Local observation / WAVE

By Christina Oxenberg

All my years in Key West I watched a man who was both introvert and extrovert, both shy and an egomaniac. A complication which suited me fine as I prefer to watch but not engage and we ignored each other.

He rode around town on his bicycle with a ramrod back, his guitar strapped on, and always in the same faded purple velvet suit, cut tight and decorated with silver coins, sort of matador, and a top hat.

He never smiled. He would make his way to the supermarket outside which he’d play his songs and sing in his angelic voice. And then again from sunset onward he’d pitch up along the main street, he would frequently face himself in the vitrine of a store, his own reflection for an audience.

Eventually I started dropping dollar bills in his cup when I passed him. And usually he closed his eyes, but on occasion he’d murmur, ‘Thanks Sweetie,’ and I’d stroll on.

One night he told me of his life, his name was Kenyatta Arrington, he told me he was the best musician in this poxy little town where he was not appreciated. With gravitas enough to make a soldier cry he recounted a time he was working as a session musician at a professional studio, and Ozymandias himself, Jimmy Hendrix, picked him out and told him he had talent.

‘You should write about me,’ Kenyatta urged and I lied and promised I would. But there was no story. Just sadness.

Last year he chucked the hat, the velvet suit, bought a new wig and though he still busked on the street he was saving to move to Norway. He was in love and his lady was awaiting. I was pleased for him and surprised to find his luck had taken an upswing.

Except he was found floating in the water near the pier, his body somehow impaled. Undetermined cause of death.

On TV I see Kenyatta in the commercials for Key West.