The shop sold incense and crystals, Native American flutes, and roughhewn natural clothing of no particular shape. The incense was overpowering. My eyes began to water, and I left the group and went to explore further down the street. It was littered with small shops of varying success. A crowd was gathered around a bakery. They sipped coffee and ate delicate pastries. I maneuvered my way through the obstacle course of stretched-out legs and inappropriate elbows. A woman of middle age gave me a long stare of disapproval.

It was then that I came across the man playing a guitar. His inexpert hand flailed at the cheap instrument, its nylon strings making little noise above the crowded din. His greasy hair hung across his battered face, and he mouthed words that he dared not sing. He had a blanket atop which coins lay scattered; they had the look of permanence.

I walked past him, but the street offered no enticement of reward, so I turned back to find my companions. I reached the man and then I stopped before him. He annoyed me. With his every clumsy strike against the guitar, I felt resentment spread. My feelings were irrational and yet I could not bear to contain them. He felt my presence and lifted his face towards me. We regarded one another for some moments. His hand slowed its abstract rhythm.

“You should stop,” I said.

His blank stare encouraged me. I repeated my admonition.

“I don’t get you, man.” His teeth needed cleaning.

“You don’t know how to play. You should practice at home.”

He looked around for some support. The crowd beside us continued to consume the delicious, crafted delicacies. The two of us were alone in another world of my choosing.

“You can’t say that, man. You can’t say that.”

“You need to hear it,” I said. “Go home and practice and become a real musician.”

He squared his face. “I have a right to play here. I have a right.”

“We have a right not to hear the rubbish that you play.”

He began to cry. There was no welling of the eyes in warning; tears just fell of their own accord where before none had existed.

“I have a right,” he repeated. “I have a right.”

An unseen hand threw some coins that landed on the blanket, shocking us both from our state of conflict. I turned to see my girl. She was standing with the others. She was smiling.

“I love supporting people brave enough to come out here and play,” she said, and then she began to walk down the street of no reward as I slowly trailed in her wake.