A shell is nicer when there’s somebody to show it to as well.

One rainy night in Edinburgh:

I met K tonight, for what she calls in her inviting text ‘post-work brunch (?) like proper grown-ups’. After the ‘brunch’ (at Biblos in a comfy corner sofa), we moved on to Sandy Bell’s, where I’d never been before but, being situated in the middle of student-pubs-ville, have been drunk within a few yards of its doors scores of times. It’s really refreshingly unstudenty; we bought our pints and snuggled in to a wobbly little table that’s almost in its own tiny room, deep-pinkly walled on three sides away from the world. I don’t need to write what we talked about, that is for us and nobody else and it wouldn’t get across how much it means, how much she means, there’s no way that words ever could, no way that I ever could, no way that writing this will, but I do it anyway – I’m trying, struggling to catch it and put my fingers on it, to hold on to something that can never be held on to. I just don’t want future-me to forget this, this night and this time in my life, this girl who is so much more than a girl, this remarkable one, so wise and so beautiful, this… little human being who is everything. As always I’m struck by the frequency and accuracy of her knowing exactly what I mean when I can’t express it, and by knowing what she means before she does; she never fails to amaze me. As always I love her on the surface, as well, I love her eyes and her beauty and her speech and her idioms, so close to the ones that anyone else would use but with her own Finnish twists; ‘but it just slips through your hands, all this time’, she laments. I want to never let her slip through my hands. At the same time I know that she won’t be here for ever, and whatever happens I will always be so, so lucky to have known her.

At the pub there was a little loose group of musicians sitting around a nearby table and playing unpretentious folk music, looking as though they were doing it for themselves and for the fun of it rather than for the benefit of the few people who politely, quietly clapped at the end of songs: playing, not performing. A plain-looking, middle-aged woman sat with them and sang one song, in a voice so lovely that it stopped me in mid-sentence to gaze at her as though by watching her I could work out where it was coming from. Her voice was like driftwood or sea-glass, something weathered, worn and softened by time and elements, only to become more and more beautiful. A man was playing what looked like a little tiny guitar, but with decorative little curlicues on the corners of the body and the top bit where the tuning pegs go, which gave it a delightfully organic look as though he’d just found it growing like that and plucked it one day, perhaps at the top of a magic beanstalk. Actually what it reminded me most of was this little fellow, even if that is pretty geeky. Afterwards we went out and stood under an archway to shelter from that very Edinburgh type of rain that seems so light and fine but makes you very wet very quickly, while she smoked. Behind her there was a very pretty old switch that said ‘FIRE SWITCH’ but all the letters were peeling off and higgledy-piggledy. The switches were bright blue, like her hair. (What do those things do, anyway?) We talked about friendship. I wanted to take her hands, her elegant porcelain hands, half-hidden in loose turquoise fingerless warmers like extra sleeves, and never let go.

These words are to remind me. I want to keep moments, keep things that can never be kept and have already gone. I take photographs sometimes. Today I write this down instead. It’s like a sigh.
Snowflakes on my tongue, rain in her eyelashes, post-coital sweat on his skin, sand in your shoes, wind in our hair: things that can never be kept. Time with her, her voice, her gaze, her laugh: things that can never be kept. This feeling, or more accurately all these feelings, including but not limited to devotion, relief, awe, tenderness, peace: things I hope to feel again.

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