There’s a line of woman in the bathroom applying makeup after a long flight. I just have to pee and afterwards I wash my hands and look at my face up close in the mirror and repeat to myself something my father told me just a couple days before: it could go either way. He had called me Kate then, he had perhaps leaned in closer to better illustrate his point, he had maybe gripped my arm in that almost-overbearing way of people who are so much older than you and who think themselves also so much wiser.
We take the bus back to the city. This is Edinburgh. This is also Edinburgh. Here: Edinburgh, I say, in an impulsive effort to fill up the silence that might otherwise have actually been nice. Over the next couple days I will learn how to shut up, I will learn how to listen, I will hopefully learn more about this person who has travelled halfway around the world to see me. This person: my first visitor.
It’s different, isn’t it, the first visitor. They change things; they reverse roles. Suddenly you are not the newcomer, suddenly you are the resident, the usual. You say hi to people at the coffee shop at the corner of your street and you point out important landmarks. Sometimes you make things up but you always admit to it later.
We go to a small bar, a crowded room overfilling with people all drinking seriously and talking seriously. A smattering of musicians sit in one corner, also drinking. One man with a warbly, delicate voice. A bass guitar. An upside down righty guitar, played lefty and stringed in reverse order.
If this was a kingdom, he whispers into my ear, that guy would be our high council.
He points to an old man with vacant eyes and a stuck open mouth. He drinks coffee from a mug and I’m worried he’s going to spill it all over himself.
Can I just play something before I leave? a woman asks one of the guitarists. He hands her his instrument and she sits down and what happens then is something I know will stick with me forever, will gnaw at the edges of my consciousness until I maybe someday figure out why it is so important. Everything is so important.
Later, the castle at night. Look, I say, pointing.
Oh, he says. He takes a picture. We move on.
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