I’m standing in nothing, in darkness, on a blue carpet, in a room, in a foyer, in A-Block Foyer – Mascalls School, on the dirty blue carpet that was put down in the summer holidays when I was sixteen.
I’m alone in the Foyer, there is a table, there is someone behind the table, she is selling tickets. Her name is… she doesn’t have a name. I recognise her, but I’ve no idea who she is or if we have never met, and the hall is empty, and the hall is full of chairs, and the hall is dark but I can hear people inside, and the hall is full of people listening to a show, and I’m in the show.
I’m in a corridor and in the green room and the stage is behind me and I can hear the sounds of an audience waiting for a show to start, and it crosses my mind that the show had started but the show hasn’t started and I can hear the audience coming in. I know my lines, but don’t know what they are, but I can see a hessian covered board in front of me, and behind that is the drama room, and in the drama room all will become clear, and I move the hessian board and.
I’m standing in a room, a small room, one of the music rooms in C-Block where I had the guitar lessons with the man who didn’t think I practiced enough who was right because I didn’t practice enough, and I knew I should have practiced more but every week we came into these rooms and he tried to teach me something new but I didn’t get it because I had not grasped and practiced the thing he told me to practice last week. I’m here in the room, the small music room, with a band of people I know very well but don’t recognise, and one has long black hair and I nearly recognise him but don’t.
I’m a singer in the band.
We are in the show and soon, they are waiting for us, and important people are in the audience. People whose names I know are in the audience and I can recognise them because I know who they are but have never (and may never) seen them in real life and some even in pictures. You might be in the crowd, if you read this then you probably are. We are standing on stage and the stage extends out near the audience in a long finger of accusation and I can see the front row waiting in the silence because it’s quiet and it’s silent and the music begins and the song begins.
And it isn’t me singing the song.
Singing the song is Neil Hannon, the lead singer for the Divine Comedy, because that is the right thing, because it’s a Divine Comedy song we are doing or they are doing because I’m sitting beside the stage, no, I’m sitting in the wings watching, except I’m in the audience watching and the song plays the full length but is over in seconds and it’s my turn.
And I’m standing on stage. This is right. The world is in blue and white, the lighting cues happen, the music begins and I can hear the opening bars of “National Express” and I begin to sing and it works, and I can hear and feel the audience reacting and getting caught up, and that lasts four words into the song because then I forget the lyrics. I know the lyrics, I can see them, but I can’t sing a single word, and I try to fill in the words where I can, and I sing when I know the words, and this is worse. The audience slip away from me, mumbling over the music, and the song ends in a shambles, Neil takes the microphone from my hand and says simply “Go Away”.
I go away.
I wake up.
For a moment, I am frozen in the state between dream and reality, before I know that I haven’t performed in that building in four years, I’ve never sang that song on stage, and it was a dream. And for a moment I thought I’d found my greatest dream, and then blown it.