Only five steps up to the battered front door and we’re soaked through. The rain is fat and cruelly direct; we flatten ourselves as far back as we can in the recess, collars up, stamping, shuffling from side to side, looking back at the truck in the street with its misted windows and seductive interior glow.
A few more knocks and Elsa opens the door. She’s on the phone, crying, pale, wild eyed, acknowledging us only in the distracted way a dreamer might acknowledge just one more damned thing in a dream. As soon as the door is fully open and without saying a word, she gives a strangled gasp, spins around and flies back into the house. We step inside; Elsa floats off through another door off to the left, the phone still pressed to her ear, her other hand distractedly raking through a haircut as dark and severe as a swimming cap.
When we catch up with her, she is sitting on the edge of a single bed, the phone dropped beside her on the rumpled sheets.
Walking into Elsa’s bedroom is like walking onto the pages of a gigantic scrapbook. Every wall is stuck with hundreds of fashion pictures cut from newspapers, magazines, printouts, a thousand over the shoulder looks, belted poses, sassy shots. Elsa fits right in; she has an aquiline quality to her face, a profile of simple strokes. She is a costumiers sketch in white and black, studying us from the bed.
‘I took a week’s worth of medication in one swallow,’ she says. ‘I’m stressed out. I’ve got deadlines. I lost track of the days, and I panicked, because I missed a load of medication and I worried what would happen. So I took it all at once. And now I feel so dizzy and panicked and everyone’s out and I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.’
We talk it out. She calms down, but needs to go in to hospital.
‘You’ll want a coat,’ I say. She fetches an extravagant black bear fur jacket and gold link handbag. ‘Your keys,’ I add, wondering what she’ll produce. Whilst she hunts them down amongst the piles of papers, books and clothes, I ask her how she’s been eating recently.
‘Haphazardly. Cereal. Coleslaw. Oh god – I cannot find my keys!’