The oboe players across the street were in the midst of a blistering ecumenical argument. Their voices were muted by the glass but I caught enough words to figure out they had severely divergent views on the Book of Job.
I took another forkful of pumpkin cheesecake but I didn’t take my eye off the men. Getting the pieces of cake using only the side of my fork was a bit awkward, but I was getting used to using my left hand for such things.
Outside, the fight escalated as they shoved and exchanged blows. There was a whistling sound followed by the sickening crack of an oboe being struck against a musician’s head.
I took another sip of coffee and stabbed at the leftover crust with my fork, disappointed at the way that it broke apart instead of letting itself be impaled upon the tips.
The shouting and fighting drew a crowd around the two older men and I cracked a smile. Their busking had gone unnoticed before, but now they were the object of at least half a dozen camera phones.
I drained the last of the chilling coffee and waited to see how the melee unfolded.
The crowd stepped back. The musicians had stopped their arguing, their differences apparently resolved and resumed their performance. The oboes had slight buzzing sounds after the fracas but hit all the notes to “How Great Thou Art” to great applause from the crowd.
I stared down at my hand, not the still-good-for-pie-eating one but the one with stiff paralyzed fingers in a talon-like grasp. I wore short sleeves for the first time in a while that day and anyone could see the scars from the incisions on the inside of my wrists, the series of jabs and punctures deep enough to cut all the nerves necessary for making music. The waitress caught me staring outside as she came to clear my plate and I covered my wrists. Not so much because of the scars but I was suddenly afraid she could read the Gujarati script tattooed like a bracelet around my wrist: “Longing to play the oboe.”
JAMES BAMBURY writes from Brampton, Ontario. Visit his website at http://jamesbambury.blogspot.com.