With all the hurly-burly of the Edinburgh Festival, I am working a total of about eight hours a day at the Pollock halls of residence – which is presently providing accommodation for the American High School Theatre Festival – and if I finish at Pollock before half nine, then I work over at the bar in the Pleasance Union until two or so in the morning. I end up getting about five hours sleep a night, which is very disagreeable and a source of great discomfort. I can never seem to relinquish a sense of debt – as if the time which I owe to sleep is chalked up on a board over my head – and in my mind this sleep takes the form of a tiger which slinks unseen in distant grass, crouching – never letting me out of his sight – waiting for the moment when I surrender and close my eyes, so that he can scamper up, throw me over his shoulder, and carry me off. Yet however exhausted I feel, when I finally get to bed I find that I cannot sleep.
I know that I need to be up before seven the next morning, and that I have to immediately get to work on my precious five hours of sleep. But like a wet hand flapping about on a plastic light switch, I cannot flick off my consciousness. It seems oblivious to my discomfort – like the last remaining dinner party guest, who is apparently insensible to all the subtle hints about phoning for taxis and having one last drink, and who will just not leave. I know that this insomnia is the child of anxiety and that I am too overwrought to sleep, and so at about four in the morning, I usually abandon my bed and try to walk it off. The sight of my red and white striped pyjamas would unfailingly reduce Tori to giggles, and so I always put on my dressing gown and slippers. The streets around Marchmont and Newington are deserted at this time of the morning, and my walk typically takes me down Marchmont Road, over the Meadows, around George Square, and back to Newington by way of Melville Road.
Last night was bitterly cold and it was raining steadily. I had erected my umbrella and I was carefully making my way down Marchmont Road, wishing to avoid dipping a slipper into one of the many puddles which were inching over the pavement. The pattering of the rain seemed like an incredibly clear sound, as if one was capable of distinguishing each of millions of individual little drumbeats. I followed Jawbone walk across the Meadows – a tunnel of shadowy light through the blackness – on my way to the arcade where rows of elms converge overhead, creating the impression of a great interior like that of a cathedral.
For a while I approached a sort of carnival tableau, staged dramatically against the blackness of the night. I gradually picked out details of this scene. Two girls threw a fireball in hoops and swirls. Four or so young men with thick dreadlocks pounded on bongo drums. There was a smell of marijuana and some crazy looking youths were dancing a little apart from the scene. The fireball lurched up and the faces and bodies and surrounding trees flickered briefly against the night. And there he was. Marcin was stripped to the waist and dancing to the bongo drums. The drums were pushing-pushing-pushing – as if at a locked door – and Marcin clapped his hands and shrieked at the energy of the drummers. I stood confounded, not knowing what to say and do, but then a great train of wind tore through the arcade, like the groan of a god, and my umbrella was blown inside out. The cold hands of the rain were all over me as I struggled desperately to erect my umbrella. When the umbrella was finally up, I had to wipe the water out of my eyes and then, when I looked again, Marcin was no longer there.