On Sunday night Glasgow is empty by nine or ten. A solitary traveler sits in Central Station waiting for his train into the wind-blown hinterlands lying to the west. Occasionally come the muddled, derisive shouts from drunken youths, caroming from one potholed street to the next. The rain swaths the asphalt in a sheet of slick, glassy mist and in the alleyways sickly florescent lights turn brown puddles a jaundiced yellow.
The wind reflected off the mountains dips vengefully into the city and when we turn onto the open promenade of the River Clyde it scythes through my coat. I shudder from the wind, and she smirks at me, daughter of Inverness, skin thickened from many winters in the unforgiving north. The black draughts of Guinness, quaffed eagerly in the warming embrace of the pub, lifeblood of wandering drunks everywhere, ebb in strength from the pulsing cold around me.
We duck off down a side street, tiptoeing past overflowing garbage bins, the putrid scent of decay lingering in our nostrils. Parked cars and discarded cigarette butts form a collage against brick walls and oxidized iron window bars. The street trickles into a narrow plaza with lights strung up across empty benches and shuttered coffee shop windows.
A seagull alights atop a lightpole, its call swept away by the racing wind, and then opens its wings and leaves us alone with our collective breath crystallizing in the cold. We pass the Christmas market, daytime bustle replaced by tightly-lashed tarps and makeshift plywood garrisons against the perilous December winds.
Up the high street we go, ducking the wind around corners, stepping away from the lone car hurtling into the ether. Neon advertising boards blare shrilly at no one but us, the anemic displays of a department store reaching up weakly to us before falling away, exhausted.
A soaring aria echoes its way down the alleyway and caresses our ears; she looks at me, puzzled, and wonders if someone is playing the radio out their window. Ahead of us are several dozen steps leading up to to a concert hall. The shadowy alcove of the hall juts above a rotund man, his hands gesturing in emotive harmony with his voice. A group of teenagers rambles past us–the beautiful, booming crescendo passing like liquid through their oblivious ears. But we stand still, our legs rendered immobile and our ears agape. The man finishes his aria, steps out of the shadows, and with a tip of his cap vanishes into the night.
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