I wasn’t being handed any fliers on Wednesday morning and I couldn’t understand why not. Ordinarily during the Fringe Festival it is virtually impossible to avoid walking any street in Edinburgh without having a glossy advert for some comedy show or theatre production thrust into your hand by an enthusiastic volunteer who is often dressed in costume. I had been walking for around an hour and not one person had attempted to sell their show to me, and I was beginning to take it personally. I slowed my walking pace out of hope that it would make me appear less in a rush to get somewhere important and therefore more approachable, but even that was having no effect. I walked with my arms outstretched a little, in the manner of a monkey, and still nobody was willing to place a flier in my hand. I considered that on this particular day no-one was looking for a single man to attend their shows and I was feeling a little low and put out, so I purposefully walked past the same juggling act a couple of times for confidence.
Wednesday morning had started out with the city’s cobbled streets slick with rain, but by around midday it had dried out and there was a warmth from the sun in the sky. I decided that I would no longer need the denim jacket I had come out wearing, so I returned to the hostel where I had been staying and stored it in a locker with the rest of my luggage. This is when it occurred to me that I had been walking around for more than an hour dressed in double denim and I suspected that this was the reason I wasn’t being handed any fliers, though a man wearing double denim should probably be a prime comedy victim.
After watching Peter Brush make a very convoluted and brilliant joke about snails in an awkward manner in a room full of ten people or less, I went out to Pleasance Courtyard where I would spend much of the day and first saw the Irish comedienne Catherine Bohart, who performed a set about being a bisexual Irish Catholic who had recently been diagnosed as having OCD and whose father is a Deacon. In the small room I was seated next to a woman who shortly after taking her seat reached into her bag for a paper fan, which was a deep red and the sort that stylish ladies would use in the movies. She began to fan herself in an elaborate and exhaustive fashion and it made me wonder if the flushing she was experiencing was in any way related to my testosterone. It made me feel good to think this and I was sitting smugly as Catherine Bohart took to the stage. As I glanced around the room, which was very compact and warm, I noticed several other women who were using tickets to fan their faces and I accepted that my masculinity probably wasn’t having that much of an effect.
Later, whilst entering another show, the usher called out for “any singles” to fill a seat in the corner, around three rows from the front, which was the last remaining in that particular row. There wasn’t a rush of people who were attending the show by themselves, or who were at least willing to admit to being alone, and I raised my hand in the air in the most meek way and was directed to walk along the front of the stage to reach this lone chair, as though I was being put on display.
I had some time to spare before seeing Alex Edelman and I decided that I would spend it in the warm early evening breeze in the courtyard with a pint of beer. Pleasance is one of the major hubs of the Fringe and there was a buzz of activity with audiences lined up outside the numerous venues and people handing out fliers in an effort to sell last minute tickets. A girl approached me with a handful of such fliers, her hair was a kind of sunkissed hazelnut and she was wearing skinny jeans which were impressively tight fitting and a lime green top which matched the colour of her shoes as well as her handbag. It struck me that if I was female this is the sort of style I would favour.
The girl with the hazelnut hair offered me a flier for a show in which stand-up comedians perform in the dark. I took it and asked her how the comedians can see whether the audience are laughing when there are no lights. She laughed in a pained way, as though she really wasn’t wanting to laugh but she couldn’t help but admire the effort made to concoct such a terrible joke. I took this response as an invitation to ask the flier dispatcher why she thought it might be that I had such a barren leafleting experience earlier in the day. She crinkled her nose, in the way some people scrunch up unwanted fliers, and thought it surprising. We exchanged a silent stare for what might only have been three or four seconds but felt more like a minute and I thought it would be a good idea to ask the citrus styled saleswoman if Comedians in the Dark was good enough for her to consider wasting her time going with me. She said that she had seen the show earlier in the month but that different comics perform all the time and if she could hand off the rest of her fliers she would go with me.
After the show, which was performed in near darkness, I asked the girl with the hazelnut hair if she would consider having a drink with me. She declined, citing an early start in her day job the following morning, but invited me to take a short train journey and we could share a bottle of wine at her place. From Waverley Station her stop was only around ten minutes and it was a place I was not familiar with. Her flat was on the top floor of a building which was in the middle of a high street that was like any other, and she asked me if I would mind sharing a flat with a young dog. I have formed a bond with many a canine over the years and didn’t consider this a problem, though as we approached her home I felt myself becoming anxious as I realised that now I wasn’t only having to impress her, but her dog would have to like me too. Somehow my attempts at humour and conversation had gotten me this far, but if I didn’t hit it off with the dog then it could blow the whole thing.
As she opened the door a small dog scampered to greet her, and soon its little paws were clambering onto my thighs and I could tell that it was much too cute to hate anyone. We sat on the couch and she opened a bottle of white wine, which was foreign and as delicious as its name was unpronounceable. The little dog sat between us on the cushions, as though forming a protective barrier until I had its absolute approval to proceed. As we talked – the girl with the hazelnut hair and I – her dog arched across my lap and demanded that I rub its little pink belly. It was impossible to refuse, and it was probably the first time that I have cultivated a friendship with my ability to scratch.
Some time passed and having removed her own lime green shoes, the girl with the hazelnut hair reached for my laces and insisted that I would be much more comfortable if I wasn’t wearing my boots. Soon her hand was working its way around an area of my jeans where ordinarily only my hand ventures, and when my penis was released and she was kneeling on the floor between my feet, the dog sat up on the couch next to me, and as its deep black eyes stared at me I began to worry that it might mistake me for a sausage. Once I had raised this concern the dog was quickly ushered from the room into the hallway, for at least twelve minutes, and whilst it probably didn’t have the capacity to understand what was happening I’d like to believe that the neighbours did.
After the dog was welcomed back into the room and my host had changed into a pair of pyjamas which were much less colourful but every bit as fetching as her daytime wear, I was asked a question which I had not anticipated being asked and which I had never been asked before.
“How would you feel about sharing a bed with a dog?”
I weighed up the options in my mind: I could either sleep with a girl or I could not sleep with a girl, and I quickly decided that sleeping with a girl would be preferable and that I could live with the dog, which had befriended me as much as I had it. Following another glass or two of wine we all went to bed, and I had to wonder what the dog was making of all of this. I was a guy who it had met for the first time only a few hours earlier, I had not even bought it dinner, and now I was sharing its bed and bumping bones with its owner.
In the dark of the night I was having difficulty sleeping, partly out of a fear that if I fell asleep I would find that this entire night and this fantastically beautiful woman I was lying next to was a terribly unlikely dream woven by my wild imagination, and partly because at the foot of the bed I could hear the dog licking itself profusely. When I was finally able to fall asleep I was soon woken by the soft and wet lather of a tongue lapping at my face. My eyes gradually opened and I was considering how this was an unusual but not unwelcome way for the girl with the hazelnut hair to waken me and rouse my attention. She must be ready for some more action, I thought to myself, and it was something that I could get used to. Then I caught the unmistakable scent of dog food and realised that the dog was right in my face, and that was were it spent much of the night.
An alarm soon rung in the morning and the girl with the hazelnut hair had to be up early for work. Before getting herself ready she lifted the dog into the hallway and she and I were investigating the integrity of the mattress once more. She climaxed as the dog urinated on the carpet and it seemed like each of us got something from the experience. After a cup of tea I asked where I was, how I got here and how I get back to Edinburgh. She explained that the train station was a couple of minutes down the street and that the trains are frequent. I thanked her and left, hopeful that as the day progressed I would receive some more fliers for my satchel.