fare thee well

SATURDAY WAKEUP. I am trying to remember the stairway in the hostel in Glasgow. It’s July 2005, and not too long ago a few bombs went off in the London Tube and many people died. London feels far away from Glasgow, but the death has created a desert heat on the necks of the locals. You can feel it in the Pakistani-run convenience stores. People are disturbed, unsettled. You see a van parked somewhere and you blink and wait for it to detonate. But it’s safe at the top of the stairs and down the hall into a little room where I have lived with my wife and child for god knows how many days. Little do I know it, but I have long since run out of money, and am living on overdrafts and fees, but I am sure the future me will be able to recoup these costs. I’m just 25 years old. When I get to the room, I find the rest of the family in the rather clean and well-lit bathroom enjoying a soak in the tub. I really like this room in Glasgow. If I could stay in this room forever and ever I would. The clerk at the desk is a Scotsman, which is kind of like an Irishman, except with less swagger. The Scots are colder-blooded and aloof, but maybe a bit preferable to those red-faced Irish over the sea, who are either telling you a joke you can never fully understand or subtly trying to start a fight with you. He’s a nice fellow though, with his tourist brochures to Fort William and the Hebrides, those shadowy islands beyond reality. These I have in my hands as I crouch down beside the tub and discuss plans. This is how I wake up, with a fine dream of a Glasgow hostel.

YESTERDAY, DINNER AT THE RESTAURANT. How can I ever try to make any sense of this life? Or is it all just one tapestry, mosaic, stream of thoughts, dreams, experiences? I try to sort, categorize, analyze, piece together. I put all the cards up on the wall, rearrange them. I put pins here and there, draw lines, like those detectives in Shetland or Hinterland. But then a strong gust of wind blows through and all the papers are tossed into the air. They are fluttering around the room and there is rain too, so when I pick them up, the writing is only half legible. So much for logic and reason. My whole life seems like one unending cycle of birth, in and out of the canal, the peril of gasping for light and oxygen. I am a seal and biology is the raised club beating its nonsense into me. Women blow through my life, making off with what they need. A baby here, a tryst there, a screwdriver over there. “Hey, can you loan me €500? And can you drop me off/pick me up from the train station? And can you help me open this jar? I can’t do it myself.” “Well, yes, I …” “Thanks, bye!” All of these beautiful butterflies dancing around with their beautiful wings. Here I am trying to write into my notebook. Which brings me back to dinner. “I don’t blame her, I think she has very good reasons for ignoring you,” says the Youth. Which she does. And wouldn’t I actually prefer to be ignored? When did all of this dissolve into grade school romance? Why can’t these taciturn, tight-lipped Estonian women be like Penelope Cruz’s character in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and just shoot me? Then at least I would understand how they feel! Or chew me out, yell at me. Throw some stuff. I can understand that. But silence? Who does that? Who takes that which is most personal to you and then runs away and pretends it never happened? Fare thee well, I guess, my windy love. Fare thee well.

THE TELEPHONE CIRCUIT. It’s eaten everything. At night, the messages pour in from all of the world’s most lonely hearts as they lie in their lonesome beds with their lonesome hands below the covers. Some are suggestive, others upfront. “And you know, he’s a real writer, a philosopher, not like you, you only write about your feelings.” Europeans have funny ideas about writing. They really want me to force some grand philosophy into these downpours, like, “Yes, the romantic story works fine, but it’s even more savage with a bit of French existentialism!” All of these armchair intellectuals with their pipes, gesturing. Long walks. One must take long walks and say something profound about the meaning of life. Is the American philosophy, or at least the East Coast philosophy, some kind of hybrid of nihilism and the absurd? Seems so. But the real writers are out there taking walks, tinkering with beehives, clearing brush, a hot sauna, a cold pond dip, thinking, pondering. “Is life like this? Or more like that? Let us consider the question.” Who cares really. In Glasgow in 2005, the new film version of Willy Wonka just came out and they are selling special Willy Wonka white chocolate with Johnny Depp’s face on it. My daughter loves the chocolate and the street fair in Glasgow and her balloons. And that’s how this story ends for today, with us pushing a stroller down the walking streets in Glasgow past the almost orange candy looking Georgian banks and mansions. This is just like some lyric in some Belle and Sebastian song. I have no more use for philosophy, love, or biology. Just chocolate and Scotland.

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