You Are Not A Stranger Here
you like."
    She puts her own mug down and takes a seat opposite.
    "And what is it you taught?"
    "History," he says.
    "Dates. Yes. Albert's very good with dates . . . Are you a father?"
    "No," he says, wondering why he is here.
    "A mixed blessing children are, of course. Up to all sorts of things. When they're young, though--nothing like it. You taught young ones, did you?"
    "Teenagers."
    "Difficult they are."
    There is a pause. The old woman leans forward in her chair. "You're tired," she says.
    "Sorry?"
    "You're tired, dear, under the eyes. You've been sleeping poorly."
    Paul feels a surge of anger. He wants to yell at the old woman. How dare she presume? But there is something so 100
    frank in her expression, so lacking in judgment, he can't bring himself to do it.
    "Jet lag, I suppose," he says.
    He sips at his mug. The odor leaks in. He feels he might heave the liquid up.
    "Have you ever had fresh mutton?" she asks.
    He shakes his head.
    "An excellent meat. My friend Sibyl gets it straight from the abattoir. Rosemary, wee spot of mint jelly. Quite delicious. Perhaps you might come for dinner. I doubt they'll be giving you any Scottish meat in the hotels."
    The smell has got to him now and he is beginning to feel dizzy. "What time is it?"
    "It's early, dear. Just gone half eight."
    "I should go back."
    "There's no hurry, surely." She stirs her tea. "Just out for a walk this morning, were you?"
    He looks up at her. "My wife," he says. "She'll be waking up. I really have to go." He stands up from his chair.
    "Well, if you must rush, then--pity though, you've just arrived. But there we are, you'll come tomorrow. For dinner--two o'clock. It'll rain in the morning."
    "No . . . I don't know."
    "Not to worry about it now," she says, patting him on the shoulder. They move into the front hall. "It's getting cold this time of year. The haar will cover the town by the end of the week. You'll want to keep inside for that."
    She holds open the front door. When he steps onto the 101
    street, he breathes in the cold air, finding it less of a relief than he'd hoped.
    H E WA L K S T O the end of the cobbled street, looking one way and the other, forgetting the route that brought him here. Steps lead to doors on the second floor of row houses, smoke rising from squat chimneys. A child passes on a bicycle. He watches the little figure vanish around a corner and begins moving in the same direction.
    He follows the sound of voices down onto Market Street. In the square, vendors arrange stalls of plants and secondhand books. A man wearing a placard reads from the book of Revelation, while his wife, standing silently by, passes literature to those who will take it. There are etchings of the seashore in the dry basin of the fountain. He walks slowly through, past tables covered with baked goods and china, testing the scent of the air as he goes.
    "Where have you been?" Ellen cries as he enters the lobby. "Where in the world have you been?"
    He looks at her with what he imagines is a pleading expression.
    "Paul," she says, her voice quavering. She puts her arms around him, holds his head against her shoulder.
    "Why didn't you wake me? What's going on?"
    He's used all the words he has to describe his state to her. He could only repeat them now. A selfish repetition. How many times will he ask for a reassurance he will never believe? This should have ended by now.
    102
    He holds on to her, grabbing her more tightly because he can think of nothing to say.
    T H E Y S P E N D T H E rest of that morning in the room. Paul sits in a chair by the window, while Ellen reads the paper. She has called the library to let the curator know she will be starting a day later.
    Her way of coping with him has changed over the years. She's read books and articles about depression and its symptoms, spoken to the psychiatrists he sees, tackled the problem like the researcher she is. She knows the clinical details, reminding him always it is a chemical problem, a treatable

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