And so I submitted to his whim; I lay myself down at the feet of exploratory science; I loosened my tie and let the world take a peek at my soul. More than that: I agreed to drink sixteen pints of pineapple juice on the basis that it would reveal something other than the fact that a copious amount of fruit juice necessitates frequent lavatorial sojourns. Was I mad? Perhaps I was. But I don’t regret a single minute.
It was autumn in Edinburgh. The leaves were burning torches of pink, orange and red and a filmy blanket of mist lay low to the ground, skulking with infinite grace. We met Yile at a coffee shop overlooking the castle. He seemed a little flustered (we didn’t know it yet, but he had just been kicked out of his tutoring job after making ‘unsuitable advances towards a junior lecturer in Archaeology’. The rumour is that he threatened her with an ancient Roman trowel after trying, unsuccessfully, to pour pineapple juice down her top). His eyes had lost some of their usual sparkle, and I’ll wager he hadn’t washed for a week. Still, his shoulders were just the same as ever. Oh, those shoulders! My wife couldn’t take her eyes off them any more than I could – and she had never much liked Yile. They were the sort of shoulders that restored one’s confidence in people; that made the world seem like a safer place. All the morning’s doubts were washed away when we saw those shoulders. They helped us make sense of the madness.
From the coffee shop we headed north, stopping off for supplies along the way. Contrary to expectations, Yile had not planned the experiment with any sort of thoroughness. He hadn’t even bought the juice: a curious oversight, we thought, for what shop would sell sixteen pints of pineapple juice on a cold Saturday afternoon in Edinburgh? But we had underestimated the size of the Crocodile Foods stockroom. It was only a small shop, yet Yile knew it well. Leaving us outside he blew into the cavernous store with a certain coolness, emerging five minutes later, laden with pineapple juice cartons – and a small bag of yoghurt-covered hazelnuts, which he proceeded to share around. The sparkle was, at last, creeping back into those large green eyes of his.
‘So,’ he said. ‘We start outside, yes?’
I wasn’t looking at her directly, but I could already see my wife’s eyebrows begin a steady ascent.
‘We start wherever you want to start,’ I said.
Yile grinned. Up, up, up went the wife’s eyebrows.
‘First we walk around,’ said the large-eyed Belgian, ‘then we sit and read. Maybe later we do something else’
‘Something else?’ I said.
‘Or maybe not,’ he said, hurriedly. ‘Maybe we walk and read. Yes. We walk and read’.
‘Walk and read,’ I repeated, nodding my head. This is all very good, I thought. I drink some pineapple juice, I walk – and I read. All in the name of science. Nothing wrong with this. Nothing wrong at all.
‘Are you ready?’ asked Yile.
I took another look at those shoulders. Then to her eyebrows, then back to his shoulders. To eyebrows, to shoulders, to eyebrows to shoulders. And thence to the first carton, held out in front of me, freshly opened, inviting me forwards, singing to my lips: drink me, drink me, drink me. The very first carton of pineapple juice.
‘I’m ready,’ I said.