The buffet was understandably packed at mealtimes. You couldn't hear yourself think, let alone hear the music they put on in the background - I fail to see why they bothered really. But one afternoon, when I was pretty upset to be honest, I ventured in to afternoon tea. It was quiet, exceptionally quiet. I took a seat (and a few scones), leaned back and closed my eyes. Then opened them again. I could hear the music. What's more, it was Judy Garland and Gene Kelly singing 'For Me and My Gal'.
The beauty of being me is that it usually only takes me seconds to identify the song I'm listening to. From the first bars I knew this was the full-length screen version of the song, not the shorted recording Judy and Gene recorded to promote the film. I started singing softly, tapping along to the music. The way I felt at that particular moment, I couldn't help myself. Judy and Gene were just the tonic I needed and everybody else could take a running jump off the back of the ship.
I became aware, though, that I wasn't the only one singing and tapping. A few tables down to my left there was an elderly gentleman, also sat alone, doing the same thing. For the length of the song, we quietly duetted, both descending into some sort of conducting during the long instrumental. I closed my eyes, picturing that dance in the back of mind, but I was still acutely aware of my singing partner.
The song ended. His wife returned and we exchanged a smile. That was it. I never saw him again. But, for a few moments on a crowded ship, I'd located serenity. The fact that it involved Judy dancing with Gene shouldn't surprise anybody, least of all me.