Friday, September 23, 2016


Hope Springs Eternal!

He leaned into the curtains to see who was there. The crowds were milling around. Some taking to their seats, others standing and observing others, still others wanting to be noticed cast their eyes hither and yon for recognition. The porcelain white skinned women gowned and beautified hovered on the arms of their escorts while some with their noses pitched slightly higher walked alone. Their aloneness a symbol of their success as men gathered around them, showering them with cheek to cheek fake kisses. These, he thought were the famously rich people and he, an off the street hobo had been cast to play a part in the play. This was going to be the answers to his prayers. Who knows, he thought, I might be able to mingle with them someday. His prayers had been answered.

The crowd stilled in their seats. The lights dimmed. A trumpet sounded and then all was abuzz with stagehands, actors and set mobility. He was told as he had rehearsed many times now to appear in his native clothing of the smelly rags that had seen the street water, rain water and other unnatural fluids dried and permanently stained on the brown threadbare cloak. His face unshaven with a dark stubble and his mind was set to memorize the few words he was supposed to speak. He went over and over them in his mind, half reciting to himself and to the walls and curtains around him.

Time speeded and slowed as he watched with admiration, the efficiency and alacrity of the stagehands changing the set to keep the spectators mesmerized to the underlying theme of the play. The lights brightened, then dimmed and then brightened again in cycles to keep the spectators memorized by the mirage. The actors laughed, cried, showed anger and disgust and it all appeared real. He was transfixed. From his eyes that had seen a stainless steel pen fall from the pocket of a man on a fast gallop on the street, late for work, he had called out to him as he retrieved it from the street corner for him, the man had turned, looked at him and the offering and shook his head after seeing his pen clasped in dirty hands and walked on, to now in front of these wealthy and important people, all under the same majestic canopy. He still had the pen. He considered it his good fortune, since it was the same afternoon, when another well dressed man had asked him if he would be interested to play a part in a play for money.

The curtain was lit up once again as the intermission ended and the shuffling crowd gathered in their seats. The middle act created the scene of playful elegance and chivalry on stage.

He could hear his breathing and the faint whistle of years long exposure to the pollutants from the automobile exhausts as he sat begging for food on the street corners. The fume had taken some toll on his bronchioles. He was unable to walk the entire street without stopping and catching his breath. His pulse quickened as the play continued to hurtle towards the end and the gasps and muted sounds of disbelief in this suspended disbelief echoed through the large auditorium. He could from his perch see the two mezzanines filled with awestruck spectators watched spellbound as his moment of fame approached.

His moment had come. He walked on to the stage, the bright lights dimmed and he shuffled on the staged street corner where he was meant to stand. The streetlamp overhead on the spot lit the floor brightly encircling him in its lumens. All else was dark. He could not see beyond the first row of the spectators. He shuffled to the spot near the lamp and leaned against it for a few seconds as he and been told. He looked down on the floor and picked up a coin placed strategically for him to acquire. He rubbed the coin against his ragged clothes and uttered the words he had memorized.

“Another day, another dream.” As he pocketed the coin, he collapsed on the stage floor. The streetlamp light dimmed to dark. He got up as the stagehands scurried past him.

The stage brightened and the an actor took center stage, To the last syllable of recorded time, “And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” 

A thunderous ovation broke out as the crimson gilded curtain came down and swallowed the stage. He felt his heart swell with pride. His moment in life had come.

The man who had asked him to play the part appeared from nowhere, “Thank you. You were great,” he says. He hands him two hundred dollar bills. “This should help you,” as he looks back towards someone unseen, “Joe” he points out to a stagehand, “could you please walk him to where he has to go.” And he was gone.

Back out on the cold street, he watches the limousines gorging themselves with people covered in satins and silks as the parade of the beautiful people leaves the theater. Soon the normal late night bustle begins to take over and he is left staring at the marquee.

He realizes, he is the idiot. His minute of glory was to bring a real wretched down trodden from the street to magnify the imagery and pretense of the play. The rich and famous were back clinking glasses in some expensive restaurants or brick lined carpeted homes pretending to diminish the evils of poverty in society as they absolved themselves off their guilty pleasures. “Did you see that poor wretched person in the end. He was so real!” they would claim. “Nah! he was a high paid actor! its Broadway after all, dear.” “Either case,” a slightly corpulent gentleman confided, “don’t look at me, I empty my pockets to all the beggars on the street every day.” Alas discussing the wretched  distilled away the humor in the air and made everyone uneasy and restless.

“Yeah John,” the young financial district upstart chimed, “only with quarters and nickels?” The fat man ignored the slant, “Hey, doesn't anyone know the borough politician, I think having beggars lowers the real estate values and doesn’t look good either.” A general consensus of nodding heads followed. Silence broke out for a while. Someone argued about taxes and the conversation shifted to vacation homes, yachts and airplanes.

A muted repentance of hypocrisy, well, is still hypocrisy.

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