Benjamin Gets The Train (A Story from Inside Benjamin’s Head)

I would definitely be the first to start singing. Not the way they do it in films, all coy and bashful, a slight pursing of the lips as if an apology is forming but can’t quite make its way to the surface. No apologies.

People would start to stare, maybe put their newspapers down on the seat next to them, and watch me start to sing the first few bars and slowly raise from my seat, the identikit parade of houses blurring into an impressionist painting through the train window.

I haven’t told you what song it is yet. I wanted to wait a short while and ratchet up the suspense. I know what I’m doing; I’ve been planning this scenario for years. Maybe a little while longer.

I want the first passenger to join me dancing to be a woman, middle-aged, wearing clothes that make her fade into the background. Into the fraying upholstery tacked to the train seat with old chewing gum and indifference. She places her bag for life gently onto the seat and dances to the song I’m singing with wild abandon, inspiring an older couple nearby to throw off their coats and launch into a sprightly Charleston, casting off the years as they eye the younger passengers mischievously, daring them to join in.

By now, I’ve been joined by a gospel choir, standing by the door and belting out a version of the song that seems to radiate warmth from one end of the train to the other. Coats fall to the ground like spent leaves from the trees. I launch into a high energy dance routine choreographed to perfection and flanked by smiling backing dancers. Nobody questions why a disco ball has been lowered from the rusting train roof and is now shooting its light like lasers around the carriage. People talked about the sight of a beaming train shooting like a ray of light across the viaduct for years to come.

As the second chorus reaches its crescendo, the whole train is now dancing to the same routine as me. Young and old are joining in and young mums are dancing with their babies in their arms, waving their chubby arms at the pensioners as they swish past. No-one shows any signs of fatigue. The disco ball acts as a sign, a burning bush, willing the dancers to continue. We edge closer to the final stop on the line.

I can see the bulbous curve of the train shed now through the misty windows. Other sleeker trains overtake us and steal prime positions in the station, and the train slows and waits at a signal. Meanwhile, the dancers, passengers and I are dancing as the song fades out, fade to repeat I think it’s called. Of course we’ve timed it brilliantly. The only thing the passengers on the platform see is an elderly couple gathering their bags together and a gospel choir chatting to each other and smiling conspiratorially. A child is reprimanded by his mother after saying he saw a disco ball disappearing into the roof of the rusting train. The child stays quiet but knows what he saw and somewhere deep down knows he will see it again.

I step from the train, bag in hand, knowing that I will tell no-one about what just happened. Who would believe me anyway? People give too much away, their whole lives played out on the internet like a prosaic soap opera. This is just between me and the rest of the train. The train that I will get again tomorrow. The same sequence of events will happen, the same dance. Fade to repeat, I think it’s called. I still haven’t told you what song is playing.

Andrew Collier