1998 and all that (a final goodbye)
We're hugging on the bed. Asleep. We've been there for hours; I don't know when we drifted off, but now it's three in the morning and the house is quiet. She looks so peaceful, and I'm so happy, she's dreaming on me and this is what I've always wanted. It's me, though, she probably didn't intend to fall asleep. It probably just happened, so I get up, turn the light off, brush my teeth downstairs and go to bed in the guest bedroom where I belong.
* * *
Rain, eh? I guess that's one of the hazards of living in Edinburgh; the rain and the wind are everywhere, whether you want them or not. Sometimes they're unwelcome, a blast of cold and illness when you leave a party and embark upon the long walk home; sometimes they're like a soundtrack, just adding to how you feel. Tonight is one of those nights - I can't sleep, and I've decided to get up and walk around. It's at least midnight, and I'm soaking wet. Maybe I'm crying; I can't tell. It's been one of those years.
A car drives past, playing In The Frame by Del Amitri of all things, drives through a puddle and sprays me with muddy water. Being wet is a binary thing - you either are or you aren't - but I don't appreciate the dirt. A group of girls passes me on the other side of the street, giggling. Laughing at me. I deserve it, of course.
Earlier, on the phone, she told me she thought I only liked her because she was a girl who would talk to her. She thought I was just some desperate kid, and she'd been playing with me; she was sorry, she said. It had been too easy.
I would have done anything for her. She convinced me to paint my bedroom pink. She taught me how to cut.
* * *
Her car rounds the corner, up Claverhouse Drive and round, until it's out of sight and heading towards the ring road. She's gone, and all I have left are some lipstick-smeared pieces of tissue and the smell on the pillow, in my bed.
She wanted to know if Owen was single for crying out loud. He's cute, she said. Everyone says that.
I miss her laugh. I miss her eyes.
* * *
The next time I see her she's going out with a maths tutor who doesn't believe in sex before marriage and likes wearing patterned sweaters. It doesn't last very long. A cynical person might even interpret it as an escape.
It doesn't matter. It's the eve of the millennium and eighteen people are staying in my house. Over the next four days I spend over six hundred pounds on beer and food. Everyone has fun. Everyone enjoys themselves. I get together with my long-term girlfriend. We decide to climb a small mountain at three in the morning to watch the dawn. Everything is fantastic.
It would have been better with her there. Just to have her there. I want to apologise to her, for being me. I want her to know that I did love her, that it sounds corny but some part of me will always love her in some way. That it was her. It couldn't have been anyone else.
* * *
I'm lying on a mattress on the floor in California. It's dark; everyone's asleep, and aside from my voice the only noise is the air conditioning and the dog wandering through the hall, wanting attention. She'll have to wait.
I've phoned her up, and we talk like old times, like we always do. It's always the same, and it's always so weird, like no time at all has passed. The way we are with each other is like Brigadoon; when we stumble across it, nothing has changed. Or she's like this everyone; I don't know any more. It doesn't matter any more.
We talk about everything; what's happening in our lives - I've graduated and have decided to spend five months in Cow Town, she's getting married - for hours. We're not eighteen any more, and there's a lot to catch up on, but eventually it's really late, and she apologises but she has to go to work the next morning. We'll talk again, she promises.
I don't apologise. She says goodbye and puts the phone down.
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