I don't have to go inside. I can see the oil stove burning in the middle of the floor, the patrons gathered round, talking, shouting, laughing, smoking. The scene could be duplicated in a thousand shops. And the talking, shouting and laughing would be the same in all of them, talk of money and the lack of it, of the state of the place, of what things have come to, of thieves, traitors. There is a lot I could add to the discussion, but I prefer not to. I remain, willingly, ametohos, left out, I have no stake in the debate. I am not of these people, I am from another place, a place with similar problems but no sense of itself. I am a stranger, ametohos, in both places. I am losing my mind. This is no personal choice, although it is the result of one. To find the richest seam one must dig deep. But the deeper one goes, the darker it becomes. There is blood on my hands from tearing at rocks which refuse to yield. I force a way through. I have to put myself in that place, to feel it. The seam, which is the past, is reached. It is a gallery of illusions, blackened with dust. Torn skin smoothes a mark in the kimberlite. The image is nothing more than a stain, meaningless. But I am now in the place. I lose myself in it. This is where I have put myself, willingly. A personal choice. This is where I have to be, where I must be, buried in this dark, mad grave. No longer ametohos. I hack at diamonds.
It was easy money, even though it wasn't much. Business was slow. Christmas had been a washout, then there was that big storm. No tourists. They had stopped giving tips, anyway, austerity was affecting the hospitality industry the same as everything else. I could have done with the extra cash. There were never enough books in the library, I had started buying my own. D'Mello's 'Language and Identity in Bilingual Settings', all fifty quid's worth, was open on the counter. I'd had to crack the spine to get it to lie flat. I needed to reacquaint myself with Discourse Management for my next assignment. The plan was simply to get my Masters. There was no plan after that. It was proving difficult. I seemed to get sidetracked too easily. People, the kind you thought you could depend on, had a lot to do with it.
‘How could you pretend not to remember that?’ I said. ‘Why would you pretend that?’
He turned away.
‘Look at me, Robert. Do you realize how much that hurt? Why did you do that to me? Why did you want to hurt me?’
Rain was spattering the window, covering it. He rubbed the side of his hand against the glass. It didn’t help.
‘Was it revenge?’ I said. ‘Did I do something to you back then? Was it your chance to get even? For god’s sake look at me. Tell me why you did it.’
He rested his wrists on the seat in front. ‘Do you really want to know?’ he said.
I don’t know what I felt when he said that, but it was hard to breathe.
‘Eh, Jenny?’ he said. ‘Do you want to know?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Of course I do.’
A brief introduction to one of the main characters from my novel, Drive!, which is a tale of 1980s Edinburgh, pub rock and attempted patricide. Dark humour, apparently.
He only wanted two things, to drink and to write. Both were out of control. Consequently, he was more widely known as a drinker than a writer. He filled his mouth with wine. There are many ways to write a story, he knew, most of them a variation on a theme. As he swallowed, he closed his eyes. It wasn't difficult to tune out the sounds of the other men in the cafeneio. He tried to concentrate on a single image - a woman's face, and the eyes set in that face, eyes that looked at him, unblinking, as the woman spoke. This woman was beautiful. She scared him.