Everyday last week, I saw this homeless man walk around – either in my barrio or in one of the neighbouring ones – slowly and peacefully, with a flute, playing Greensleeves.
He must not be more than 35-years old, wears striped red and black Alice-in-Wonderland tights, has a plaited-mullet, and a plaited-beard. He carries a small backpack and just walks around, playing the song at a slow and sad pace. He plays, and repeats, and plays and repeats. I imagine he looks to earn a buck or two for some food, or drugs. Or perhaps it’s what keeps him sane on the street; his form of meditation?
Yesterday and today, around 6pm, from my home I could hear his flute, again playing Greensleeves. I ran from window to window, frantically trying to find him, to get a glimpse of him strolling emotionlessly down the street. The sound of his flute playing Greensleeves haunts me and gives me goosebumps, I’m not sure why.
Greensleeves was one of the first songs I learnt to play on my recorder. The song brings back memories of my life as a child in England, of me in my warm home, practising playing my recorder as my mum cooked chicken curry for dinner. Now, when I hear the tune again after so many years, being played by a homeless man wandering the streets, that warm memory shatters and sheds light on a sad reality.
For some reason, I want to give this man a buck, or two. But he doesn’t stop, or ask for money, so I don’t quite know how to do it. I also want to ask him where he learnt to play Greensleeves and if it means anything to him. Like in the song, did he have his heart broken? Did he lose his only love? Is that why he is on the street? Will playing this song bring her back to him? Is he Spanish?
It’s strange how such random impersonal incidents stir profound personal emotions.
For those of you who are not familiar with Greensleeves, here’s a simple flute version which is almost exact to what I’ve been hearing (probably a bit better, though). And here’s a beautiful classical guitar version of the same.