It was one of those days. You know the kind. When it’s all such an almightily boring effort. Another Groundhog Day especially tailored by London sleet and collective ennui. And then I saw him. Sitting on a pink plastic stool under the narrow shelter of the 91 bus. Behind him a poster advertised a new film about the life of Nelson Mandela. “Hugely powerful,” it read. “Heart-wrenching, yet as hopeful as it is inspiring.”
I didn’t know he was blind at first. My pound coin clanked into his tin, and he nodded and smiled off into the distance. I asked if I could take his photograph. He gazed through me and said something in a language I took for Armenian. Another man offered to translate my request. The accordion player nodded and smiled again, as his fingers unlocked the icy miseries and bonded joys of generations short on privilege but rich in company.
He played that instrument like a one man revolution. A singular refusal against the tyranny of despair. It was not the sound of hope. It was the resistance to hopelessness. He squeezed the music into the air as if he was working the bellows at a single ember in an abandoned fire. As if the future of life itself depended on its warmth. And in that moment, it did.