It’s a decent gig playing guitar on Rector Street. Although the Wall Street guys downtown are born assholes, programmed to crush their competition, they tip well, especially when the NASDAQ is up. Music is universal, no matter your income. During two years of standing on this corner, music has covered my rent and helped me pay back some debt I incurred at Julliard. The street has also been good for my soul. The constant chaos of lower Manhattan has softened the pain of losing Gina’s soft skin next to another man at night. A year later, there was still a hole in my heart. I had loved her more than all the music in the world.
The market fell a hundred points today, so I started to pack it up early, at 6PM.
“Don’t leave yet,” he said, approaching me from around the corner. He was one of my regulars. I nicknamed him “GQ” because he was always dressed in an imported Italian suit, pressed shirt, and fine leather shoes. His eyes that were the color of thousand dollar bills.
“Play it for me,” he said to me. “Play me the song.”
“I’m already packing up,” I replied, not wanting to go through this game again.
“Play it for me. Like only you can.”
“I don’t think it is a good idea to…”
GQ opened his wallet, drew out several hundred bills, and shoved it into my hands. My body was repulsed, wanting to return it, but my mind reminded me of my financial need.
I grabbed my guitar and strummed the opening chords to Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.”
“Oh, her eyes, her eyes make the stars look like they’re not shining
Her hair, her hair falls perfectly without her trying
She’s so beautiful
And I tell her everyday.”
As I sang the song, I thought about GQ’s cruelty. “Just the Way You Are,” was OUR song. It was playing on the radio on the night I met Gina. And he knew that. Â Winning Gina wasn’t enough for him. Â He would pay me to sing to the victor, the ultimate humiliation, because on Wall Street, you are programmed to crush your competition.