Saved by a Cricket
a true story by Laura Botsford
Life leads us away from each other and then back again when the time is right. Paul picked up his back pack and turned to me.
“Well the stars are coming out, I better get back to South San Francisco to my sisters, she’ll be worried. I hope to see you around angel lady, nice meeting you.”
“Nice meeting you too, Yeah, come back again.” I told him, hoping he really would; he was such a curious character that I wanted to hear more of his stories.
Quiet, simple, and ever present is what I knew about life then. I could give you a past, I could give you today, or recall the history of everyday people who meant something in my many encounters; but of all of them the man I called the glittersmith, shone like a new copper penny.
It was my vocation just to be and see what happened. I was traveling the streets of San Francisco, checking out stores and restaurants for jobs, writing and observing. I stopped on Market Street, revived from my earnest search for employment fresh as the yellow and white daffodils that bloomed in the gypsy garden carts on my way to Union Square.
How sweet is the bustle of 18 years of age? How new and fascinating the faces were to me, however weathered or broken. Their working days gone, old men, well beyond their present age, now sat in Union Square waiting for a hand out to buy another bottle of wine. Above the lonely din hovered one man in particular sitting alone on the stone casement, a distinguished looking man in his mid 50’s, though his clothes were ragged his stature still clung on to something upright. I immediately felt a great sadness from him that needed attention, so I sat beside him.
“It’s a nice day, are you enjoying the music?” I asked him as the Jazz band began to play.
“I am, I’m hungry though, can you spare some change?” He asked seeing me as a golden opportunity to beg. I passed over his question as if he hadn’t asked at all.
“My name is Laura, what is yours?”
“My name is Anthony,” he said, surprised that I would even care. I felt he had once been someone special, he still carried himself well and spoke with an air of intellect, that only those educated in the art of conversation can facilitate.
” I bet you once had a job, what did you do for a living?” I asked.
“You mean before I came to this disarrayed lifestyle of wine and begging?” He said sardonically about himself then went on in a kind of euphoria with sudden clarity that even surprised him.
“Once I worked for Disney when I was twenty. I was a cell painter … I painted the bluebirds and the haunted trees.” His eyes wept silently, streaming in sea turtles tears of a life laid ruin in the wake of temperance lost. “I was married and had two children but they left me long ago,” his voice trailing off into a heavyweight of irrepressible remorse.
Around the corners of his mouth were hints of a smile that he must have used many times over once. I thought about how he was the one of the first who made branches move with wicked unrepentant grasps, tearing at snow white as she ran fearfully through the forest. I saw twittering birds that flew all around in the balance of sweet air; the sun shinning up to him as he painted in the cells with liquid promise. His eyes must have been glimmering with enthusiasm as he blended the colors, knowing that many children, years from now would see what he created. His life was all ahead of him, dancing with the pictures that once filled his life with tumescent joy but now his only hope was to quit drinking.
“There is always hope. There are shelters and programs in the mission where they can help you find a new beginning.” I told him.
“Yes I stay at one but it is not enough for me. I am just getting by, waiting for release; something to live for again,” he replied.
“How about giving it to a higher power, get a sponsor and the rest will come along, it’s up to you.” I patted his shoulder and gave him ten dollars to, “ Use this for food please, get something to eat, not another bottle of wine, just one meal.”
“Thank you.” He wiped away another huge tear that streamed in a river from his eye to his chin, then he looked into the blue sky as if he were reading his life up there, searching for a cloud just to take him home.
I was just about to leave when the jazz band of street musicians began to play ‘When You Wish upon a Star’. We sat peacefully together in a happier place as I sang along. “It makes no difference who you are.” I inwardly thought about how we all encounter a forest that either lurks to snag us with its scraggly pointed branches, or chose to be wondrously courted with loving welcome in a cricket’s song, ever allowing the stream of constant light to flow through us as we paint our cells in to make a story that is cherished. We sat quietly for a moment in the serendipity of our encounter. I saw him as he truly is inside and sang along with the song.
“If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing
I hugged him good bye, looked up at the sunlit sky, hopefully wishing on a unseen star for Anthony, and that he would hear Ol’ Jiminy Cricket singing for him, and maybe, just maybe… like a bolt out of the blue, fate would step in and see him through because;”When you wish upon a star, it makes no difference who you are, Anything your heart desires will come to you.