The handicapped artist

Modifié le : 2019/08/06

He is prob­a­bly one of the old­est sub­way artists because I have been run­ning into him for a long time now, at ran­dom, in sev­er­al sta­tions. The skin on his face has an inde­fin­able tex­ture, the rem­nant of vir­u­lent juve­nile acne or the after-effects of a burn. Nor can I grasp the qual­i­ty of his mind, let alone judge his con­di­tion. At first glance, he is a per­son hand­i­capped by some­thing or only a poor soul who has built an artis­tic uni­verse that nour­ish­es him.

In the past, sev­er­al years ago, he played the flute, which he seems to have aban­doned to the pro­file of a sim­ple stick that he hits on a piece of wood to mark the rhythm. I heard him sing L’En­fant au tam­bour on Christ­mas Eve, retract­ing most of the lyrics. Despite the syn­co­pa­tion, the whole had a some­what con­tem­po­rary beau­ty, as if a young com­pos­er had want­ed to draw the essence of the melody to reveal it to us in a con­tra­pun­tal­ly renewed way.

Passers-by have always laughed more at him, or sim­ply smiled at the spec­ta­cle they offered him alms. Nor do I remem­ber giv­ing him any mon­ey, con­sid­er­ing him much more often as an artis­tic nui­sance occu­py­ing a pre­cious place in the cor­ri­dors of the metro.

With time, there­fore, this man per­sists, with his min­i­mal­ist a cap­pel­la songs, strange rhythms. His hon­est ener­gy at the begin­ning gave way to fatigue. The record seems scratched, repeats melod­ic flanges. Yet it is still there. He may have col­lect­ed a for­tune, or he hides, behind this mask of lost, his ducharmi­an spir­it, it may be Réjean Ducharme himself.

His insis­tence alone, it will be said, deserves to be encour­aged. Pos­si­ble. How­ev­er, I do not hes­i­tate to give to musi­cians of all styles when I feel the flame of tal­ent in them. I rarely give out of pity. I hate beg­ging, I hate being solicit­ed. It is not self-right­eous ; I would pre­fer that soci­ety be fair­er and that every­one has the resources to achieve their ambitions.

I cer­tain­ly pre­fer it to that crazy woman who sings Chris­t­ian songs with a black-spir­it­ed sauce in her voice and who too often haunts the Cré­mazie metro sta­tion. I also pre­fer it to this oth­er one, obvi­ous­ly destroyed by the pas­sage of men, and which changes hor­ri­bly wrong in the cor­ri­dors of Berri-UQAM. At the very least, he keeps the note. He now seems so tired. He’s hold­ing on so tight. And when he dies, we prob­a­bly won’t know. Per­haps like all of us, by the way.

So lit­tle sep­a­rates us from mis­ery. So few pro­tect us from the solar winds. So small, after all, we are all.