all alone by the broomielaw.
well i’m back from scotland. back to work today.
‘how is it being back?’ (i have been asked.) (not that i was gone so long.)
(in any case) ‘it is the fucking worst,’ i must reply. ‘yeah. i thought it was going to be bad. i wasn’t looking forward to it, in any case. but it is in fact much much worse than i was expecting it to be.’
i cried for about two hours straight after i landed. margery kempe -d it. (might have to shorten this to just ‘kemped it’, in future.) to be fair to myself, let me add some extenuating details: The Gift Horse picked me up. for some reason i flew back into dulles instead of BWI (there was a reason, but i don’t remember what it was now)—and dulles is far and very inconvenient—and i told The Gift Horse i’d buy him a full tank of gas and dinner in exchange for picking me up. but i didn’t think he meant to redeem these things immediately, that very evening. i mean my plane didn’t land until 8:30 and we didn’t get out of the airport until just before 9:30. (it is fun to be a returning american citizen. i will admit that is one nice thing about coming home. i always forget how efficient and welcoming and pleasantly sinister the process is. yeah, americans, over here. welcome back. everybody else in the world, get fucked, go stand in that long line to your right!) but the Gift Horse has never been on an international flight—i don’t think he has any sense of how tired you are when you’ve had a full course of transatlantic travel.
anyway in the airport parking lot the Horse started fiddling around with his GPS app to find a place to eat, so off we went. it ended up being a tex-mex place in one of the creepier soul-murdery northern virginia suburbs and i cried throughout. i felt so sorry for the waitress. i ordered the vegetarian fajitas and they were served with some assembly acquired—you know, they brought me plates of stuff and brought the shells separately—this made me cry even more. ‘i don’t want to have to make them,’ i wept. ‘do you want me to make them for you?’ (God bless the Gift Horse, he actually asked me that.) ‘no. no. i just want it never to have happened.’
oh yes, i was at my rational best! but i was genuinely exhausted. i can never sleep on planes; i’d been awake for about 26 hours at that point.* it doesn’t matter how long the trip is—it just doesn’t happen for me. at best i go into a kind of weird twilight druggy state. (which i actually enjoy. i love travelling—including the travelling itself. all the boredom and inconvenience of it. i love the whole; i love the process.) i was in a tex-mex restaurant in God-knows-where northern virginia commercepark businessland soul-murder prefabtown (in German maybe that could be all one word) and just on the other side of my sleepless hours i’d been in inverness. loveable inverness! and The Gift Horse asked me, ‘how does it feel to be back?’
awful. it was so good to be away. i had no idea how badly i needed it. it was so good to be so far away from all the men i slept with who all treated me so badly. so good to be away from ugly baltimore. of course i could’ve taken a vacation in a cardboard box and would’ve derived the same benefits…scotland is much nicer than a cardboard box. even in november. even when it doesn’t make any sense at all to go there. ‘so what did you do?’ ‘well. i did a lot of driving and i watched a lot of TV.’ ‘that sounds like an amazing vacation.’ ‘yeah, it kind of was! i mean it was relaxing. and i saw a lot of beautiful things.’ ‘like what?’ ‘rocks. a lot of rocks. mountains. snow—it was so good to feel the cold—i was so happy to see my breath!’ ‘that doesn’t sound so good.’ ‘oh. it was good. wonderful. the cold and the wind. saw some museums—a couple of museums, but i wasn’t in a museum state of mind. beaches. incredibly beautiful beaches. and did some walking—but it got dark so early—that’s why i ended up watching so much tv.’ ‘sure.’ ‘and i went out a couple of nights.’ ‘that’s good.’ ‘but not as much as you’d think—i kind of weirdly enjoyed being on my own—i looked forward to waking up early—believe it or not i didn’t sleep with anybody the whole time!’ ‘that seems like kind of a waste. i mean, on vacation.’ ‘i guess maybe. but it just wasn’t my focus! and it was kind of nice. like it cleared my head somehow. and anyway—the men who were obviously interested—well i wasn’t interested. so maybe it just wasn’t in the cards for me.’ ‘huh.’ ‘for sure i admired plenty of men…yeah, let me say this for scotland: there are lots of very handsome larger-type men there.’ (here The Gift Horse burst out laughing.) ‘yeah, i know that’s what you’ve always heard, right? scotland: a good place to see handsome fat men. that’s what it’s known for. but really. it’s awesome. oh my Lord. this one guy i just happened to see in fort william—i’ve got a whole series of elaborate fantasies about this guy, i’ve got novels and novels worth! i even took a picture, dirty old man that i am. surreptitious shitty iphone picture. but i want to have this guy’s children. God bless them, God bless the scots for their enormous breakfasts and their piles of sweets and cakes. made my vacation a very pleasant one.’
well recalling that depravity has got me warmed up a bit—i have to go to work shortly. words cannot express my dread. my ever-kindly boss sent me a bunch of texts yesterday about how glad he is that i’m back, how much everybody is looking forward to seeing me, etc. etc. and horrible person that i am, that made me dread going back to work even more. ‘everybody wants to hear all about your trip!’ what the hell am i supposed to tell them? i mean i was travelling by myself in a first-world country, it’s not like i have a store of wild anecdotes. ‘uh i fantasized about large men and watched gaelic game shows. i walked on deserted beaches and unexpectedly rediscovered the pleasure of my own company.’ what the hell concept can the little self-satisfied fitnessy yuppie government wonks have of any of this. (answer: none.) ‘oh i had a very nice time, thanks.’
what can i do to defend myself? i am taking a bottle of gin from the isle of harris.
* many of which were profoundly hungover. i went out my last night. i ran into a folk band and i told them how sad i was that i had to go home in the morning and asked them if they could play the saddest song they knew. (to make me feel better.) so the fiddler played me niel gow’s lament for his second wife. a very sad song to be sure and i song i’ve liked for a long time. but i guess i was wishing for a song i’d never heard before. but it led to a little conversation about niel gow and who he was and why he was always lamenting and a random drunk guy got angry overhearing our conversation and even got threatening, yelling at the musicians for talking to me because i was an american and couldn’t possibly understand; yelling at me because i was an american and couldn’t possibly understand. the bouncer came and chucked him out. but the bar was closing anyway. the night was cold. and the bizarre scene made the melancholy sweeter.