I look up from my novel. Other people in the cafe play musical chairs: but in silence. For a second, I assume I’ve failed to zone back in, like the times I’ve been engrossed by words on a page, so much so a favourite album has skipped several tracks imperceptibly. When this happens, I feel hot shame. I’ve failed to do two things I love simultaneously. Anyone who ignores something they love, while held captive in a parallel existence, is destined to end up alone. So I summon a number from the vinyl in my head to accompany the movement of strangers. I choose a song in 7:4 – Tom Sawyer, by Rush. It’s a song I know more than any other. I manage to pause, in sync with the music they hear. This is no coincidence. Some folk can’t help but walk to their own click track and I’ve spotted a woman who is doing just that. And in 7:4! So while my song plays on, I return to my head vinyl then thumb along the spines of my collection. I don’t have much time before I have to zone back in but I think of something popular, maybe from the 80s, and settle on a short list. It hits me so abruptly, like when someone stops the music like they’ve just done in here. They rise and I’m in sync again, but this time I can hear their song: It’s Heart of Glass by Blondie. I walk over to join in. It doesn’t take me long to clock that no one is left standing. When this song stops, I’ll insist we leave it there. We need to learn to talk again. If not, this stupid game will never end.
Mark Connors is a poet, novelist and creative writing facilitator from Leeds, UK. His debut poetry pamphlet, Life is a Long Song was published by OWF Press in 2015. His first full length collection, Nothing is Meant to be Broken was published by Stairwell Books in 2017. His second poetry collection, Optics, was published in 2019. His third collection, After, was published in 2021. He is currently at work on MMXXII, a hybrid book containing poetry, fiction, memoir and travel writing. Mark is a co-founder and a managing editor of YAFFLE PRESS. For more info, visit www.markconnors.co.uk.