He Wrote a Railway Station


The thing with Sarah Louise was that she looked like every wild beautiful American from New   York you would want to meet. Now here she was in Edinburgh. We had got the bus in from the airport where her long brown hair and loud laugh attracted a lot of attention. It had been four years since we had worked in the summer camp in New York State. She had been the girlfriend of the Head Counsellor at the summer camp where we worked.

Along with my girlfriend she and her boyfriend had travelled round the east coast of America then we had all headed to Yellowstone Park. The adventures and driving across hundreds of miles of America had come to an end in Los Angles. Despite hiding my passport and stealing my clothes (for a day) Sarah Louise and her boyfriend had accompanied my girlfriend and I to La Guardia airport for a tearful farewell.

That had been eight years ago.

A lot had happened in that time. I had graduated and her boyfriend had left her for a best friend while mine had discovered that her high school boyfriend was really great and now had a small child with him.

In Scotland I had got a degree and now worked in the insurance office whose glass lined building sat at the foot of the fist of rock in Edinburgh called Arthur’s Seat.

I shared a flat with an English guy who managed a record shop and a girl whose postgraduate study was being derailed with her obsession with an anarchist who thought having a job was anti-revolutionary.

Here we were wandering round the centre of Edinburgh wondering if the rain would stop.

The fact the nearby railway station-‘Waverley’ was named after Sir Walter Scott’s novel (and the only one in the world to be named after a book) did amuse her and we headed to the Scott Monument. The blackened sandstone above the statue of the novelist hid the intestinal stairs that wound tightly up to eventually give you a view of the city and the green strips of the land across the water.

There were some awkward silences between us. Memories of a humid summer in New York State amid the sandstone maw of the memorial to Scott.

A sensing for familiarity was cut into as her head cracked off the wall. A man whose short black hair was the only thing I saw had grabbed her bag off her shoulder and headed down the narrow stairs.

Sarah Louise had her head down sobbing and picking up the contents of the bag. I helped her and made pathetic noises about getting the police.

The ticket woman was barely interested and we headed to Newington police station.

Hours of questions and sharing of details both American and Scottish made us both exhausted. The distance between us hadn’t changed.

The brief sit down in a Royal Mile pub with a whisky softened the shock for both of us and the normal appearance of people passing frightened us less and less.

It was a long night and we stayed apart.

The airport was its usual hum of rush and anxiety where people paused before letting go.

Her perfume reminded me of the Syracuse nights In NY State and the ice cream parlour where I had said I didn’t like chocolate oreos or chocolate anything.

It was the kindest goodbye because the hurt was less than if we had lasted the few years we might have had.

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