For the eve of St Valentine’s Day, a touching story of youthful romance in an unromantic setting. Jim C Wilson of Gullane is the narrator remembering.

      THE STUDENT FLAT

The electric fire’s one bar glowed

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dully, half-smothered, its dust skin

of talc holding back the heat. In

a far-distant corner the dark

~

morning was ruffled by the hoarse

scrape of your tinny tranny; you’d

painted its case with flowers. Should

I wake you? Condensation dropped

~

down the black window glass, like cold

tears. The thin curtains couldn’t meet,

didn’t quite fit. You slept, the sheet

wound round your strange nakedness.

~

Cars and buses edged into the dawn.

I saw two sticky coffee mugs,

some underclothes slumped on worn rugs.

An inch of cider still remained,

~

half-accusing. The staleness of the

spreading ashtray clung to the dead

air and my skin. Your single bed

sank in the middle and I ached

~

for you in the pale fireglow in

that old house full of strangers. I

woke you for the new term; your sigh

was a little girl’s. You blinked and

~

were surprised to see me that dawn

in 1968 when rain

made the roofs shine and I had lain

beside you in a night as brief

~

as a smile. The room was filled for

me with wonder as I am now

when I think with surprise at how

you were so prepared to allow

~

me to stay that first October

night and then these fifty years.