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My good old friend.

Yesterday I was wandering amongst the rooms of my apartment – smoking, picking apart a newspaper, and keeping the afternoon going like a thin little fire – and although I was vaguely anxious to venture out into the streets, the day was empty and there was nothing particularly waiting for me outside. I was climbing the stairs – perhaps I had heard the phone ringing in my bedroom – but once on the landing, I was suddenly confronted with a huge black dog. The unexpectedness of this vision – the sudden flaming up of all that is most real in both reality and dreams – caused all that was familiar in my mind to fall back, leaving my being unsheathed like a gleaming sword.

The dog stood before me, a mass of luscious and feathery weight, as complete as an elm tree. It regarded me with a look of terrible eagerness, as if the moment was so significant that it was about to erupt into speech.

Unnerved, I scrambled to safety – up a nasty little ladder into the attic. Peeping back down, I could hear the dog’s horribly soft and precise footsteps wandering around the apartment. They were in one room and then the next.

I was left to gaze blankly around the attic. Old furniture and cartons of old things – small coins pocketed by time, and now jangling with the lost memories of uneventful days – were stacked about and covered with a snowy layer of dust, so that the attic had assumed the quality of a Christmas scene in a dirty town. It was not nice up here, and one could imagine something uncanny from a child’s imagination prancing about and making eyes at you. I felt sleepy, and then I thought about being under warm blankets in a comfortable bed, and then I was asleep.

I do not know whether you have experienced this, my friend, but very often the magic of a dream will undo an unhappy mind and smooth it out like a bed sheet. I immediately dreamed of a baking road, a world drowned in deep summer – dusty fields of olive trees below the road – and a little breeze as light as spray. And you, my friend, were walking leisurely down this road: your skin was golden and it shone like that of a lizard in the sun; the very material of your tee-shirt seemed more vivid and profound than the greenest, bluest sea, the brightest coral reef; your neck was as straight as a wand; and you ached with pleasure in the heat, strolling so beautifully and smoothly that if you had extended your palm, a god could have drunk nectar from it.

A boy and a girl on a moped shoot past. They are heading for a big house up on a little hill.

Your mind follows them like a racing dog, emitting yelps of wonder. The moped performs a great arc in front of the house, like a knife slicing into the belly of a pie. Nobody has been home for weeks. It is a holiday mansion – owned by an English family who are absent for nine tenths of the year, and who pay a neighbouring farmer to tell them that the house is being looked after. The boy goes around the back and kicks in a window. He then walks through the house to the front door and opens it for the girl.

There is no food in the kitchen, although they find bottles of wine arranged in a little display on the living room sideboard. The boy drinks half a bottle of fine wine very pointedly and aggressively and the girl disapproves. The boy and the girl make love on the bed, and then the girl lies in the boy’s arms and they listen to the emptiness of the old house and the drifting of the world outside. The boy wipes his tool upon the bed and the girl laughs.

You stand down in the road and imagine this. It may not have happened at all.

Later, you are in the town, in a little bar which is both half empty and full of noise. People traipse about, a waitress yells through a wall at somebody banging in the kitchen, a radio fizzes with distant jazz, and cars cheep like birds outside. You are telling your friend Ruby about an English tour group of disabled children who were disembarked from their coach at quite the wrong time – they were suddenly caught up in a stampede of yelling young men and women, followed by six bulls. Oh, it was a wondrous thing to see – a miraculous transformation – as those disabled children shot off in their wheelchairs, tearing down the cobbled streets like lightening. In the end, they went quickly enough and their teacher was gored.

Ruby laughs and he equals this with a story about one of those animal rights activists who haunt the festival like a mad ghost, wailing their private anguish. The sun was high – the second rocket had been fired – everybody was off and the bulls were trotting gamely along at the back – when suddenly this activist was standing straight in the middle of the road like a lollypop lady, her hand outstretched. The runners were screaming at her, and trying desperately to manhandle her to safety, but she held fast, until the road was soon clear and she faced the bulls alone. Everybody expected that she would be tossed on the horns and they watched with no small degree of interest, but to general disbelief the bulls stopped in the road and they all appeared to be calmed. Many in the crowd thought that the activist must be a virgin and this incited a number of vicious remarks. In any event, the bulls were all dead by nightfall and the activist left the town under rather a cloud.

You and Ruby laugh. The radio fizzes and outside the town melts into darkness.

Today I had lunch at our old haunt the Forest Café. I asked the creature on the till for a piece of paper, and whilst I was eating I drew you running through cobbled streets in a group of men mixed with bulls, all running together as predators and prey flee in unison from a forest fire. I do not know why, but I started to draw strange designs on the tee-shirts of some of the running men – unpleasant images of people vomiting or pissing in the street – and although there was little sense to this, I felt curiously untroubled by it.

I looked up and my friend Pablo was hovering over the table, holding a little cup of coffee. He smiled at me. I think that we were both rather embarrassed to find ourselves meeting in the Forest, as, like most young people in Edinburgh, we are usually impassioned on the subject of how dreadful it is. I made a remark to the effect that I thought Pablo had been banned from the Forest – there was an incident in which he had punched a girl after she pulled him across the floor by his hair – or it may have been the other way around – but Pablo affected not to remember this.

He looked keenly at my picture. “Ah, Pamplona!”

“Is that Pamplona?”

Pablo was frowning. It took a while for Pablo to explain what was wrong, but I gradually gathered that the last time Pablo was at the encierro, he had run alongside a stag party from England. These men all wore matching tee-shirts – made especially for the stag party – and it had been agreed that each man’s tee-shirt would feature the most embarrassing photograph from his Facebook profile. Pabo recognised several of the photographs in my drawing. I wondered whether Pablo had come across you at the encierro, but he could not recall anybody answering to your description. I asked him which hotel you might have stayed at, and he suggested that there may have been a cheap youth hostel a little further down the street. So I continued drawing my picture until Pablo told me to stop. And there it was – a little backpacker’s hostel – and we established the address and this letter will go off hunting for you there.

It was a long story, but we got there in the end.

I hope that you are still intact, and that one day you will come back and live again for me and Zbigniew.

With all my heart,

Victoria.

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