The Woman on the Train
Pop Star or Tulpa?
A petite blonde haired woman was standing on the platform at London Bridge train station, as I waited for the train to Tunbridge Wells.
She seemed to look familiar, and stood out from the crowd, but I didn’t quite know why.
As the train pulled in, we all climbed aboard and took our seats. After a few minutes of no movement, there was a muffled announcement on the speaker system and people began to disembark, except for the petite blonde haired woman. I was trying to figure out if I too should be disembarking, so I turned to her and asked, ‘this is the train for Tunbridge Wells isn’t it?’, and she replied with an American accent, ‘well if it isn’t I’m gonna kill myself!’ which made me laugh as I sat back down.
Eventually the train pulled out of the station, and I took out a magazine to read. After a while there was a rather loud sigh from the woman, and trying not to seem too inquisitive I glanced at her reflection in the window on my left. She was sitting on the other side of the aisle on the opposite seat to mine, and then the familiarity suddenly dawned on me. She looked just like Madonna.
Now, the reason this hadn’t been an obvious conclusion, was because I was thinking, what on earth would a major league pop star like Madonna be doing on a train to Tunbridge Wells, all alone with no bodyguard? It made no sense. It also occurred to me that I hadn’t immediately recognized her at a party I’d been to a couple of years earlier, when I knew for a fact that she was there in attendance.
Another sigh, and I had a feeling that she wanted to chat, so as the lush green English countryside rolled past the window, I said ‘at least it’s not raining,’ and she immediately responded with how beautiful the view was. She then said ‘are you an artist?’ which took me by surprise. I was reading a copy of Dazed and Confused magazine, and I did have a small portfolio with me that may have given her a hint, so I said ‘yes, in fact I just recently showed at an exhibition in New York’. I then offered her the portfolio to look at. She looked through it keenly, and as I explained the concept behind the images, it made sense to move across to sit opposite her. She looked up at me with her blue-green eyes, and said ‘you’re a genius!’ Flattering perhaps, but I replied ‘I’m not sure about that, but I’m glad you like them.’ I then inquired about her vocation, and she replied ‘I’m a children’s author’.
Now this is where it all started to get very surreal for me, because I’m talking to this woman who looks exactly like Madonna, and I start to get an intense feeling of déjà vu. For the past couple of years I’d had a recurring dream that I would meet up with her by the doors of an elevator in a strange old building, and we would take a few flights up to the roof. We’d then sit on one of the parapets and chat for what seemed like hours, as dusk turned slowly to night.
I have no idea what we’d talk about, but this dream happened frequently. I then started to wonder if I wasn’t just dreaming again, or if I’d somehow manifested some kind of tulpa, and this entity was just playing the part. However, the more she spoke, the more indications that she was the pop star came to the fore. She mentioned that her husband was currently in Los Angeles writing a script, she spoke of her two children and how her eldest interacted with other kids, and then we somehow got talking about some pretty weird stuff. Mystical experiences and ghosts. The journey seemed to go by in a flash, and before we knew it, we’d arrived at our destination. We both stood up and she pulled on some soft black leather gloves. We shook hands, and then she said something that made me once again think I was having some kind of weird cosmic experience. She said ‘we’re very rare y’know’. I said ‘who is?’ and she answered ‘we are’. We exchanged niceties about meeting, and I handed her one of my own art postcards. I then said, ‘I didn’t get your name’. She hesitated, and with a half-smile said ‘Danielle.’ ‘My name’s Danielle.’
We stepped off the train, and as we went our separate ways, I got the distinct feeling she had no idea where she was.
I arrived at the publishers I’d taken the journey for in a bit of a daze, and was taken for lunch by the editor of Doctor Who magazine. The meeting afterwards went well and I got back on the return train home. The whole earlier journey was still really bothering me, so I called my friend Leigh to tell her of my experience. After I’d related the story she said, ‘well, maybe she was Madonna!’ I replied that her name was Danielle, and that she’d said she was a children’s author. She laughed and said, ‘nobody’s called Danielle! – and anyway, haven’t you heard? Madonna’s writing a children’s book.’ I hadn’t heard, but for some reason I still maintained my doubt.
A couple of weeks later, I was reading The Face magazine and an article gave a mention that ‘Madonna is wittering on about being a children’s author.’
It’s March 2003, and Madonna appears on the Jonathan Ross show wearing the exact same boots and gloves that I’d seen on the woman on the train.
The synchronicity of this event seemed so perplexing for some reason, even though my whole life has been full of such occurrences, it bothered me for months.
A year or so down the line I had a call from William Orbit, a friend and someone I’d worked with in the past. Knowing how well he knew Madonna, I took the opportunity to tell him the story, and he said ‘yep! that was her, she goes out and about on her own all the time.’ So there it was. My final confirmation that I had indeed shared a train journey with Madonna, and as for all of those rooftop meetings… who knows?