The Way I Breathed

I pushed the door and wind blew in my face, blowing my hat aff my heid. I crouched doon tae pick it up, but the hat blew alang the street and I ran tae catch it. I dusted it aff and held it on my heid till the wind died doon. I stood fir a minute catching my breath. I crossed the road at the bank, ootside sat a young lad begging fir money, I looked in my pockets and tried to gie him something but he said, “Naw, naw, yir awright pal, naw, naw.”

I passed a building I remembered wis part o the university and in the distance I saw the roof o the mosque. There wis a patch o grass across the street, the council musto planted aw those different roses fir men like me, men like me who were on a stroll and wanted something nice tae look at. There were benches there too and a fine view o the river and the rail and road bridge, I could see all the way tae Fife. There was a student on one o the benches, sketching. I sat for a minute and hoped she might draw me, but she wis looking the other way. So I turned and watched a bit o plastic instead. It’d been covering a window but had come loose and wis blowing aboot in the wind. Then I heard this man wi a white beard pointing oot local architecture to some auld ladies. I knew aboot architecture, I had white hair. Why not a white beard? I set aff again and passed twa men wi young bodies, but auld faces. They were smoking and walking, looking at the groond and in a hurry. I should follow them to find oot whar they’re going, they might be ghosts, they looked like ghosts. There wis excitement in my legs again. But then I remembered they might turn on uz like sometimes happens, I know that sometimes happens. The street was covered in clumps o moss that had fallen aff the roofs wi the rain. I stood on them and felt slippy, I was slidy, I might fall. And if I fell who knows what would happen, I was likely tae break bones. I crossed the road so I could walk under scaffolding. A man walked by uz wi a wheelbarrow and radio noise came blasting fae a giant hole in the wall. There were men in there and they were working. Why had I never done that kind o work when I was young? I’d a body wasted. I could’ve built a wall couldnt I? But then I remembered I was slow, even back then. No, my life had been best as it was, nae point raking ower auld groond. Across the street wis a door wi wooden panels painted wi pictures o moustached men, a sleeping fella and a standing ain. Blue and white tiles o turbans, covered wi jewels. A big face made up o wee faces. My legs were tired. I passed a pub, then turned back and pushed the door, I was thirsty, I needed a drink, I deserved a drink. I deserved a bloody good drink. There was no-one else in the pub, just me and the barman. He reminded me o someone I used to know…a familiar face. But time moves on and faces are easy forgot. Everything is easy forgot, in the end.

You can read the full story in A Short Affair (Scribner UK, 2018)