Psychonaughts, rebels and outlaws, we had ridden a trail of ecstasy and the years together. Jane and I went back some time now. Back to Faslane protests against The Bomb and NATO. Meetings in libraries and community halls across the city, shouting down red-faced middle-aged trash that begged one more chance for Lenin. Huddled under the slavers icons in George Square, we demanded our independence, an end to Council Tax, rights for refugees, pay deals for educators. Chips and cheese in the rain. Coffee and fags. Crappy warehouse raves that stank of pish and entitlement. Efforts to reach some apartment in Woodlands or Garnethill for more music and banter. Before walking, rushing past the 7am pinstriped bastards with their silent judgements and obvious jealousies.
Jane sits on stairs, I stand. I still have the taste of falafel and onions in my mouth and an odd stomach. Even at our age, a night out still ends with another night out. Another night out is usually standing with a joint before finding that apartment in Garnethill. For a post-night out night out. Before the real night out walking through the city at 7am, pinstripes, bastards etc. Nights out upon nights out within nights out. A tesseract of nights.
Alas, not tonight. Jane has kids now. Alongside the art, she teaches. I used to be on junk and now maintain an art and writing problem.
“I like the way we grew old together,” I say.
I’m really thinking of how the end of a night is always ridden with poignancy. She’s thinking about how back in our day, we’d keep going past dinner and drinks to the tesseract. But the day we’re in now is about union meetings. The kids college application. Will I ever find another fucking apartment?
“I still think it’s funny you say ‘apartment’.”
“I like Americanisms”, I say.
I grab my phone and ask Jane if I can take her portrait. She sits on the steps and gazes at the traffic which hums in the distance. Jane is illuminated by lights embedded in the stones. Her Appolonian features, the light. Her watching, which is like the love of a protector, seems to move through me. When the picture is seized, I feel a sense of completion, of an absolute. Our bond has become more. Another step. Movement. More of the secret symmetry of our city, writing itself.
I tell her I’m happy she paints on her own time more. My painting is rudimentary. Piled roughly atop an existing photograph or some other pre-existing source, my art is childish compared to hers. Jane crafts from nothingness. Whatever it is, she drags it from her brain, manifests it, shapes the dust and oils into a form. I am nothing – a self-conscious laugh.
“I’m going to try and make it look like a painting”.
Jane says I can do anything. As she stands, I realise the night is done. Jane has to catch the night bus west, through the city centre past the M8 and river. It will be years before we actually see each other again. We hug.
“Give the kids my love”.
I watch Jane walk away. I contemplate which way to go. There’s a bedroom in Charing Cross. A girlfriend in Dennistoun. I look back towards where Jane walked. She is gone. It has become morning. So I walk. I walk South until the river. And I keep walking. There are apartments on my journey where parties are ending. I walk. Pinstripe bastards. I walk. I stop at the statue of La Pasionaria.
“Nae Pasaran, pal!”
I think of the wars. Jane with a gun.
The sun is rising. Beneath my boots, I can feel the city coming to life for the day.
What delights, what pleasures, what petty violences await us?
What will you do if we survive you?
The clouds have a chasm between them that aligns itself with the river. I have a soft pain in my left hand. A beating from cops years ago. I don’t mind. Tobacco burns my throat. I can feel the second-hand thrum of trains. The city alive like me. Vibrating painfully, not given a fuck. Animated thoughts. Metal on metal. Everything around me is alive – thriving upon anticipation and mystery.