Eulogy to a friend

Written April 2016

You were sitting in your favourite place when I last saw you, outside by the concrete flagstones that get the sun all day. I stopped to chat to you briefly. I told you where I was going. That I loved you. A thought flitted through my mind, remembering our day together two days before, when we went to the beach for a spring outing and the Scottish sky greeted us with mournful clouds.

Perhaps it already knew.

I took the train to Edinburgh and spent the night with my auntie. She had not long since finished treatment for cancer. We checked into a spa and sat together in hot water, in steam, in dry scented wood. She told me that one day it would probably come back. The cancer. That the only life she could be sure of was the one in the present.

The call came at 1.15 on Saturday. We were walking up the Grassmarket, browsing in the windows of the women’s tweed outfitters, admiring the threads, me wondering if there would ever be an occasion where I could wear plus-fours.

You are missing.

Green seizes the back of my throat, and runs towards my fingertips. This. This that had already flitted through my mind a week before. This. This that I had never thought before a week before. This. And now this has happened. Have I made this happen? Have I willed this?

I take the train back. What should take 45 takes 90. Engineering works. I do not sigh at the iron steed. I do not curse its every stop. I do not will it faster. What had I already willed by one idle thought?

You are missing.

We cannot find you. We are looking. We are all looking. It is not just me who loves you, though my love feels stronger, bigger, thickest with guilt.

You are missing.

It is Sunday. It is Monday. It is Tuesday. It is Wednesday. It is Thursday. It is Friday.

I have cycled to the outskirts of the city. I have stopped next to a tree where Mary Queen of Scots once nursed the Earl of Darnley, her true love, back from the brink of death. I pedal on. The phone rings. It is a train driver. He has heard you are missing. He knows we are looking. He thinks he knows.

Take the train, he says, from Dumbreck to Corkerhill. Stand on the right-hand side.

We take the train at 12.47. As it leaves the station it passes under the bridge, and then it slows. Slows before the train depot, slows past the steep banks of Mosspark Boulevard, slows so we can peer through the window on the right-hand side, to see what he saw. You are not missing. You are there. Between the rails, face down, asleep, asleep, forever asleep.

You are not missing.

You come home at 2.08am, carried by two kindly men in orange overalls. I do not tell others of the blood-stained sheet. I do not tell others how the kind man in orange tells us not to open it. I do not tell others how he thinks you tried to get away. Instead I tell them that we laid you down in your bed, we covered you with a blanket, and we buried you beneath the young oak tree, on the land of your people.


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