They sat in a circle within the old hall that had seen many of the small town’s dance weekends. This afternoon there was a quiet that served as a blank space of memory, where the participants in the circle inwardly recalled various life changes that had centred upon this very hall. Someone suggested that the traffic had stopped outside just to allow them a precious silence. Another mentioned a possible roadblock due to some incident in the town. There was, however, no question of anyone outside the hall being aware of precious silence. Business prevailed, errands that each human being considered more paramount than they actually were. Only relative to each other. Many of the interconnections unnoticed or being chance ones.
By their nature, interconnections between townsfolk could bring importance as well as triviality. For example, Sadie’s expeditionary dash to the corner shop for a newspaper was unremarkable. Yet, Brian’s search for love on lacklustre streets was more significant when he later accidentally tripped Sadie by means of his careless attention to shop doors and other people’s paths of purpose. Equally, Charlotte’s mission was to save someone from despair and possible suicide, but when she arrived at Lionel’s house she found him away on holiday with a woman he had met in the pub the night before. She later went to the same pub by chance. In contrast, Charles’ regular constitutional along the sea front brought him, as ever, to an unexpected and unseen crossroads, one route to nowhere, another towards a dreadful fate, another to a wonderful fate, the last one back the way he had come.
Those in the hall were oblivious to these other comings and goings of the town as they sat in un-self-conscious circular communion – squatting upon the chair-less floor. In many ways, each was a chance encounter, arrived here at roughly the same time, surprised that the others had also arrived, all participants in a rock choir that had once appeared in the hall in a greater hey-day than it possessed today.
Wendy had always (‘always’ being a word she often used) seen her original joining of the rock choir not so much as a sharing of the rock song but more as an expression of the gospel in her soul, especially when the choir, if seldom, rehearsed and then performed hymns and new-born happy clappiness. Today, she had recently retired from her workaday life and had wanted to see the hall again, in the hope that she may now have more time to resume group singing. Visiting the hall (now many miles from her current home) was an instinctive unplanned ingredient in that process.
Cheryl – who had overlapped in the rock choir with Wendy for a few months in the old days – had returned to the town because she happened to be visiting an old friend nearby and, being early, decided to stop off in the shopping centre where the hall was situated. Both women recognised each other but – in tune with some unspoken agreement – had not talked to each other, but only with those whose names they had forgotten. In fact, one of the others was Sadie who had been in a neighbouring street and was now nursing her sprained ankle as she sat on the floor. She, too, completed the circle. She was probably only one of the very few ex-rock choir members who still lived in the town and had grown accustomed to the dereliction of the hall, in contrast to the others present who had found its appearance today quite shocking.
One ex-member was indeed perturbed as he rounded the corner from the train station – and saw the exterior of the hall: quite different from how he remembered it. Disregarding the evident need of renovation, he was struck by what once must have been an impressive colonnaded entrance and double doors. All he remembered, he thought, was a single undistinguished door. For one moment, he wondered if he had found the wrong hall. But, no, this was definitely it. Strange how intervening dreams must have altered its very nature. He shrugged to himself, still wearing the pony-tail , but now decidedly greyer. His walk was decidedly more laboured, too, Sadie thought, as she glimpsed him arriving to make up his share of the circle inside.
But then a stranger came. One whom each failed to recognise. ‘Charles’ he told them. He looked quite calm. He then looked almost not there at all.
Eventually, the group of people stirred from what most of them deemed to be sad contemplations. Completely unpremeditated, in unison, they began singing the old choir’s most successfully performed rock anthem ... as if Queen's words meant more now.
written today and first published above