Somewhere along the way in Kyoto, I had gotten lost in the crowds (it was like the third or fourth time it had happened; so the panic and shock I had felt the first couple times had faded). I was separated from the group, but I learned that they wouldn’t leave me too far behind. Soon, I found them standing in line at an ice cream stand near the musician in the center of the park.
The guy was an older gentleman but he had a guitar and a mic, and I really missed singing. “I want so bad,” I told my friend as I drifted toward the music. “You should ask if you can sing with him. Do you want me to do it?” she encouraged. I nodded immediately without thinking. “Wait, no! Wait, maybe ask him if he knows–“
“Where are you from?” the guy’s friend cut me off abruptly as I followed my friend. “I’m from Indiana.” I always tell people I’m from Indiana, even though I’m from the northwest part of the state, near Chicago which is considerably differently than much of the rest of the state–culturally, politically, demographically, economically, the list goes on. What was this guy asking? I wondered. “I see why you might be afraid to sing in Indiana, but now you’re in Kyoto, a long way from home. You’ve got nothing to lose.” The guy gestured toward the mic, and I smiled. His unexpected witty remark had made me laugh a little, but the words had still failed to reach and calm my heart. My hands were shaking as I found my feet had taken me to the mic. Now what?
“What songs do you know?” I asked the man with the guitar. “I only know the old stuff,” he said. “Do you know any blues?” Blues? I thought. I quickly shuffled through my memory, but if I did know anything it’s the stuff my older family members listened to but I wouldn’t know anything by title or artist. “Nope, no blues,” I admitted. “Do you know Sam Cooke A Change Gon Come?” Everyone knows that, right? But he didn’t, and my heart sank a little. “Here, you can just sing something,” he said generously and eagerly. “Just sing a Capella.”
Really!? I had felt so honored, but at the same time, I felt my heart skip a thousand beats and flutter away. I was already shaking at the thought of singing–here, in the middle of a huge park park where the crowds are endless and I’m a foreigner–but now alone with no music?
But could I really pass up this chance? Somehow street singing has always been a dream of mine…
As I adjusted the mic and started to sing, I thought of my friend, Xan, in Hawaii. This is his favorite song. I felt my nerves, but I just wanted to allow myself to at least sing so that he would think it was decent. And that would be enough for me. I only sang two verses. It was too short, but it was all my nerves could handle at the moment. And yet, it was still perfectly all I needed–that freedom of expression, the sharing of joy, the chance to do what I loved for once since being in Japan.
I stood up to leave when I finished, but the man with the guitar stopped me. “Sing this next one with me,” he smiled. “I know you’ll know the chorus.” I sat back down and listened to the very unfamiliar verse, but then he got to the chorus. And he was right. I definitely knew it, and we took the audience away once and for all. “Make sure you do something with that voice,” he advised before I left. “But I’m sure you already do,” but he was wrong. I’m still hoping for somewhere to sing around here.
Later that night, we sat by a small stream and watched our friend reenact a scene from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. He would love to be a professor of literature one day; I love writing, and our other friend loves literature too. So we both loved watching him. He’s also consistently a character which makes it easy to be amused by him. It was a great ending to a long day, and I’m glad I got to see my friends again that day.
Thanks to everyone who came out 😉
If you have not already, click here to check out Kyoto Photo.