18. The Dying Day

And now the streets of St Andrews are quiet, stiller than they have ever been since St Regulus’s prayers died away. There’s no signalman, no sign of the dreaded Carol, no Cyrilla with her armadillo. There are no writers dancing the tango, no Thing in the museum, no women in the Byre sipping coffee, no lectures in School 6, no external examiners scattering to the winds, no woman at the aquarium feeding catfish. Charlotta Ivanovna’s rope ladder has vanished, and no one can hear the tinny music coming from Flean-Z’s headphones. Banquo’s chair in the café is empty. There’s no young man searching for his Land-Rover, and Dr Ada never was. I’m not pressed to a wall watching my double step down from a carriage, nor am I pacing the West Sands, nor sitting on a beach the other side of the world. There’s no Lizzie. No I, Myself. No Begemot. No countless others to hear the seagulls cry, at this, the dying day.

In my mind there’s just one person left among these ghosts, imagined and real: a young woman, blue-eyed, dark-haired, round of face. She stands at the end of the pier looking out at the grey-green sea. She’s in the gown of the bejantine, the first year student. The rest of her life lies before her.

I must have made a sound, some sob or whisper. For a moment she turns, and looks right through me, ghost that I am. And then my mother turns back to face the great North Sea – on this, our dying day.


E.A.M. (1943-2016)