Nineteen

Nineteen. Nineteen years today.

If I had had children, you would not have seen them grow up. They would have been a twinkle, a gentle belly swelling, an arrival with tears and cries of joy, school and scabs and scars and almost good enough for the football teams and the ukelele band.

The clothes you knitted they would have worn with love then exasperation and then with a retro swing of the scarf. You would have wiped their eyes when they fell, their noses when they fell ill, their eyes again when they fell in love. You would have been Nan, then Bet for a dare, then Nan to hear the secrets they would not have told me.

And now, nineteen years later, they would have been grown, and away alone, and always on the phone to hear your voice. I miss you mum, for me and for the children I never had.

Walking, watching, the Water of Leith

A tall man in a splashed grey t-shirt taps a stick on his leg. A black-and-white patched dog looks pointedly into the distance away from him.

Ginger toddler twins sleep side by side in a double buggy. Finally silent, they are holding hands. Their pale parents look close to tears. Their arms hang heavy.

Four tan, brown, tan, brown dogs weave leads from two hands, over and under and over and under. The owner’s look says she is too old for this. She pulls them back and puffs out her cheeks.

A race of clouds skit, one by one, across the face of the sun. The girl’s father pulls his pullover on. She drops her ball and her face crumples. The ball rolls towards the river, picking up speed, and her father stoop dives to save it.

The patchwork dog snatches a narrow-eyed glance at the man in the t-shirt, at his stick, then fixes the distance again, shoulders pinched.

Happy loud tourists with sunglasses, good hair and warm padded jackets tumble laughing down the green mesh metal steps. Some must be couples, but it is not clear who is not.

Finally, finally, the stick whirls over the waiting dog’s head and splashes down in the river, just beyond a brief whirlpool. A yelp, one would guess of joy, and the dog is springs and tail and pointed ears and bouncing.

I smile vaguely to myself and vaguely at other people, pick up my bags and walk on. There is the sound of a dog hitting water.