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We pick up Amir’s story again outside a one-bedroom apartment in Warrender Park Crescent. Amir has lived here since his contract had ended with the Halls of Residence in May. He had not succeeded in pairing off with any other student in the Halls, and he had not been invited to make up the numbers in any of the flatshares that were crystallising around him. The few one-bedroom apartments that were available online had been too expensive for him to even contemplate. For several weeks he had been haunted by the steeply delirious fear that he would have nowhere to live.

Then one day fortune had placed a copy of the Edinburgh Evening News in his path as he was crisscrossing the city and, turning its pages, he was stopped short by a sheet of small ads. He immediately recognised their significance and then the stroke of luck was resounding like a thunderclap. Here were apartments that nobody apparently wanted. You just rang a number and volunteered to take one and then there was only three hundred pounds to pay per month. It seemed to have been agreed that these apartments would be set aside from the rest of Edinburgh’s normal housing stock, for people who had been released from prison or for people who had to flee murderous households or for the few hopeless, friendless people who were knocking about like Amir.

His apartment begins by immediately pouring around a minor bend and then you are in a dwarfish corridor with a pea-green nylon carpet. You walk past a couple of doorways that look in on shallow rooms and then around another bend and then there is a large frosted window and the apartment is over. Amir’s bedroom contains a double bed and hardly anything else. The bathroom is so small that, with its clutter of cheap plastic shelves and curtains, you will feel that you have been somehow bundled inside a fridge.

When Reggie visited this apartment he gathered that it was one in a sequence or network of similarly proportioned ones. All of these apartments might have been in fact tentacles on some shapeless sea monster; they were all wrapped around each other in some unimaginable pattern within the walls of this residential block. They also shared a single kitchen. Reggie was appraised of this when, amusedly, he had requested a pint glass of tap water.

He had known that Amir must have had access to a kitchen somewhere but he could not have proposed where. Did you lift up a trapdoor in the wiry, pea-coloured carpet out in the corridor, to find a kitchen sleeping down in the darkness? Instead, Reggie was directed incongruously out of the front door, through a spare-looking door in the stairwell that had been left on the latch, and then down a narrow flight of stairs whose tubular walls must have tunnelled bizarrely under ceilings and through the corners of bedrooms in several other apartments.

When Reggie got to the bottom of the flight of stairs, there were identical doorways all around him, from other passageways that had presumably boreholed down to connect with this kitchen. The kitchen had the soullessness of a communal space in a place that is devoid of community. The few items inside the fridge had fierce little notes clipped to them, demanding that they not be disturbed by anybody other than their rightful owners. Reggie inspected tiny pots of ageing yogurt and cartons of cactus juice from some eastern-European country and a smile played upon his thin lips and he seemed to sway elegantly with that aloof, exquisite sarcasm, as a willow stands vividly apart from other trees, even when he was alone and unobserved in this soulless interior.

Rather than there being a cupboard for the saucepans, they were all hung on nails that had been crudely beaten into the farthest wall. It looked somehow as if they had been mounted like trophies. They caused Reggie to unconsciously picture a hunter prowling in a forest with a shotgun whilst saucepans darted and scurried around him in the undergrowth.

“Hey, you didn’t touch anybody’s food?” Amir asked, his voice leaping, once Reggie had returned.

Reggie shook his head. He was annoyed to find that he had already drunk two thirds of the water in his pint glass. He could not bear to go back down the stairs to the communal kitchen; indeed, he shivered at how icy the memory of this kitchen now felt against his skin.

The sex was exciting whilst it was happening and then afterwards it had become instantly unmemorable. Reggie decided that he would stay the night not because this visibly pleased Amir and caused him to rejoice but really because he did not want to cross all the way back to his apartment in the New Town. In the morning, he was required to attend a tutorial in Appleton Tower, on the other side of the Meadows, and if he stopped here then he could be back at his desk, in his apartment, prior to midday. He would work here until the evening, tapping a beat with his fingers on the keyboard of his desktop and at night he would suddenly tear off the day impatiently and follow this beat out onto the streets and to the Hive or Banshee or Rascals.

He would attach himself to anybody in these venues and here he was more often than not invited to ornament afterparties. His new friends would last no longer than a layer of glitter eyeshadow. They could not, in fact, have imagined what he did during the daytime. From his eerie calmness, they sometimes supposed that he was a male nurse. They were surprised that he did not drink alcohol and if they ever chased up why they would not necessarily find that his apparent sociability or high-living was not in earnest.  He would still become sternly snobbish about alcohol, viewing it as trash culture or as an entirely juvenile element. Something very fine in his character – even something perceptibly aristocratic – shone through when you suggested a beer and a light clicked off in him and he became blank with disinterest.

The next morning he awoke with annoyance to realise that he had woken up late and woken up second. He would no longer be able to shake Amir distantly in farewell and then glide away. They would probably have to eat together and he would have to generate insincere pleasantries until Amir was assured that he would not be forgotten about and that, yes, there would be another meeting.

In truth, he liked Amir. There was something forlorn about him that made his company very effortless or even, Reggie felt, perversely gratifying. Amir was hopelessly studying music tech, where he was far out of his depth and where he had no idea what he was trying to achieve and where he was disliked for being the only student to enjoy the rampant maths. It was just like Amir to push headlong and with his eyes wide open into such a quagmire. Amir had eyes that were glazed and sunken with undisguised depression, a depression that was worn for all to see, as though it was a novelty sombrero. He had fallen out with his parents because they were still trying to talk him out of his sexuality and with a crusading elder sister who was impatient that he was ashamed of himself. And now he was living here in this feeble room where he had not succeeded in even leaving a scratch of his own individuality upon its walls.

Yes, he liked Amir. He had realised some time ago that he actually liked him a lot. Amir thought that he was an outcast and someone looking in on him might have assumed that he was a couple of mishaps away from a total implosion, but in Edinburgh, Reggie thought, this made Amir look refreshingly human. Indeed, it was almost a shock to encounter someone so human. When Reggie was on George Street and walking through the waves of perfect women, with their blankly perfect skin, and their boredom, and their mindless careerism, and with their administrative careers in banks or PR agencies waiting for them as predictably as marriages in a Jane Austen novel, he felt a strange urge to gravitate back to Amir’s humanity. The companionable relief of his failure.

Amir had opened a bedside drawer and taken out a phone that must have been squirrelled away under socks and underpants. Reggie noticed that it was an old phone and different to the one that he usually saw Amir with. Amir was watching him and standing very still and suddenly the whole room seemed to become wholly still, in a great rush.

Amir watched Reggie doubtfully and next he had come to a decision. His body looked shrunken with panic.  “Can I show you something?” he gulped.