The Girl on the Streets

August 25, 2008
By Halley Paris, Vancouver, WA

Every day on State St. in Santa Barbara, California, you will find a girl of about 20 sitting cross legged on the sidewalk playing her guitar and singing. Some people stop to listen, many throw their spare change or grab a buck out of their wallets to toss into her open guitar case. Other people are afraid to look her way, fearful that they will make eye contact with this grungy homeless girl, feeling that she’s expecting them to give her money or food, that she wants them to show her pity for her mistakes.
In this young woman’s head, however, she didn’t find the fact that she was living on the streets a mistake at all. In fact, she chose the life style.
Her name was Peace. As she was raised by her two hippy parents, she started forming her own opinions about life. The rest of society found her opinions quite strange. She decided when she was 18 and after she graduated high school, she would leave her parents’ house and live as an independent, homeless woman. She mainly made this decision because she wasn’t agreeing with the government. She refused to pay taxes with the money she earned to support the war against Iraq. She would not be able to live with herself with the piercing knowledge that she assisted in sending of innocent men and women to their deaths fighting other innocent people.
So she spent her life on the streets. What most don’t understand, though, is that she enjoyed her life. She couldn’t think of anything better than spending everyday playing her music and having it be enjoyed by passerby. Anyone who hears her agrees that she is an amazing musician. She makes sounds on her guitar that most cannot duplicate and she has a raspy yet beautiful singing voice, a Tom Waits kind of sound, that one could listen to for days on end. Months. Maybe even years. It’s impossible to further compare her to any other artist because she sounds like nothing that has ever been heard before.
Peace sat in her spot on State St. one Saturday afternoon, tuning her guitar. As she started playing, a few people stopped to listen. By her second song, there was a small crowd. She wasn’t surprised by this because Saturdays were always pretty busy downtown. There were a lot of tourist and locals who just wanted something to do on their weekend. She was strumming her guitar, the most valuable and cherished item she had, when she looked up and saw a man that she felt was really familiar. She may have seen him around some other times in the city. No, that wasn’t it. Then it hit her. She had gone to high school with him. She didn’t recall his name, but she did remember having him in her English class as a
Senior and her PE as a sophomore. He was sitting at a table outside a café across the street from where she was playing. As she was playing, he started writing something and glancing up at her continuously. He finished his writing, stood up, threw his coffee away, and neared Peace. He walked up to her guitar case and dropped a napkin in it. Peace kept playing. There were always a lot of weird people that hung out downtown.

Peace stopped playing at around 6. She took the money and the napkin she had earned while playing and stuffed it into the pocket of her baggy cargo pants. She delicately put her guitar into its case and snapped it shut. She pulled her ponytail out and shook her long, brown dreadlocks. Then she picked up her guitar case and went to buy some food.
As she was walking, she started to pull out her money to count how much she earned. She felt the napkin that her old classmate had left behind. Glancing at it she spotted writing on it.
It said:
Hello Peace-

I don’t know if you remember me, but we went to San Marcos High School together. I remember you lugging you guitar
to school everyday so you could sit in the courtyard at lunch playing your music.
My name is Curtis Florn. I am now the manager of Rockafella Records. The other day I started thinking about you and your amazing musical skills. I would be very grateful if you agreed to be signed to my company. We are looking for the next new, big sound in music and I believe you could be it. Please consider this offer. I will come again to receive your answer on Monday.

Your Friend,

Curtis Florn

Thoughts came rushing into Peace’s head. Fame? Fortune? That’s not what she stood for. She was a hippy chick at heart. She couldn’t go mainstream. She thought of what she overheard people say about big artists. Constant gossip and a watchful eye from media was what it involved.
What if she did agree to sign the record deal though? Would she really change? Sure she would be making a lot more money, and instead of looks of disgust she would get attention from listeners, from her fans. The idea of her music being listened to throughout the country, maybe even the world, was enthralling. Strangers singing along with her music. The beginning of musicians being inspired to make their own music after hearing hers. Why not give it a shot?

Monday came slower than usual. Peace played her heart out, like it was like any other day. Subconsciously, though, she was on the look out for Curtis Florn. The feeling of someone walking into her life, unexpectedly, asking her to make a life changing decision within those few days was terrifying. She was nervous about the events that would take place after today.

She started doubting her beliefs. Maybe they were never right. Maybe she was living her life all wrong. Would those decisions she made as a naïve teenager affect the rest of her life? Are second chances really possible?

Hearing only the sound of passing cars and the chatter of window shoppers, Peace realized she had stopped playing. She shook her head and started again. She didn’t like how many thoughts she had running through her head.
She looked up and saw Curtis Florn approaching her in a very cool and casual way. Peace, on the other hand, had a pounding heart and palms so sweaty she could barely grasp her guitar.

“Hey Peace. Did you think about my offer?”
She gulped before she squeaked out a soft “Yes.”
“So, what did you decide?”
Inhaling she said, “I have.” Then, to her surprise the words “I can’t accept your offer.” escaped her mouth and as soon as she said them, they felt right.
“I’m sorry to hear that. You have a lot of talent.” He paused. “Well, that’s it I guess. It was nice seeing you Peace.”
“Yeah. You too.”
Life went on for Peace. She was happy with her life and she wouldn’t want to change it. She was doing what she loved and having complete freedom at the same time. Sure it wasn’t the glamorous living that most people wanted, but she didn’t mind.
So Peace still sits and performs in her spot on State St., attracting the ears of all that pass her. This girl who had the choice between fortune and poverty, and chose to be poor. She lived by her beliefs and, unlike most people, was able to enjoy the simpler things in life.

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