The discordant choir of the Royal Mile crowd fades as I slant down Fishmonger’s Close. Back entrances open into mysterious buildings off the wide alley. At the bottom, Edinburgh’s lowest point: The Cowgate. Only the strongest rays of the early evening sun filter down here where the air is still and stale as the spilled beer and vomit from last night’s release. Engine noise roars off the bottom of the high, arched bridge, on which the good citizens of Edinburgh traverse above. I look the other way, toward Grassmarket, and lock stares with a giant. A forty-foot tall hooded boy sits cross-legged dressed all in white. Contrast.
The passing centuries’ darkest demons bared themselves in the depths of Edinburgh’s Cowgate. The filthy morass of livestock milling outside the castle walls gave way to the slums, disease, and bodysnatchers of yesteryear. These days the Cowgate revolves between dead daylight hours and calamitous nights of drunken revelry. But it is always dark, in the shadow of the Royal Mile, as the Cowgate is, like a moon perpetually blocked from the sun by its planet. The boy’s expression is street art, a mix of anger, expectancy, and resolve that reads, “there will be change.”