Monday. Put on a new shirt, examined the tick bite for a ring, realised we have too much stuff. Is there any point to unpacking it, to let it breathe? Seems all this packing is an emotional thing. Carrying more than we need for fear there won’t be enough. Not enough faith in ourselves.
The last pages in my notepad, started late August — never miss an opportunity to be sentimental, you might regret it.
The coins don’t follow the same logic here as they do in the States and I can’t, or won’t, learn them. Instead, I hold them out in my palm and look helpless until the cashiers get impatient, like the night at the Halloween festival with the cotton candy he just said ‘the wee one, there.’ The copper one. Their nickels are the size of our dimes and vice versa. And it’s small change, but I hate carrying it around.
I don’t buy the Loch Ness legend. We spend roughly £50 on admission, a signed copy of the guide book, some sandwiches and chips at the café, bottled water, and feel a bit cheated by it sitting there, thinking it’s one of those things you need to say you’ve done but wish you hadn’t, similar logic you can apply to other choices in life and no different: could be real, likely isn’t.
As we exit the exhibition it concludes,
“Is (the Loch Ness myth) a veil that may be lifted or a mirror to our own imagination?”
Where I come from, the Highlands is the name of a housing development on a plateau above Issaquah, abutting Sammamish, just outside of Seattle. Here, it starts at an imaginary line between the Firth of Tay and Loch Lomond, the largest of the malt regions, comprising most of the Scottish mainland in the north.
I learn from a plumber at the bar that Inver means mouth, ironic because I have the mouth of a tick embedded in the webbing behind my knee, and don’t have the guts to look at it. “The mouth of the Ness.”
“Meta,” in writing, means stepping out of the act of writing to contemplate the writing itself, as if the two realities are intertwined, or related. I didn’t look that up on the Internet but that’s what it means to me, starting with the writer John Barth in college and his story Lost in the Funhouse, which was weird, but like that tick maybe, released something in me many years later, a fondness for toggling in and out of the story, because it feels more life-like to me that way.
I got to thinking that my blog-life is a funny reflection of my real life, and how the two interact. How I found myself going back to the unnamed pub today hoping to find something there I could write about, and did.
Took a different door this time that led to the lounge, upstairs. No one there except a woman seated, doing the books, no sound. Got a beer, gave her my coins, said keep the change, but got the coins wrong and there was no change, it was exact, and we laughed, and I put some smaller coins in a plastic bin for poppies, for a donation or tip, for veterans.
Sat down, no sound. That sense in British pubs you can just sit there in the afternoon and drink in silence. A man comes in and they mumble to one another and she gives him a can of Strongbow cider and a pint glass and he sits at the bar, his back to me, settling into his stool, fingering a rolling paper, and I can hear every wrinkle, every twist in the fabric of his coat as he shifts, and just sits.
And then after some time we open up, and there’s no going back. And I learn they call it a Drinking Den, not a pub. And it’s from the 1890s, this place, the oldest one in Inverness – the original one from the 1700s burned down, was a brothel. And the hatch up there led to the women’s bathroom and the dip in the floor is where there used to be steps and they can’t believe it hasn’t caved in, yet. And so on.
He’s a plumber, left school at 15, has been coming here 35 years, which puts him at 50 — has a twitch in the left eye, talks about drinking and growing up with it, how at 9 every night they’d unlock the cabinet and have a few whiskies before bed. I don’t know what it is about the people I’ve met in the west of Ireland and here, in Scotland, but they’re gold. They’re real as the rocks and riddled and flawed as them, but real goes a long way — sometimes it’s all you’ve got.
So strange, this time — spinning through countries and trying to stop moving — has the pace of dreams, with imprints of faces and scenes that feel weighted with some mottled meaning, hard to pin down and remember. And when I write about it it seems more real than when I’m living it for some reason. As if I’m doing it to live some life I’ve always imagined, and why wouldn’t I? Like they say about the Loch Ness monster, you’ve got to believe it to see it.