Strangers in the night

February 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

You probably wouldn’t have given him a second glance at the bus stop – and why should you? Just another old man, anonymous in his beige coat, his gnarled hand clutching his bus pass.

You’d think, perhaps, that he’d no distinguishing features, that all these old men waiting at bus stops up and down the country look just the same – a flat cap here, a heavier jacket there. It’s easier to glance than to look, after all.

The bus now pulling up is steamy with the cold of the November evening; from inside, every streetlight looks like a burning torch.

And now see this man, perched on an aisle seat at the top of the stairs, where the foggy windows half-mask a fug of illicit cigarette smoke. Hear him as he adjusts his cap and begins to sing, softly at first. Watch people exchanging glances, wondering if he’s drunk or perhaps one of those lost souls holed up in the halfway houses round the park. But he’s singing on, undeterred, a rich baritone that rolls over the other passengers, coating their damp hair and chilled faces with a thick velvet, the sort that sees them sink almost imperceptibly back into their filthy seats. For once this journey is to be enjoyed rather than endured.

The chatter has quietened right down, and even passengers boarding at each bus stop fall silent as they walk into the smooth weight of his voice, as if under a spell.

From the outside, it’s another of those battered old buses clanking and rattling its way down the road.

Inside, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Perry Como – for one night only, all the greats are here.

Just strangers in the night, exchanging glances.


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