The Melancholy of Co-Existence
He came to live in Edinburgh some years before, after leaving the town of his birth in the southwest of England, where he was writing for a regional newspaper, and where his mother died of cancer while still only in her late forties. He had never known his father, who was married to another woman, but he knew that this man had always kept his mum well provided for (buying the house they lived in), and he knew that when she passed away that there would be some money. He stayed in the town for a few more months, but he never really knew anybody in the place that well, his relatives he sometimes thought never forgave his mother for her independence (she said she would never marry and never did), and while he was hardly the only bastard child in the school, he often felt like it. He rarely made friends, and when he did it was usually with people new to the place whom he befriended out of shared loneliness. However, when the child would feel more comfortable at school, they fell into a gang or a group and he was once again alone.
In his later teens he occasionally went out with someone, but it never lasted. They found him too intense they would always say; why wouldn't he dance, get crazily drunk or just get out of himself a bit more? He wanted very much to get out of himself, but he wanted to do so with love and feeling, not lust and oblivion. He never said this to anyone, he never really said much to anybody: he would accept it and walk away. He was single throughout his twenties, though he knew lots of people, and would often go to parties and talk throughout the evening with those he thought were equally interested in conversation. But he never met a woman he thought he might love, and would sometimes wonder whether it was the nature of the town; that there were too many interconnections. It was a perfect place he often thought for pragmatic love, but for the miracle of loving another?
Though he wrote for several years for the regional paper in the town, he never published an opinion piece or an arts column. He wrote up mundane copy after interviewing people about local issues. He was a good writer whose pieces were always very clear and required little editing, but he never for one moment expressed through anything he wrote an aspect of himself.
So Peter decided to come to Edinburgh, and did a degree in English. He quickly noticed that there wasn't much room for creativity there either, as tutor after tutor insisted that the student's purpose was to explicate the text: to stay close to the words on the page and not intrude with one's own observations or projections. He took a creative writing class in the evening, but the tutor seemed to say the same thing. He said stories shouldn't be confessions; they needed to be well constructed tales that would entertain the reader. They didn't pay for the emotional mess of the author's life, he insisted, and once again Peter felt he must keep his thoughts and feelings to himself.
But at least over the years in Edinburgh he found friends and occasionally companionship. He was part of various social groups without feeling especially loyal to any of them. He knew people who were involved in writing fiction and who were in the theatre, others who made short films and taught film courses, still others who were into alternative medicines and therapies. He would have girlfriends, but he could never talk to any of them; they seemed never to know how to ask him a question that could make him feel that he wasn't alone. He knew this wasn't the same for them, nor for some of the friends he had made in the city. People would sometimes say that he was someone they could really talk to; that he knew how to ask a question that would make them feel the soul of themselves. He supposed that if we have any purpose at all it should lie in that. Yet he never found anybody with whom he could have said the same thing, and nor did he write since he had taken very seriously, woundingly so, the creative writing tutor's comments years before that registering one's aloneness is hardly literature.
About five years after his degree, while still working at the national newspaper as a proof reader, he took a holiday on his own. He was thirty one and hadn't been abroad since he was a child, and he remembered when he was five his mother had taken him with her to a small Mexican town where he supposed retrospectively she had years before met the man who was his father. Did she hope to find him there again; did she want to force him to take emotional responsibility for the child he had created with her? Peter never knew, but he thought that one day he might go back. He told the paper that he needed to take a month off, and he booked a flight from London to Mexico City. He was not lonely wandering around the Mexican capital, but it did seem to make him aware of the loneliness he often believed was part of his life in Edinburgh, and part also of those people he knew. It was the case that frequently people would say they could talk to him, but also to admit they could not talk to many other people. Yet nobody seemed alone, with various social networks making sure people were not isolated in the evening if they needed to socialise, to get a bit of freelance work through friends, and there were always the clubs, tango, salsa and ceilidh, the classes in film, philosophy and politics, the reading groups and the yoga. It was a city where every body could keep busy and feel they were developing.
Yet he never quite trusted any of this. When a new person arrived in the city, they were quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, became part of the city's social strength. He knew people who arrived one month and within a year had a job they quite liked, friends they would see regularly and hobbies that they clearly took pleasure in doing. Yet he felt uneasy; perhaps because of the occasional comments he would get about people never really asking the right questions, that there seemed to be so little freedom in the network itself, and that he would very occasionally see people who were excluded from it and didn't seem to belong to any other social group either. There was one person Peter would see around the city, who was probably in his late twenties when he initially saw him. When Peter had first arrived the person was sociable but somewhat intrusive. Peter would be in a whole-food store and he could see that the person would keep talking even as the member of staff wanted to get on with their work. Please, Andrew they would say, I am busy. Once he wondered, some months later, when he read in the toilet of a hippy caf a piece of graffiti saying why is Andrew such an idiot, and read below it someone else's handwriting saying I'm not; I am lonely, Peter always assumed it was him; for it was a caf Andrew frequented. Over the years Peter would nod to him on the streets but Peter never talked, and then at a certain point Andrew seemed not to acknowledge Peter at all, perhaps he stopped even recognizing him. In what state of loneliness was he in that the outside world was disintegrating, Peter would sometimes wonder? Was it merely Peter's own social skills that were keeping him sane, or was he waiting for someone to flood him with all the questions that would leave him assuaged?
Over the next couple of weeks Peter visited various sites in Mexico City, went on to Oaxaca and then to San Cristobal, where he recalled he and his mother had stayed in a small hotel on a street that was now full of hostels and hotel accommodation. It was one afternoon, while sitting in an Israeli falafel bar that was more like a garage than a restaurant, when someone came up and talked to him, saying he liked the shirt he was wearing. It was one he'd bought in Oaxaca, was made locally, and might have elicited such a response in Edinburgh, but hardly justified a comment in Mexico. An hour later they were still talking, and Peter realised that he was sitting there listening to this person chiefly because he hadn't spoken to anyone except to offer a few words of Spanish in ordering a drink or a meal. He hadn't yet stayed in hostels; only hotels. As Peter listened to Mark talking about mathematical problems, the young man insisted that most people involved in analytic philosophy didn't really know what they were talking about. They were often failed mathematicians rather than impressive philosophers: their reasoning might have been great for a philosopher who wasn't concerned with pure logic; however next to the exactitude required of maths, most contemporary, logically inclined philosophy was bad mathematics. Peter didn't know if he was making a justifiable case or not; he wasn't very good at maths and the only philosophers he had read were as much writers as thinkers. Mark went on to say that he worked at MIT, that he could have made millions on the stock exchange but wanted to do research and to teach. Peter did ask him a couple of questions about the philosophers Peter knew, and he seemed to know when they born, when they died, what they had written, and even the dates of the publication. He spoke fluent Spanish to the waiter, and when Peter listed the titles of the book by the philosophers Peter mentioned, Mark pronounced them in a manner that indicated he spoke German also.
They continued talking into the early evening, moving on to a caf where as they sat down he admitted he spent his last pesos buying the falafel. He said his credit card had been stolen the previous day and he had phoned his bank and would have something sorted out by the next morning. Afterwards Peter paid for his coffee; half-expecting him to ask him for more money, but as they parted he simply said he hoped he could enjoy the rest of the trip. Peter offered Mark money enough for a room and another meal, and he said that was very kind of him, took it and asked where he was going to after San Cristobal; perhaps they might meet there and he could give Peter the money back.
The next place Peter went to was Puerto Escondido. It was no longer such a hidden port. When he and his mother went there it was mainly surfers, riding the big waves for which it was famous. It wasn't till years later, and especially returning to it, that he wondered if his father was a surfer, someone his mother met years before and whom she perhaps had hoped to meet again on one of these beaches. Often he remembered that they sat on the sand, looking out at waves swirling up sea water and hammering against the shore. He was fascinated by the men's balancing acts with the forces of nature, and might have thought that they didn't want to conquer it but be its equal. After booking into the hostel in Puerto he walked along the beach at Zicatela and sat on the sand looking out at the surfers. If one of them was his father, he would now be quite an old man.
He felt maybe lonelier than he had ever felt in his life in the first few days in Puerto, feeling his mother's absence and wondering about the possibility of his father's presence somewhere in the town. There was no reason why he should be there, yet sometimes one's feelings are not deductive: it wasn't as though he knew his father had been a surfer and Puerto was one of the most impressive surf spots in the world and there was a good chance he would have settled there. No, it was more a deep mood, a melancholy sense that his past was in the town, and perhaps an aspect of his future also. The place was drawing out feelings too profound to be irrelevant.
He had three days left in Puerto before getting the bus back to Mexico City, and the flight the day after that back to Britain, when he started talking to someone over dinner at the hostel he was staying in. Initially there were ten of them around the long, narrow dining table, but after an hour there were two of them left. They hadn't talked at all, but they both listened to the conversations of others, and had a silent communication of their own in the looks and glances they exchanged in relation to the comments of various people eating. Two young British surfers were talking about the girls they had screwed the previous night, a German girl and her Swedish friend about the difficulties they were having with the Spanish accent. Others were telling jokes and anecdotes. After the others had left and yet before they had exchanged any words, he thought he already knew her, knew what she found funny, could tell that she was probably a Spanish speaker, and that she didn't much care for casual sex.
Maria had arrived that afternoon, and by two in the morning, as he kissed her lightly on the cheek and left to go to his room, Peter knew that a part of him had fallen so deeply in love that it would take years to understand the feeling. As they shared their afternoons and evenings together, walking along the beach, eating out at night, and watching a sun set, Peter knew also that these were the clichs of romance, but he felt them like they had never been in a film or book before. They talked about his life in Edinburgh and hers in Montreal. She was returning to Argentina, she said, after creating chaos in Canada. Peter asked what she meant, and she told him that she had left her husband for a lover; returned a few months later only for her husband to then leave her. He had moved to Europe a few weeks before, and she couldn't stay in Montreal alone. She wanted to return to her family. Maria told him this on the second night, after they had been intimate; he talked about his mother's death and his distance from everyone in Edinburgh.
He left to return to Britain, and yet as they parted after breakfast, as she walked him up to the bus stop behind the hostel in which they were staying, he didn't know how he felt. He thought as the bus left and as she stood at the station that he would start to feel a quiet, melancholic ache, but instead he felt nothing more than a sense of well-being, as if she were with him almost as completely in her absence as her presence. They had made no plan to meet again, but both knew that soon they would. However, when he returned to Edinburgh he began to feel uneasy, disquieted. He went along to a party and saw nothing but couples lazily contented, and single people lethargically lonely. He had e-mailed Maria a couple of times but didn't get a reply. He knew she was going to spend ten days at a spiritual retreat, where she would have no verbal contact with anyone else for much of the time, and so he supposed she was already there. During the next two weeks he wandered around the city and saw nothing but easy arrangements, saw people who got the jobs they had through the people with whom they were acquainted; and couples who had met at work or at university. He started to ask anybody he knew well how they had come to meet each other. He never told any of them of meeting someone out by the Pacific Ocean, how he had no idea what it was that had happened to him; he didn't seem to know how to explain or express it.
Eventually Maria e-mailed him, saying that she had found some centre in herself in the retreat. She loved being with him but believed that the soul resided not in someone's company but in remaining alone. She said that she was returning home to Argentina, wanted to see her family and then travel to the East. She said also that she needed to escape from all that had happened to her in Montreal. When they were in Puerto, Maria had told Peter a little about the lover, and as she told him it reminded Peter a little of a Henry James novel he had read at university where horrible cruelty, selfishness and cynicism are told through the eyes of an innocent narrator.
When she told him her story he thought about Edinburgh as a city not unlike the one she described, a city where the place was large enough to seek out a variety of emotional and sexual experiences, but too small for them not to have repercussions. He knew of many friends in Edinburgh who had slept with girlfriends of casual acquaintances, knew of people he was sitting with who would say of someone across from them that they knew of another man who had slept with his girlfriend. He sometimes wondered whether his own encounters, so occasional and so furtive that some might have assumed he had no sexual life at all, was an attempt to escape this world of gossip and repercussion. Meeting Maria he knew their meeting was utterly contingent and that she possessed what he might have called a social purity: she was someone not at all connected by her being a friend of someone he knew, an acquaintance at work, or an internet date. Before they met he knew nothing about her at all; and knew nothing except what she chose to tell him. He knew people in Edinburgh who would go out with others, knowing who their exes were, where they worked and even which break-ups had been difficult; which ones easy. It was as though the utter mystery and fortuitousness of their meeting had created an immense spiritual space inside him. How he might have wondered could he protect this space; yet he also believed he wanted to be with her in his life, not only in some vague, abstract realm.
They would e-mail each other regularly over the following few months when a friend asked if he would like to flat swap with an acquaintance of his in Paris for some time in August. The person worked as a theatre critic in the French capital, and had never been to the Edinburgh festival. Peter looked at the pictures of the flat attached to the friend's e-mail, said he would give it some thought, and e-mailed Maria the pictures and asked if she would like to stay with him for three weeks in Paris. She replied saying that she would love to do so, that she hadn't yet found work in Argentina, but living with her parents she was spending no money and so still had saving from her work in Montreal, and was anyway thinking of going to Madrid to look for work there.
The weeks in Paris were emotional for her and meaningful for him. She would speak of her life with such feeling that she could access not just the memory of the experience but the experience itself. He always found memory easy to recall and often friends would be surprised at what he could remember, but the memories usually seemed dead to him, separated from the feeling that generated them. Even talking of his mother's death caused him no pain; with Maria merely the death of a childhood pet could invoke a return to the feeling. It was as though everything he knew about her, everything she told him wasn't only a rumour told at one remove as so often happened to people in Edinburgh, nor a fact told by the person themselves, but an emotional pocket opened up.
The flat was a garden apartment not far from the cemetery, Pere Lachaise. They would rarely get the metro, occasionally cycle and usually walk. They would sometimes wander down Boulevard du Temple to Republique, walk through le Marais and into the city. They would often sit in the park chewing on a baguette, eating because they knew they should, but feeling in their bodies as if they were nourishment enough for each other. He insisted that they eat lots of fruit; while she insisted they eat lots of protein. They were both skinny, and when they held each other they could feel the other's rib cage. Peter often thought of how delicate she was in every aspect of her body and her being, and he knew that she could have said the same of him. He wished he could have cried as she sometimes would, but though he recalled memories as she recalled hers, no strong feelings were attached to them. What he did feel however was occasionally a horrible presentiment, a sense that she would leave him. He also knew that she would do so in a manner that was entirely his own fault and that it would nevertheless seem to him like a betrayal.
During those weeks in Paris they didn't seem to do very much, but they had perhaps explored every district of the city, as though each day with no destination except the need to walk, to see, to be alive to everything and nothing in particular except their own bodies. Before he had rarely touched people; could never remember ever hugging his mother, but sometimes he held Maria's hand, often kissed her on the cheek, frequently acquiesced whenever she wished for a hug even though it was utterly unusual behaviour for him. He supposed his relative tactility was not as great as she would have wished, but it was what he could provide, rather as he could easily bring back memories but couldn't attach them to strong feelings.
He wanted to tell her she should come to Edinburgh and look for work there. Her English was fluent, her field commerce, and she had Spanish as well as an Argentinean passport, so work might not to be too difficult to find. She had said she didn't want to be in banking anymore. She was good at it, she supposed, but it expressed nothing within her. She said what she had always wanted to do was open her own pottery shop. But of course she needed to earn a living and she believed she could do so in Spain, but said it in so wistful a manner that he knew she wanted him to say invite me to Scotland, let us live together, let us risk everything on this together that they had created. Yet strangely he didn't want her to come to Edinburgh, he wanted to preserve this sense that she was a person he might have dreamed of rather than met.
Yet when he got back to Edinburgh, the melancholy he felt at their separation increased, and no e-mails back and forth, or phone calls between them, could quite dull the ache of memories returning with nerve ends intact. This was he supposed, for he had never felt it before, a deep yearning. Yet he could also feel a sense of trepidation, a wariness of taking something so completely his into the endlessly interconnected world of Edinburgh. She possessed for him, of course, a certain pristine quality, unsullied by the "orgy of co-coexistence" as a Portuguese poet once put it.
For two months after going to Spain, were she had relatives, she looked for work, but this was during the major economic crisis of recent years, and companies were not hiring, for Spain was especially weakened by the crash. Peter knew someone who worked in Human Resources at the Royal Bank of Scotland, and was aware that though they were shedding staff they were also looking to employ others at a cheaper rate than those who were taking voluntary redundancy or who were retiring. He talked to the friend, then e-mailed Maria saying she should send her CV to someone at the bank, namely the friend. He felt a strange sensation went through his body as the friend e-mailed back saying he had received her CV. It was as though Peter had pimped her. It was a feeling strangely exacerbated, he thought, by his wish that she get a room for herself in a shared flat rather than initially living with him.
They asked Maria over for the interview, and when she arrived at the airport he met her with intense glee and quiet dread. She was no longer his, he believed, she was now part of the real world. The night after she arrived he took her to a party hosted by someone he knew from the university. The flat was a corner apartment on one floor, and with a sitting room that looked more like a caf interior. Numerous parties were held there, and on that night there would have been over the evening maybe a hundred and fifty people passing through. Various people wanted to swap e-mails; some suggested she should do classes - salsa, tango, pottery and yoga, the latter she had regularly done in Montreal. People would have said she was the life and soul of the party, but she was to them the life but to Peter the soul. He couldn't get rid of the feeling that she would leave him, that she would get lost in this orgy of co-existence.
Maria stayed with him for a couple of weeks, but insisted, aware of his initial reluctance that they share, that when she saw a room that she would take it. The room was in a professional flat sharing with five others; was on two floors and in the student area of Marchmont, not far from his own place near the university. They would be close neighbours, she insisted. He enjoyed living alone, his flat would have been too small for the pair of them for any period of time, but he still felt a lurch of loss when she was so insistent on taking it, especially it seemed when she said that there was someone in the flat who also worked at the bank, and with whom she could commute to work, since they both would be working at the headquarters on the edge of the city.
For the next six months, he saw Maria make friends, join classes, and noticed that she would see him less and less. Sometimes he would hear from another friend that they had seen her with someone and assumed it was him, only to see close-up that it was not. They offered it as a casual comment; he received it like a sharp pain. She was often unable to see him because she was committed to classes on a particular night, and that she was going to go for drinks afterwards. She would often say he was welcome, but he thought that if he had gone he would have arrived like an interloper. Frequently when they would eat dinner together, even talk in bed after making love, they would speak of others, of people they knew in common, and those who were strangers to Peter but known to Maria, and vice versa.
She never talked of the pair of them eventually getting a flat together. He felt he could no longer bring the subject up even though they had often in Paris lain together in bed and hypothesised a future moment where they would share their life. It could have been anywhere in the world that they would have lived then, but now they were in Edinburgh, living in separate flats, and that world seemed so impossible. She would tell him she loved him more often than he would say it to her, but he believed where his love seemed infinite; hers could disappear at any moment.
During one of these evenings lying together in her flat, Peter for the first time told her of this person he had met in San Cristobal, someone who made money hustling, using his charm and intelligence, but was clearly a liar. Maria said she might have met him as well. He knew that after she was in Puerto, after they had parted, that she continued travelling round the country, but they hadn't discussed much about it, and not at all of her stay in the main town of Chiapas. As they talked, Peter noticed that Maria had a very different perspective on the stranger than him; that he even went under a name other than Mark. Where Peter believed he was someone lost, lonely and looking to make contact both for money and friendship, Maria said he was a young man in love with the possibility of encountering people. He was she believed clearly very brilliant, could charm anybody he wanted, and perhaps chose the life of a con-man because it was the most meaningful way in which to live a charismatic life. Peter asked what she meant by this. She supposed that most people use their charm as a pivot, as an opportunity to get a job, to get a woman to fall in love with them, but a conman, or a womanizer, constantly wants to test that charisma, to practice it daily. Peter wondered if the young man he had met in San Cristobal was both a conman and a womanizer; and that he was the recipient of the former aspect and Maria the latter.
Yet when he recalled their meeting in Mexico, he didn't believe it possible that Maria could have been seduced days afterwards by another man, but what he did find himself thinking was that she was offering her comments as a hypothesis about the past but hinting at the present. He felt an obscure jealousy as they lay in bed that night. As she slept beside him he wondered what charismatic person had recently entered her life, and he woke early, made some tea, kissed her goodbye, saying he needed to get to the flat and start working. She shouted for him to wait a moment, but he pulled the door hard, ignoring her beseechings.
Instead he walked up round Arthur's seat, out past Hollyrood Palace and the Scottish parliament, up by the duck-pond, by the road, and then up and round the other pond that from a certain point offers a view of the raised pond and also the sea in the distance. Maria and Peter had never walked up there, and he thought of all the other walks they hadn't done, all the Edinburgh walks he told her about when they walked around Paris.
Later that evening he phoned her mobile but it was switched off, and tried again a couple of times before midnight but the answering machine automatically came on. He wanted at least to hear her, but instead, of course, unlike most people's landlines, he received a metallic voice, asking to leave a message.
He couldn't get Maria the next day either, and on the following one he became so desperate that she must have received a dozen missed calls. The day after that she asked if they could meet, and later that afternoon, sitting outside in a cafe in the warm, spring weather, she told him that they must part. He asked whether she had met someone else. She gulped, and said she didn't know. When did it happen he questioned her. She admitted that her love for him had been slipping for some weeks, but she denied that she had fallen in love with anyone in particular. Over the next month, in Maria's absence and the presence of others, he managed to work out what had happened, though he never knew whether she had started seeing this other man.
Peter was talking to the friend, Brian, who helped manage to get Maria the job at the bank, and Brian said he had introduced her to the very person who was renting out a room. She was going out with someone but everybody knew that she was keeping the relationship alive by increasingly desperate behaviour, and that her boyfriend, Simon, was looking to get out of it though he still did have feelings for her. Brian said he would hear from both sides: that he worked with her, but had also befriended Simon, and occasionally he and Simon would go for a pint. Brian looked like he didn't want to continue telling the story but Peter insisted. Tell me what you know, he said. One evening a month or so before, Brian and Simon were having a drink and the latter started saying that he knew he was no longer in love with his girlfriend; that he felt he was falling in love with someone but he couldn't say who. Brian talked to him about this invisible person, and based on what he had said knew that he must split up with his girlfriend, and perhaps pursue this woman that he was so fond of. Brian had no idea whether he had followed that desire; he had no idea whether they were now together, but he suspected that the person he had recommended Simon try to pursue was none other than Maria.
Brian offered this to Peter as a confession, as though trying to say though Peter may have lost a lover, and perhaps partly due to Brian's advice, Peter would know he had a friend. Brian said that for a couple of hours Simon talked of this woman he had met, and described her so completely that he would never have guessed he was talking of Maria, no matter Maria's wonderful qualities, but of a stranger whom anybody would want to fall in love with. Brian offered his advice thinking not at all of the social consequences, but of the emotional impact one person can have on another. If only Simon had said who it was, maybe things would be different now, he insisted.
But Peter believed nothing would have been different, that from the moment Maria had come to Britain, from especially the moment Peter had helped Maria find work, and that his friend had found it for her, she was involved in the horrible entanglement of the city's emotional, financial, social and sexual life. He didn't know why he should believe this, but he did. If it was true Maria had the astonishing capacity to feel memories from the past as if they were happening in the present; Peter had equally strong feelings about the vague, indeterminate and the hypothetical. This was one such instance.
That evening after seeing Brian he was happy he had talked to him, happy within his despair that someone believed he was a friend enough and also strong enough to receive a truth many would have refused to offer and refused to countenance. He felt he would sometime soon leave the city, would perhaps search out his father and follow any trails that he could find. But he also thought of two people, of the person in Edinburgh he would see around completely devoid of charisma and slowly going mad, and of the figure both Maria and Peter had met at different moments in San Cristobal, with a surplus of it. Peter wanted no longer to be part of a world, no longer involved in an orgy of co-existence, but did he have the personality he wondered to travel the globe engaging strangers, or would he slip into a madness that would leave him with no co-existence at all?
Yet it was later that evening when Maria left a message on his own mobile answering machine and when he listened to it he heard a mellifluous warmth that said she loved him very, very much. She said she was going away for a few days to visit relatives in Barcelona, but that she would be in touch. He had no idea whether she had slept with Simon or anyone else, but he did feel that she knew the city was too inevitable, that she found herself perhaps repeating the actions for which she desperately needed to escape Montreal. He knew also that if she asked him to come to be with her in Barcelona - for a few day or a few years - he would go, though he wished he could find a city where they could both hide from all the other people in it. It was an immature thought, he knew, but also a quietly spiritual one. He knew also it was somewhere between these two states - between the immature and the spiritual - that his own failings resided. He knew in common parlance that he needed to grow up; that Maria could no longer be a dream but an imposing and important reality. After the call Peter started to cry, but was thinking not of Maria, especially, but of his mother and father, imagining the pair of them meeting and falling in love on the very beach in Puerto that Maria and Peter had sat on many years later and not so long ago.
© Tony McKibbin