In the childhood of my days at Edinburgh, I drank in a bar on the Cowgate which has since been refurbished, and with drinkers who have now dispersed. Tori and Marcin were two of this company, but when I try to reminisce about these days with Tori, she will grumble that I am turning them into a religion or a sort of mythology. She is correct to the degree that my endlessly-thumbed memories of these days are now like the mummies and relics which savages carry aloft.
These were days in which we had nothing but our youth, and I sometimes feel that the others have since betrayed their youthful selves to get ahead in the world, as a devotion to art or gods may be compromised by worldly ambitions. They selected their bare lives and destinies, and then worked away at these futures as a bad gardener will ply a stretch of earth with gaudy flowers, gnomes, and wind-chimes. Why could we not have flats and houses instead of homes, jobs instead of careers, love instead of marriages and relationships? Why does the starkness of youth have to be buried under layer after layer of life, like a dancing fire extinguished with shovels of dust.
A charade of our youth is now stored on the Facebook website: a filing-cabinet bulging with information about unwanted friends, an attic heaped to the rafters with unmemorable memories. Sometimes one will “meet up” with old acquaintances to try and raise ghosts of the past, but one cannot be consoled by these spirits, just as the sight of a fire on a hilltop provides no warmth. Our old friends have themselves become zombies, rotten travesties of their youthful selves who now walk the earth animated by petty, practical needs. Their youth was once the beating of wings and all their talk was once a sort of dance, full of love and movement and fire, but now it creeps beneath the weight of the past, an indistinct shadow of youth, elbowing tetchily within a cramped life. If only a heavenly library contained perfect scripts of all which was uttered in that old bar, and one could sit on a cloud and read them over and over again!
I am presently drinking in the refurbished bar, but a new pattern of rooms and seating has been imposed over the old, erased interior. Countless scraps of memory furnish the sequence of rooms which remains in my head, like tin figurines recording the positions of regiments and divisions in a confused, aimless battle. Drinkers do not merely drink in the new bar – the idea of drinking in a bar is seemingly the prehistoric stage in a fatuous evolution – and the bar will now host “pub quizzes.” Perhaps they award mock GCSEs and A-Levels at the end of these play-exams. In the refurbished bar one can sip a cappuccino, or eat a salad, or enjoy a little artistic cocktail. Pints of beer and peanuts are now as unwelcome as socialists in New Labour. The struggling songwriter in his corner, moaning along to a backing-track on his laptop, completes the refurbished bar, cleansed of all the grit and smoke of its heyday.