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along the Firth of Tay

  • dan 

a case of gloomy introspection

I’m at a bar near the Tay Bridge, that sort of springboard into oblivion, courtesy of the icy waters of the Firth. My friend Malcom jumped off the Tay Bridge. Or so the story goes. That’s what the duty officer scribbled in his notes, at any rate. And so he even made it to the fourth page of our local rag. “Police fails to save drowning OAP”. I didn’t care much at the time. My mate is off buying a round. Third-rate journalists. That’s what we are. A waste of space. No offence. Yeah, right, and he spills lager on the pool table-top. He pokes me on the chest with his cue. And you are what. Fucking blinkered.

We live among Malcoms. A few of them wash up on some shore, and in front of horrified picnickers. What they do, they go for a stroll after the last call, and never come back. Or they have second thoughts, drift from street to street, and smash a few windows. We still don’t care. We sit around a desk, look at a few titles, write a paragraph or two. Depression evolves into frivolity, a dysfunction that still remains unrectified, whose cycle we’ve chosen to perpetuate.

I live in a bock of flats, one of those places you can never call home, except by way of metaphor. Life is pretty literal, and could be described in about two-hundred words. Not enough to explore the way our mind works. We put our trust on adjectives for that purpose. Blinkered, eejit, mental, weird, queer, nyaff. So, when Malcom died after jumping from the bridge, I was up in my room watching an online documentary about Daesh. I had taken an interest in foreign fighters – by default, you might infer, not devoid of some fascination of sorts.

J. told me that her marriage had gone to the dogs. Not in so many words. But I read her thoughts. J. is 42-year old, a born-and-bred Dundonian. She’s a regular at the bar. People are on a first-name basis with her. She looks like she’s pushing 60. The word is that she works the streets.

We looked happy. Just a tinge of sadness in our eyes, I guess, when the conversation stopped, like smog veiling a sunset on a busy motorway. A long queue ahead, the exit in sight, hands busy with incoming text messages. Perhaps, let’s assume for a moment, for argument’s sake, that I take a year off. Go back to school. It’d be great for my career. Would you…the air is suddenly thick with a million dust particles. As the car inches forward, they are gone, like a smile that hardens into a refusal. I sense hostility. I keep my gaze ahead, trained on a flashing roadwork sign. Slow down. Slow down. Blank. Slow down. I close my eyes and begin to pinch my lower lip with my right hand, index finger and thumb slowly making their way to the upper lip, hunting down and removing dead skin, and probing patches of dryness. That’s what she’s been doing ever since she started talking, I wish she stopped that. His voice comes through in muffled waves, consonants hit hard with the strength of a wild horse pawing at the ground as it catches sight of its tamer. I only catch a word here and there, at first, her deep-set eyes now open and alert to flurries of snow in mid-air, their swirl lingering in the redness of rear lights on the A85. But. Already talked. Told ya. Her voice trails off as though absorbed by the stillness of her own mind, where night and days have long ceased to alternate, a desolate moonscape she wanders into without fear or expectation, in search of a crater where she can hide and sleep, and…You’re not even listening, are you. Who’m’I talking too, the bloody windscreen? Here it comes, I should’ve paid attention. But I didn’t say another word. I didn’t even realize we were no longer on a motorway, not even on the familiar two-lane town road which leads to the Tesco roundabout, our apartment block at the end of the second turn to the right. She’s vaguely aware of her naked feet in a pool of water, rain on her face, rain rolling down her neck, rain falling in slow motion from a leaden sky. Rain like the day my mother stood on the Tay Bridge, tires hissing over the wet tar road, a search party gone home, empty-handed.

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