There sat a man on the stairs of the tube. His hair was hidden underneath a black hoodie, and his pale hands clutched a mobile phone. His jeans-clad legs were bent, and his knees were hugged by his arms. His head rested on his knees, while he captured the scene he saw on video He looked like a tired, sad man. His eyes were at once empty and overflowing with a raging storm. Maybe he was homeless, maybe life had been tough, maybe his mental health was declining. No one could tell for sure. Appearances can be deceiving in this day and age.
A busker stood next to a pillar. His fingers picking at the strings of his worn guitar, and his voice pronounced every word he sang with as many emotions as he could muster that day. His guitar case lay in front of him; opened wide, so that passersby would be tempted to toss in some of the loose change they kept in their pockets. So far not many coins were spread out on the black velvet. The romance of busking in the underground and being discovered accidentally by someone influential was wearing off. Sometimes he wished he hadn’t quit his day job because of a fluke. He had, though, and there was no turning back. And now, he played for people who hurried past him without seeing him, and for homeless drunks like the one on the stairs across from him.
I stood at the busker’s left and observed both men. Both had a similar aura. Tired of their situations. Not of their lives, like me. I felt a momentary connection with these strangers while I projected my own struggles onto them. The man on the stairs looked lost in thoughts and mesmerised by the busker singing and interpreting songs we knew from the radio. And rightly so. He sang a beautiful rendition of Tears for Fears’ Mad World. I hummed along.
The man on the stairs moved his lips in time with the lyrics too.
Three strangers who had no connection whatsoever connected over a song. It was magic. I smiled to myself. It was a strange and foreign sensation for me. During this brief moment of contentment, the man on the stairs looked into my eyes. He nodded ever so slightly and, to me, it seemed as if his eyes were less tired then. A glimmer of hope was shining through his eyes and enveloped my own hopeless self.
The train arrived and the spell that had surrounded us dissipated and vanished with the throng of people invading this space that had been so magical mere seconds ago. The stranger was swallowed by the masses, and when the rushing brook of busy people had turned into a trickle, he was gone, and the busker was packing his guitar too. I turned to leave. Without direction, without purpose. No connection. I had missed the train.
(This has been inspired by a short clip of a semi-famous musician posted to his Instagram profile. What I saw in the clip is what I described in the first paragraph.)