to Keith who was now singing the second chorus and he noticed me looking at him. Gathering myself together I gave him his payment; a child’s smile.