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I fainted in the street today. In the Cowgate, I had met Joey and MinMin, a pair of giggly Malaysian girls who had used to work for the same agency as me. MinMin put a “herbal” tablet in my mouth, promising that it would give me a little high. “Just swallow, don’t chew it!” the girls insisted excitedly. The effects, though solicited, were still a surprise, and then suddenly they overwhelmed me. The quiet street seemed to flock upwards like frightened birds and, as I crashed to my knees, all that I wanted to do was to fall asleep and never wake up. Moments later, however, I did wake up. Joey and MinMin were conversing urgently. MinMin’s flat was just over the road and they wanted to take me there and put me to bed. I was dimly aware of being walked in some direction, and then up a flight of stairs.

I awoke in a dark room, feeling very alert but also confused and drained of energy. I lay back and tried to clear my head. The sighs of passing cars reached me distantly, and then I realised where I was. And then it hit me. It hit me hard, and with the shock came an enormous melancholy. I felt like a man walking through a lonely field who has just looked up and seen a vast stormy sky gathering over him. I fell out of bed, trying not to look around, groping blindly for the door.

This had once been Marcin’s flat.

MinMin was in the corridor outside. “Back to bed!” she ordered angrily, clapping her hands.

But I knew that I was too weak to remain in this flat. The vicious melancholy which had so desolated my life – and which I had presumed that I had mastered – seemed to await refreshed in these rooms, with the gleam of a sharpened blade. Every moment that I stayed here my heart seemed to grow heavier – too heavy to carry – to fill with heavy, black blood. So many happy memories were approaching, howling at me like children whom I had tried to leave in a forest. With the girls yelling in my ears, I fled.

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