The Edinburgh Files: In The Style Of Dr. Manhattan From Watchmen
Mar 9th, 2009 by Ice Cream Jonsey

I’m at an Internet cafe with Lex, we have been informed that the price will be seventy pence for an hour’s access to their computers. It’s a much better deal than the rates at the hotel, which are practically criminal. Lex beams and says, “Well, two of your finest Internets, then.” I laughed, the girl behind the counter laughed, we hopped on and I held down the keys that let me make the € character. It will end with you crying over something unrelated. 

I’m walking south from the street that is north of Princes, which no longer works because of the construction for the tram. I’m waiting at a crosswalk.  There’s a cement-colored jumper under my coat, snug against my chest, and I’ve been entrusted with returning it back home. I remember to stop staring at the buildings that have been here in some form before my country even formally existed, but waiting for the green man to appear at the crosswalk is a dead giveaway that I’m not from around here and will never truly belong. 

The waitress hands me four little mints, the bill and a clear plastic box. Without any idea of how the natives settle their tabs when a box is involved, I put my card into it. She eventually arrives and carefully takes the card out before sliding it across the portable register she’s armed with. Nobody notices that I put the card in the box, or at least, nobody cares. Everyone has one eye on the grumpy Japanese chef a few meters away that is throwing egg at people.

We’re playing Death Tank for the Xbox 360. Six days previous, I’m forgetting to pack my controller, so there is some swapping of the gamepads. Everyone gets a turn, everyone gets to play, everyone is preposterously polite. I’m trading passports with Liam and Lex, and the one for the United Kingdom is the same color as the front page of Caltrops. Liam notes that the passport’s Unicorn — which represents Scotland — is in chains, which rather explains a lot, and I dissolve into laughter. The night before I’ll leave my passport at his apartment, taking it out to better pantomime twirling a hula hoop for a Nintendo game.

It’s 1980. I’m six years old. My parents are visiting some neighbors, and I have been brought. I hear a television in the den. I walk down each stair and then turn the corner – a man in a red shirt with black hair is talking in a weird voice about something called engines. I’ve never heard anyone speak that way before. I sit on the (shag) carpeted floor and watch the rest of the episode, which amuses all the adults when they descend. I ask my father what the  show was.

There’s a soft knock on my door. My heart stops beating, then follows that by beating very quickly. I’ve Pavlovianly adopted a goofy grin just on hearing it. In twenty seconds there will be a hug. Her coat is still chilly from the snarling cold outside. 

We’ve come to a sturdy, wooden bridge within the zoo. There are to be animals, animals we haven’t yet seen, in the rain-slagged, sloppy field beyond. None of them are working today, so we retreat. In two weeks, two days and fifty seconds, I’ll silently scream obscenities at myself. Hanging out by the very beginning of the bridge – unseen until we decided to head back – is a lone zebra. I try to turn the tables on our running joke regarding the fact that I pronounce everything incorrectly, and call it a zedbra. She laughs, and we’re teasing the way each other speaks in the rain, and I’m trying desperately to remember every detail, because I know that this will be the one point in my life I’ll want to return to for the decades I have left to plod through. I’m writing out this section in Colorado, knowing that if I were actually any fucking good at this sort of thing, I’d be doing it for a goddamn living, and be quite able to situate myself anywhere on Earth. That’d make treasuring such moments unnecessary, but at the same time, makes much more likely to be. But I’m sure as hell not good enough – the “zedbra” appears only a scant 36 million times on the Internet — and I know it, and I’m here, writing this here, instead.


… I’m at work, rushing to finish my first game for the proper text game comp. I’m late for my fantasy hockey draft. I couldn’t really think of anything to make a text game about, so I picked grave robbing and clubbing and tried to bridge them. I believe I have all the glitches sorted out, so I submit it to Stephen Granade. The game is terrible enough, with the effect that I receive little feedback, but that means that I treasure each bit I get. 11 years later, the game will be indirectly responsible for two of the most important people in my life.

I link to a sad meme about a cat because I wasn’t good enough in this (/waves hands, explodes a bunch of Viet Cong from the inside out), any of this, to bring tears to anyone, in the end. (“Nothing ever ends!”) Oof, right, right.

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