17th May


This happened a long time ago, back before the days of the internet, Skype, mobile phones, texting, all that. A young man, not much more than a boy really, was walking along an Edinburgh street. On one side of him, terraced houses; on the other, open views to Arthur’s Seat, trees not fully in leaf, a bench, railings. He went to the bench, sat down, stood, walked again. Pacing, that’s what he was doing. The turrets of Holyrood Palace were visible beyond the railway lines. What did he care about palaces? A burial ground was below him. To hell with the dead! He paced in the other direction. He’d been in one of the houses across the street, queuing for hours, but it wasn’t a house, it was the American Consulate. If you wanted to visit the USA you went to the Consulate and filled in a form and they gave you a visa and stamped your passport, unless you were some kind of undesirable. He wasn’t undesirable, he’d been in the USA the year before, as a student, and he was desirable, he was desired. There was a girl waiting for him, they were in love, they’d been in love, she wanted him to go back, he wanted to go, he didn’t want to go, he couldn’t afford it, of course he could afford it if they were in love, their lives were together in front of them, but it was over, he loved her but not the way he once had, it had gone. Maybe if she came to Scotland . . . But he had to go there because she had a job, somewhere to live, he had nothing, not even the price of an air ticket but he could get that if he really wanted to go, but he didn’t, deep down he didn’t, and that was why he was pacing, knowing that he had the stamp in his passport, that he wasn’t going to use it, that he’d have to call her, write to her, he’d have to say, ‘I’m not coming,’ and it would break her heart, it was breaking his heart, but it was over, inside he knew it was over.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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