The phone buzzes. a message has drifted over from Scotland.
I miss you, it reads.
The time piece above the mantle points at the six and more significantly, at the seven. ( Kiddingggg- the iPhone that reads 7:32) With the six hour time difference, my sister might be out drinking.
I’m out drinking, the next message reads.
I’m feeling coflicted culturally, she dribbles on, leaving misspellings in her wake. Not a surprise– the terms of existence are brokered differently among the Scots, and in a language that echoes familiar, but without ever resembling a dialect possible to participate in. Scotland is a lonely place to speak English in.
The next message arrives.
Also my new technique to ward off unwanted advances is to introduce myself as ‘gay maud’
I’m gay maud
How are you
I blink. Culturally conflicted is a crock, because my sister has just proved in explicit terms how native the Scotland Experiment has gone with her. She has given herself an epitaph, an honor reserved for locals and for a lot of men in one room named Michael and so on. Handsome Michael, Mopey Michael, Michael the Git, a Scrubber named Michael, and also, now, Gay Maud.
I think I might have peaked, the next message reads. Edinburgh appears then, and the perpetual reverberation of cold in those stone corridor streets comes to mind too. The city has limits, and a man could walk to their edge if he felt like it.
There we find your modern Scotland- a set of limits, and from another time. Limits play a role in the theory of binding societies together, as Rousseau, the Great Pretender, once dashed off, but staring down at the screen with those words written on it, the continued failures of these vague boundaries edge in. To realize that today is a date in September of 2013 feels negligent, and nags at a sense of obligation.
The Scottish way is coarse, remains coarse; a burlap sack thrown over the unavoidably tender center, a burlap sack that a hipster in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, would eventually venture to buy for $30, in the perpetual hope of acquiring the purity of sentiment to adorn himself with. The coarseness of it is visceral and frequently commented on, my favorite being a little essay by Oxford Literary Critic William Hazlitt, published in the Liberal in 1826 and titled,”On the Scotch Character,” which begins with a phrase something like,”The Scots are body-corporate. They hang together like a swarm of bees…”
Getting off the plane in Scotland, I have to remember to wind my clock, but backwards and by 25 years. (kiddingggg- my iphone senses displacement and corrects itself.) The limits imposed do not keep everyone down, or rather, rebuilding ancient PC’s while American seven-year olds create and sell iPhone apps for hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, Scotland’s successfuls leave, and they distill all their success from the narrows of other places. And then they do not come back.
Within the limits, society goes on, just venturing enough within the boundaries to keep themselves in configuration, less planned than communism but more planned than, say, America. It has the characteristics of a small country and the reputation of a first- world one.
Evidence for this exists, but no more so than in the words of my sister, moments that come flying in and paste themselves boldly on the screen, things like, “based on current romantic trends here, I should either be dating a Hungarian drug- dealer or my cousin” and “–and then the doctor said we should google my symptoms, to be sure, ” and mostly, the pages of mis-spelled accountings of nights out or nights in that stream through without fail, Wednesday through Monday, add up to a capsized heart. (Tuesday is a day of rest.)
She is from both worlds, and she approaches integration with the common sense only a foreigner can achieve. Scotland escapes her, but as such, she will also escape it.