As the bus turns left from the East end of Princes Street, a macabre scene bleeds into one’s periphery like an incoming raincloud. The passengers look up out of the blindness of their touch-screens and crane their necks by the window-glass.
It can’t be. He was immortal…
Before them lies the mutilated body of St. James and the remains of his fair face. They ripped him limb from limb; mauled his torso. Nerves and veins dangle out the openings like corpses and tentacles. The flesh, which once contoured his fine frame, had been completely torn off; and his skin, all smashed. The cranes look down, dormant. If it weren’t for the piles of ligaments and crumbs, one could almost mistake them for peaceful things, like angels who watch over the sick and dying.
The engine roars on. In it, I hear the crunch of each of his floors snapping as he is beaten down, and down, and down, and down.
In Leith, there are buildings the colours of healthy and dying livers, and two people I wish to remember.
The first is a man with skin as smoky as acidified bricks, and a chesty sunburn the colour of tongue. He is clothed in a tartan top and kilt, and trudges along in the opposite direction on schoolboy-thin legs. A penguin keychain bounces from his backpacker rucksack.
The second is an old lady in a dress the colour of parma violet sweets, who stands on the pavement outside a bookers, smoking a cigarette. Her toes are on the kerb, and I, less than a metre away, come face to her face, to stare at its wrinkled shapes and contrasts through the window. Her eyes are tense, dark from curiosity and from analysing the street evolving around her. Hot air from the traffic ruffles her short, bleached locks. The left arm slouches on a metal circuit box. Her right hand, balancing the cigarette, rests on a metal bollard, as one would hold the shoulder of an old friend.
i.m.o. St James’ Shopping Centre.