Lorraine Dickson

The Debris of Life

I’m waiting outside Harvey Nichols. I hope he comes. My eyes dart from side to side, searching for him in the busy streets. I hear a noise behind me and spin around.

“Happy New Year!” A crowd of drunks dressed in ‘see you Jimmy’ hats pass by, heading towards Princes Street. I want to correct them, it’s not 2007 yet, but I don’t. They look too drunk to care.

The wind howls around me as I wait, my hands jammed deep in my coat pockets, my collar pulled up to keep out the cold. Where is he? Will he come?

Last year I stood in this spot, waiting for him, ran towards him as he appeared. We soaked up the music and the atmosphere as fireworks exploded above our heads.

We chatted about everything and anything. About when we were kids, about our friends back home. We laughed about our secret ceremony in my parents’ garden when we were seven. I’d checked the oak tree only a few days before; our initials were still there, scratched in the trunk. ‘Soul mates forever’. I was still remembering when he said it.

“I can’t see you any more.”

I had known it might come. She was the jealous type.

“Bec doesn’t want us to be friends. I’m sorry.”

The cold hard rain tonight stings like his words did a year ago.

“You been stood up love?” A passing group of men, swigging from cans of cheap lager, bring me back to reality.

I smile. “No. Just waiting for someone.”

“I hope he’s worth it,” one says. I step backwards to avoid his bear hug.

Was he?

“I want to make a go of it with Bec. And if that means sacrificing our friendship then I have to do that. If it doesn’t work, I’ll be back here next year. But I have to try. Do you understand that?”

I had nodded. Second best again.

But of course I didn’t understand. He wanted to throw twenty years of friendship away and I had no say in it. We had dated for a while. It hadn’t worked out but we’d stayed friends for the next four years. Why wouldn’t we? We were soul mates. I thought we might even become a couple again. Then she arrived.

“No point waiting round here. The street party’s been cancelled.” I looked up. A young couple decked out in Australian flags and cork hats were staring at me.

“Excuse me. What did you say?”

“The street party, the concerts, everything. It’s all been cancelled because of this stupid Scottish weather.” The girl’s frustration was apparent in every word she spat out.

Still I wait. I always do.

I wait as the crowds begin to leave Princes Street, my ears now deaf to the shouts. “Awwright darling?” “Happy New Year!” “Fancy a kiss?”

I wait as the bells ring out, the cheerful sound of 2007 mocking my loneliness.

I wait as fireworks explode in the black sky over Princes Street. I wait until it goes empty and quiet.

I wait as the wind and the rain die away and the rubbish trucks come trundling along to clear away the debris of another year. From deep inside my pocket, I take out a tatty photograph that has been with me every day since my seventh birthday. Two happy children stare up at me, too young to realise that there is no ‘forever’.

I drop the photograph into the gutter and watch as it is swept under the wheels of a passing rubbish truck.

Just another piece of the debris of life.