That night I heard the sound of the disco. The rave music. It was booming down from the Pavilion, a huge nightclub that stands above the beach. I passed a group of young people who were dancing on the esplanade. One of the boys had two neon sticks in his hands and was making fast coloured patterns against the dark water behind him .. "Look, he said. "It's thingmi - the priest."
Passing between them I noticed they were all sweating. Those without shaved heads had wet hair despite the cold night. Lisa emerged from a blue, peeling shelter. "Father," she said, "don't tell my dad you saw me. I'm supposed to be doing a sleepover at Julie's. You won't tell, sure you won't?" She had no notion of how powerless I had become since our friendship began, and listening to her, examining her worried face, I saw the depth of my Ayrshire folly. Lisa hadn't a clue. It had come too late to me as a piece of understanding; young people like her have no time for the weighing of priorities. I was facing some sort of ruin and Lisa faced being grounded and it all meant the same to her ..
"I can't speak to you, Lisa," I said.
"I have to go. Please take care of yourself."
"I've been sticking up for you," she said.
"I'm sure you have."
"You're my friend," she said. "We had some right good laughs. That time we went over tae the island."
I tried to stare past her and see my way to the road.
"Julie!" she said. "He's trying tae dizzy me. He willnae even talk. What have I ever done tae him?" She was shouting now and blubbing at the same time, as if the day's great occasion for hysteria had finally presented itself. I wanted to protect her but I didn't know how.
"Leave her alane," said the other girl.
"I can't speak to either of you," I said.
"Fucken homosexual," said Julie.
Like a person in a soap opera, Lisa grabbed her friend's cigarette and took two quick puffs. "I cannae handle this," she said. I moved around them and began striding across the grass to the main road, and then Lisa came around and pushed me in the chest. "You're just the same as everybody else," she said. "It was me that was yer friend. Nobody else gave a fuck about you. She looked at her chum. "Go and get McNuggets," she said.
"Lisa. Please. Don't detain me here. I can't be seen talking to you. It's not my choice."
"It is your choice! The good times we had before the summer. You said you'd take me tae London. The drives we went on. The wedding. The nights out with me and McNuggets. What about London? You said. Now everything's fucken spoiled because of you and him."
Lisa grabbed me by the arm. "Whit is this new jack-shit attitude you're coming up with?" She plucked at her blouse and pointed her finger in my face. "Know what this is?" She nodded down at her blouse.
"Versace," she said. It was painful to listen to her, more painful than I would have expected.
"I'm sorry, Lisa. About everything."
"You're a fucken disappointment," she said. "And you know what? I'm finished with you."
The squall of young people receded further behind me on the grass .. I don't know how long I walked and how many useless thoughts disappeared into the shadows among the old kirks and causeways, but eventually I came to be standing in a lane next to an all-night kebab shop. The smell was of sweltering onions, and I slowly caught my breath, the dark of the lane beneficent. I tried to think of something clean, something fresh, and my mouth flooded with the taste of oranges, the ones, perhaps, that once glowed on the trees of Rome like orbs of infinite plenty. My heart beat quickly and I waited a while, fusing with the thought of these other places. Then I set off ..
Be Near Me
Faber & Faber, Ltd., 2006©