I awoke this morning in the middle of an incredibly clear dream, and, sitting up in the morning light, I felt very alert and confused, the events of the dream ringing in my head like a bell. Although not a nightmare, the dream had been unnerving and provocative. I suffered from nightmares as a child and in adulthood I feel a certain nostalgia for the adrenaline of nightmares, the sheer ferocity of their reality. This dream, however, left me with a terrible sense of injustice, and a wish to plunge back in and sort everything out.
In the dream, I was returning to Edinburgh for the final time before embarking on a journey to foreign climes. I met my wife Polly at Waverley Station, and I suddenly sensed that I must have been away from the city for many years, for she was now middle aged. In the dream, my own age was never established. I did the rounds of dinners and parties, meeting James and Tori and Olaf again, and bidding them farewell. It was Freshers’ week and the city was in the hands of the young, the streets were full of students, and each night was an Odyssey. I did not actually dream of evening after evening in the city, but in the mind which I was given in the dream I was aware of all that I have described.
In the evenings which I spent back at my apartment, however, I found that I was having difficulty satisfying my wife sexually. Our attempts at congress often ended with me apologising and insisting that I was just tired, and my wife fighting back tears and accusing me of being unnatural and a freak. She would berate me until I grimly returned to work on my penis, but the object in question remained quite useless and unresponsive. Sometimes my wife would ply me with wine, hoping that it would loosen me up. Sometimes she would set up the laptop, although on one occasion the movie which she selected featured rent boys, and I exploded with rage, demanding to know why she assumed that I was a homosexual. Soon Polly had kicked me out of our apartment and we were no longer on speaking terms. Then her sister, Claire, phoned me out of the blue and recommended that I consult a certain doctor at the University Health Service. Claire explained that he was very good and that he could really help me.
On the morning before I was scheduled to leave the city, I attended the Bristo Square open access clinic. The waiting room was packed with patients and it was as hot as a bakery. A baby was crying lustily. I was suspicious of the other patients, fearing that if I sat amongst them for too long then I would catch half a dozen of their diseases. The receptionist was a young student nurse with a firm, angry smile.
“Mr Tycienski? And you wish to see Doctor Kennedy?”
“That’s right.” I flashed my most boyish smile. Her mouth twitched for a moment and she looked vaguely as if she wanted to ruffle my hair.
“Take a seat Mr Tycienski. The doctor will see you soon.”
I dropped into a plastic seat. The baby now sounded bored with its own crying. For a while I dipped out of the waiting room, until the doctor called my name and I came crashing back, to find that I was following him towards his consultancy room.
Dr. Kennedy was a faintly glamorous man with very clear blue eyes and silvery hair. He had a rapid mind and when I tried to explain that I had a difficult, personal problem, he immediately recognised what I was talking about.
“Pop your pants down,” he ordered, as blandly as if requesting the time.
He took my member in his hands and lifted it up. “Quite common for men of your age, Mr Tycienski…” he was reciting. I could tell that something had disturbed him, however. He took a stethoscope and studied my heartbeat. He then took my pulse and my blood pressure. He frowned to himself, but then, blinking rapidly, he tried to smile at me.
“I have identified the source of the problem. It is quite simple. Your heart is not beating, you are not breathing in and out, and you are, to all intents and purposes, dead.”
He again tried to smile at me, but the result was sickly and horrible and my heart filled suddenly with fear. The doctor picked up a sheet of paper from amongst my medical notes and looked stupidly at it. It was a report describing how I had been killed in an industrial accent the previous year. The smile flickered on his face, and then dropped like a stone.
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CLINIC!” he screamed.
The emotion in his voice was awful. I stood frozen to the spot, unable to move.
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY CLINIC!” This was not directed to me, but apparently as a demand for assistance from outside. The door opened smartly and the receptionist marched into the room. A gang of male student nurses tumbled in after her.
The receptionist smiled fiercely at me. “Time to be leaving Mr Tycienski,” she suggested.
I was pulling up my pants. “But what about my penis?” I bleated to the doctor. He had turned so that he could not look at me. I could tell that his face was very red.
“Come on!” The receptionist threw open the door and two of her heavies grabbed me, one under each arm. I was marched down the corridor, protesting and trying to pull my way back to the doctor’s room. “I am a British taxpayer!” I cried desperately. The only reply was the sound of marching boots, a dull, insistent rhythm. I sensed vaguely that they were marching me in the direction of a mortuary and that the city will always be here, and that it will always be young and brilliant, but that one inevitably has to depart for foreign climes.
I went to work at Standard Life this morning and in the break, somebody showed me a photograph of Marcin, which they had apparently extracted from that Facebook website. In the photograph, he was sitting at a bar with a Latino girl and both were cheering inaudibly and raising their beers to the camera. For some reason which I cannot explain, this photograph threw me into a black mood. I later went into the staff lavatory, sat down on the toilet, and tried to masturbate. Before I reached the climax, however, I got a terrible cramp in my hand, and found that I was unable to finish. The dreams of the night are supposed to be air and cobwebs by noon, but, sitting on the toilet and trying to flap the pain out of my useless hand, I recalled with a shudder the march towards the mortuary and the sense of leaving the city forever.