This was the first time I’d been tae the countryside in eleven years. That’s a long time for someone who generally hates cities. I could never convince ma cousin Sandy and the like to take a wee excursion up to the Highlands. They were always all like, ‘Nah man, all they fuckin’ stupit choochter bastards runnin’ aboot, nae clubs, pish weather, blah blah blah’ . You see, me and ma family were goin’ to a wee village called Achnafachel a couple of times a summer until I was about twelve. After that I started tae think that I was too cool tae sleep in a tent with ma parents. I loved goin there but things were gettin’ nasty at home. I’d go and stay with ma Aunty Mary in Blantyre and my folks would go away together and to try to glue back together whatever pieces of their relationship that they were prepared to salvage. I remember hangin’ about before they’d leave, packing everything into the car and they’d already started gettin’ on one another’s tits. I always hoped that they’d be pure happy on the way there, singin’ along with ma maw’s Rod Stewart tape in the car and re-kindling their pre-marriage romance on the idyllic mountain roads of the Scottish Highlands. I would think about them doing all of the things that we used do together. Fishing, walking, cooking, playing fitball, exploring. Everything would be the same, but I wouldnae be there. I always used tae think that they would be havin’ a great time gettin’ a chance to enjoy one another’s company without me. At that time they were havin’ regular verbal punch-up’s and I always felt like I was the root of the problems. I’d see pictures of ma parents before I was born and couldn’t help but notice that they looked happier when I just wasn’t fuckin’ there. Photographs of them smiling at each other, kissing in front of some decaying Highland castle or standing proudly next to their new gold Volkswagen Golf. Before me, they had more money, more freedom, their eyes were burstin’ with a hope and optimism that was completely redundant after I was born. But as I got older, I realized that they were never really happy. Cause despite what people try to tell you tae protect their own interests, photographs can lie. They were probably happyish for the first year, but after that it was consistently miserable. Ma dad regretted gettin’ married and havin’ a kid so young, and my mum regretted havin’ a wee kid with someone who was basically a big kid. I didn’t see any of this until they broke up. Ma maw started goin’ with an older widower with a couple of ready-made, microwave kids almost immediately. Dad transformed into an aging man hoor, shaggin’ every single mum in the scheme. I was just sort of forgotten about. Left in the middle just doing ma best to shelter maself from the fallout. I guess you can see my battle scars on the surface of my decisions.
The journey was, again, uncomfortable. The condition of the road was top drawer. But our driver was an animal, and possibly a certified space cadet. The traffic was fairly heavy and our driver overestimated the torque of his bus numerous times during the journey. He would pull out on blind corners to overtake three lorries in one go, getting interrupted halfway by an oil tanker grumbling its way quickly towards us, and swinging back in at the last second. But there was absolutely no point in worrying about the death. If he was going to kill us, I couldn’t stop him. Dwelling on it only made the journey more unpleasant. I was distracted by an information sign above the driver’s seat. It was all in Hindi and written in paint or blood or something. I assume that the phone number was who you call if your bus driver thinks he’s Danny Zuko. Although I was convinced I would cover the final miles of this trip in an ambulance, I started laughing.
The number was 01412369109: A Glasgow number.
I sat for a while and entertained the thought that the Indian Public Transportation office had outsourced their call centers to Glasgow.
“Awrite your froo tae the Injin Govermnt Publick transport office, yer speakin’ tae Anne Marie the day, how kin ah help ye? Whit? Overtakin’ oan a blind corner? He nivir did! Rite, well let me tell ya this by the way, he’s in it up tae his hairy wee baws, let me tell ye that son. Ah’ll just stick ye froo tae the relevant departmnt. Okay, aye, okay, bye.”
This scene kept my thoughts in my head, away from the traffic coming in the other direction, just long enough for me to doze off.