She was sat by the window, chirping into her phone, completely ignored my arrival, flicking eye lashes, anywhere but at me. It was two days into the second month of the year. A month and a day gone, and I’d already given up, just panting the perils of alcoholism and foaming angrily towards C’s lack of interest in my sweeping highs and lows. I sat down, opened the glossy menu, closed it, looked out at the dark-skinned faces on a red truck-like bus stationary in the traffic, half of them asleep, others peering meekly out among the unforgiving sounds of the big city whirl, a thousand different noises of human evolution, echoing through the petrochemical mist. A waiter was over me immediately. C was nodding ‘chai, chai’ – some kind of something had been agreed. Fuck off, I was thinking, I’ve not even looked at the fucking thing, and it’s twenty pages at least... ‘Five minutes, please,’ I said to the indifferent young table beggar, bow-tied-up, sniffling like a virus, both innocent and nonchalent. He looked across in C’s direction; he had understood me but needed a second opinion. She just brushed him away with a flick of the wrist and he was off towards the only other table occupied, filling up a water glass, some middle-aged Japanese-looking guy with a big head, curling spaghetti around his fork, a pregnant Thai girl sat silently across from him, dressed in a crimson maternity gown which didn’t look right – depth mind beauty something. ‘ka, ka, wadee ka’ and the phone was laid to rest among cosmetics and crumpled receipts in the tan leather handbag I’d bought her the previous Sunday. I smiled unconvincingly and she smiled back, although her mind was caught up in a sum. ‘Wait a minute,’ she said before anything else, and the phone was back out. Quite often, I have an odd Christmas feeling which I can only trace back to the bitterly cold and dark, duffel-coated shopping streets of Edinburgh in late December. I was a teenager and I had nobody for I was a juvenile delinquent, lost incomplete, I’d shunned family and friends, got sucked into addictive temptation. On those evenings I gazed at hurried dark-clad figures, fresh from a hard day’s work and their own take on bewilderment; suitable cloth for suitable deference; suitably headed to suitable home, home towards somewhere, somewhere in the dark. For no good reason, the blink of twilight outside the restaurant window brought on this feeling: a kind of dread, a kind of knowing. I gazed at the white table cloth, the way it had to be folded with a six-inch fall. ‘Fuck this,’ I announced heatedly with a shake of the head, C raising eyebrows, stopped in her phone speech, and I was up and out the glass door, noise amplified, humidity an immediate and heavy cloak, momentarily wondering whether I should go left or right, which crowd to get lost in, but it didn’t matter. The twilight had passed and darkness was upon us all. I knew I’d end up back in the restaurant; blood pumping, apologetic.

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