Rough day yesterday. 911. Emergency room. Parking lots. In any case, a reminder to not allow meaningless, small stuff to dominate time because our time is short.
And this reminds me of feeling the same way in Scotland: tired.
One day, while living in Edinburgh and feeling overwhelmed by deadlines and recent deaths and academia, I sat down on a bench in Princes Gardens, tired of walking, bored of thinking, and I took to staring at whatever the bench stared at every day.
This particular bench was positioned at the base of the local castle, and I started to think about how this wasn’t weird to me anymore.
And then I reminded myself that I wasn’t supposed to be thinking because thinking was stupid – it rated right up there with “sincerity,” which had taken a serious plunge on the charts around that time (2008 was not a good year for sincerity), and I went back to simply staring.
Some would phrase this as “attempts to meditate” but not me.
Empty, thoughtless staring. Dishonesty and thoughtlessness – those were my new goals which would characterize being.
And, in the middle of my staring and thinking about not thinking, this little kid came out of nowhere and sat down next to me.
I was shocked.
Before he sat down, I saw him look over at me, look over at my bench, and I’m pretty sure I grimaced at him.
I was tired of humans, short and tall.
I didn’t know much about kids’ physical details – such as, what age usually corresponds with which height, but I guessed this kid to be around eight. He looked about that age’s height.
So this little kid who may or may not have been eight-years-old frowned, and then walked over to sit down next to me on my bench, discarding all my sullen glares and frowns which I was heavily channeling in his direction as if they were mere particles of dust.
Consequently, I was now sitting next to a kid.
I was very upset with myself for not sitting in the middle of the bench. The short little creature had obviously misinterpreted my bench vacancy.
And now I was sitting next to a small child on a bench silently staring at a castle.
It’s like I had jumped centuries and fallen into a different life.
Yet, I felt reluctant curiosity about what a possibly eight-year-old child was doing on his own and sitting on my bench.
He looked relatively clean and well groomed. He wasn’t wearing a school uniform but maybe it wasn’t a weekday. I thought about it and realized, no, it was a Saturday.
Kids in uniforms are very adorable, in my opinion, but that’s probably because I’m American and my experience with kids in uniform is largely based on the The Craft and the Harry Potter movies.
Thus, seeing short people head off to school in suit coats, ties, short-pants and knee socks is funny to me because most American kids would never wear short-pants and knee socks, unless they were cast in some Victorian theatrical production.
Hell, lots of American kids would never wear a suit until attending a funeral or prom.
For those kids who went to prom. I didn’t go to prom. My high school best friend and I were going to go to Chicago to do something better, as we couldn’t believe others were actually going to prom, the lamest thing imaginable, but then we decided to go to the post-prom parties instead, and then we didn’t do that either, and, stuck between worlds, we ended up sitting in my driveway trying to decide what awesome thing we were going to do instead of prom and prom parties which would just be gatherings with cheap alcohol which in my teenage upbringing was “Friday,” when my next door neighbor and his prom group drove up his driveway which caused my best friend and I to duck down and fall to the floor of my car as if they had opened fire on us.
We had told everyone we were doing something very cool and, in reality, we were just sitting in my fucking driveway. We eventually just went to the post-prom parties, accepted our utter failure and resented existence.
Prom is a party with teachers and chaperones.
Technically, that is not a party.
Anyways. So, it was Saturday in Edinburgh.
A kid on his own.
Sitting next to me.
Therefore, while I had started to engage in some side-eye analysis, I realized that the kid was looking straight at me. And… I started to freak out a little.
WHY IS THIS KID LOOKING AT ME NOW I CAN’T LOOK BACK AT HIM OR HE’LL STEAL MY SOUL WHAT IS HIS PROBLEM IS SOMETHING ON MY FACE
Now I definitely preferred kids to adults, though both groups make me wary, but something about this kid freaked me out. Why was he looking at me from such a close distance? Why was he sitting next to me?
My theological speculations could have been due to my previous nine years of parochial school education or my being a weirdo only child, but I started to wonder whether this kid was a ghost or God or some demon in costume.
He was too quiet. Too composed. Too… stare-y. I started to sweat a little.
Now I was particularly, disgustingly, sweaty throughout our three years of living in Scotland. And this could be because:
1) I was constantly sick and I didn’t know why, which made sense because I still had little attachment to my body at age twenty-eight, so I was never really aware of what was going on with it.
My body is kind of like the lame little brother that my mind loves and wants to take care of, but it gets upset because it doesn’t keep up with my mind; it always drags behind, ruins my mind’s plans and strategies; embarrasses my mind in front of its friends, and makes absolutely no sense most of the time so my mind has a hard time figuring out what to feed it or what movie it wants to watch.
Thus, I could have been sweating due to an undiagnosed sickness because I never had any idea about what was going on with my body and neither did the doctors I could now afford to see thanks to the British public health system. And my family has said it’s not a matter of whether I’ll get cancer. Rather, it’s a matter of when. And, given our family history on both sides, this isn’t fearmongering.
Epilepsy and imminent cancer and the pressure of doing a PhD in three years were all taking a toll and could explain my abnormal sweating
2) Scotland has this crazy climate that my husband and I still hadn’t adjusted to in our second year of living there. It isn’t hot by any stretch, and there is only
ONE SUNNY DAY PER YEAR
and you don’t know when this day is going to happen but odds are it will occur in May but, strangely, we quickly got sweaty while walking around in the customary, not-hot, grey, foggy, wet normal weather. We weren’t adapting to the climate very easily. It continued to make us sweat all the time.
Scotland was also, I theorized, to blame for my most recent epileptastic brushes with death because it was closer to the North Pole than I had ever been and the magnetism may have been fucking with my brain electricity or… something.
It’s funny that a spaz has actual spazzes. Of course, only I can think that’s funny.
Thus, probably thanks to the combined forces of sickness and Scotland’s climate, I showed off my sweating prowess once more as this strange little kid looked at me. I was sitting there, sweating, next to a kid who was staring at me and I didn’t know why.
I was somewhat terrified.
And I simply could not turn to look at him and ask him why he was there because, by this point, I had transformed him from being just a little kid on his own to instead being some sort of moral gatekeeper.
So, since I had not engaged with him as a trained qualitative researcher or professional human being, I instead kept staring straight ahead, now frowning a bit, hoping to make him think that I was deep in thought and not a sociopath.
I suppose that a sociopath wouldn’t be afraid of some kid.
A psychopath then.
All of this freaking-out lasted maybe… three seconds at most. And then it blew through and stopped and I still couldn’t say anything to this kid because now just enough time had passed and it would have been really awkward.
And this reminded me of dating.
And also how I really hadn’t dated a lot of people for any length of time before I got married because this scenario with the little kid was pretty much what happened every time I got near a prospective mate when I was single which had been most of the time up to age twenty-seven. Well, I didn’t assume boys were form-shifters. Boys made little rational sense on their own, just being boys, but I had never assumed they were mythical beasts in disguise.
Though, if I had, it may have saved me some grief.
So then this kid suddenly got up to go, out of nowhere, and my adult side crashed in and I quickly asked, “Hey, are you okay?”
That famous question.
The kid stopped, turned around, and he shrugged and looked at me skeptically, critically.
And then turned and started to walk away.
But not before he also gave me a weird look like… “Um, yeah, you freak.”
And, although I would often be suspicious of such a defensive, focus-shifting response, in the case of this little kid, I didn’t care.
I checked to see if I still had my wallet.
He continued to walk away and I stared at the castle and sighed. My big attempt at empty staring was a complete failure and so I got up, forgot my scarf on the bench, and made my way back home where I then thought about making spaghetti while watching my husband David play his Lord of the Rings video game. I had given him a Playstation 3 for his birthday that year because I had secretly signed up for a phone contract. In Scotland at that time, if you signed up for a phone contract, they gave you a reward for doing so. It was a thing I cherished because, in America at that time, you either signed up for a phone contract and paid a lot of money for the honor or you didn’t have a phone.
I reflected further on that kid while standing in my kitchen with its washing machine and wondered if he had been God in kid-form.
If that had been the case, I assumed I had just damned myself to hell, which I’ve lately had a taste of because this old computer’s keyboard’s space bar does not work right which makes using words to communicate just that much more hellish and tricky.
Who is not sick of canting — saying,
In other phrase, things said before?
Of solemn efforts are conveying
Assurance — when we all were sure?
2 thoughts on “Same Rant, Now With Castle View”
Another winner Hilly!
Awwwww… taking parts of my memoir book out and posting them as blogs. 🙂 Love you so much, Evie!!!!