Meet the Horde - Part 1: Tyler Maitland
Updated: Mar 5, 2020
Oliver watched the way the man leaned awkwardly to take his weight on his right side and held his left arm crooked at the elbow. He wore a blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his arms looked thin and white, as though they had seen none of the summer sun.
“A very good morning to you, laddie,” the stranger said without looking up. His accent was from southern England, but had an Edinburgh inflection. He raised his head and for a moment his gaze was interrogative, then it warmed and there was the flash of a smile. He had the palest blue eyes, like a winter sky. Beneath his dark hair, he wore an earring in his left lobe. The trace of a moustache followed the contours of his upper lip, reaching down to a shadow beard on the end of his chin. Beads of sweat hung on his forehead. Oliver decided he was an ill-looking musketeer; a D’Artagnan with malaria.
“I bet not much happens around here without you knowing about it, eh?”
The man harrumphed, studied him for a few seconds, then stepped out onto the landing with his back lowered and hand held out. “I’m Tyler.”
Oliver shook the hand shyly. Despite the cigarettes, the man smelled unexpectedly of soap and washing powder.
And that was the start of Oliver’s fascination. Over the next few weeks, Tyler caused quite a stir in the community. His van remained unmoved in the Connaughts’ parking space. Every morning, regardless of weather, he was to be found either sitting in the gardens or practising a series of slow stretching movements on the damp grass, and sometimes he would glance up at the window and nod his hat to the little observer. Oliver’s mother invented reasons to catch Tyler on the stairs and it turned out – rather disappointingly – that he was employed on the late-shift at the University library on George Square.
Then, in the second week of August, Oliver’s perseverance elicited two discoveries. Firstly, Tyler sometimes spent whole nights in his van. Oliver would force himself awake in the small hours to study the vehicle, often seeing a pinprick of light as its occupant smoked. The other discovery was that on certain evenings, strange thumps emanated from Tyler’s flat. Oliver would sit tense and listen. The thumps came in heavy bursts, followed by silence. Whack, whack, whack. Something hard on to something soft, as though Tyler were smashing the dust mites from his mattress.