The Six Line to Étoile

The man’s voice filled the tram car with a sound that sent shivers from my ears down to my toes and back up again until the sensation sat at the base of my skull and vibrated happily. Every note reverberated in such a way that I didn’t want him to stop singing; I would do anything to keep him singing. I closed my eyes and felt goosebumps raise on my neck and I swayed with the train and his voice.

That was the first time I heard this man. And first time was so quick; he stayed in my car for only one stop before disappearing through the tunnels of Sèvres-Lecourbe. I had craned my neck to watch him go, wondering if I should hop off and follow him. What would I say in halting French to a Frenchman with a voice that lit up every nerve in my spine?? By the time I had decided to follow him, the tram car doors had slammed shut in my face.

This second time, I heard him before I saw him, and I grinned at my luck that this beautiful voice would be in my car again. And this was when I realized he was homeless. He was wearing the same clothes as the first time I had seen him, days before: a once bright red jumpsuit that was tattered and worn. Everyone on the car avoided his gaze as he swung around the tram car’s standing pole, fully entangled in his own song with such pure happiness and delight. He was on the other end of the car, and I watched him with a smile. He was older, probably early sixties, or perhaps the street had prematurely aged him. His blonde hair was wild and thinning. His skin was thin. He was small and his bright blue eyes locked onto mine as he finished what was most assuredly a love song with pure gusto.

Maybe it was because I didn’t avoid his gaze. Or maybe it’s because the song was that good. His eyes filled with tears and he bowed to me as the train came to a stop at the next station. He straightened up and took a deep breath as the tram’s door alarm began to warn of their closure. Launching himself out of the car and into his next song, he disappeared again, his voice filling the air.