My change purse was so empty that the contents would have been an insult to a street performer. No, this was going to have to be substantial. I had listened to him and thought about him so many times. The old man had found his way to this corner every day, rain or shine, heat or snow. He brought with him a table and a microphone. He displayed a newspaper clipping that rated him as the 'best of' something from some newspaper – I never got close enough to read the article. His voice was so frail you could barely hear him, even with the microphone. His skin hung from his bones.
I walked up to him and smiled, pushing a $20 bill deep into the change mug that sat on the ground in front of him, afraid someone would steal it. Just as I leaned in I looked up, accidentally into his watery pale blue eyes, catching him between songs.
“Make a wish” he told me.
In that moment it came to me so quickly I almost fell back. He wouldn’t be around much longer. I saw him as a baby. I could feel the passing of time in a second. He was here and soon would be gone. So would we all.
“You’re great. Really great”, I heard myself say.
I wrote this as soon as I got home that night, a year ago this February.
Recently I was walking along Bloor St, outside Holt Renfrew. In faded chalk letters, it was written on wall near where he usually stood:
"Gary McBride, 1923-2006. He will be sadly missed."