Emil is waiting outside the house as we pull up. He sprints round to the back of the ambulance as we park; by the time I make it round there, he has the door open and is busy packing himself up into a tidy bundle.
‘I’m not as bad as I was,’ he says, gripping on to the arm rests, scrunched up on the seat with all the ease of a daddy long legs hiding in a matchbox. ‘I couldn’t get my breath, but I had a cigarette and that took the edge off it.’
‘So,’ I say, settling down opposite him on the stretcher, Rae standing by the ECG and BP machine, unfurling the cuff and probe. ‘Tell us all about it.’
‘I’ll be honest with you, yeah? I did a line of Ketamine. I’ve done it before, I’ve done it a thousand times. I’m getting help for it. It’s nothing.’
‘What’s different today?’
He licks his lips and his focus scatters around the inside of the vehicle. After a while it comes back down into him, and he reabsorbs it, and carries on.
‘So. Oh. Yeah. I snorted the gear, lay down and drifted off. But then Gary came in and asked if I wanted anything to drink, and I said yeah okay, so he got me some tea, and when I went to drink, my throat had gone all weird and I couldn’t swallow. So then I got a bit panicky, and Gary kept asking me if I was all right, which made me worse, and then my face went all numb, and I proper freaked out, and called you guys. And I’m sorry if I’ve wasted your time.’
‘Don’t worry about that, Emil. Just tell me – have you had an anxiety attack before?’
‘Yeah. Anxiety. Yeah.’
Rae reads out the BP and SATS results. As I write them down I say to him:
‘A bit ironic, isn’t it?’
‘You take Ketamine. A hard core tranquiliser. And you get an anxiety attack.’
He stares at me, his eyes fat with chemical, then after a pause that lasts about a hundred years, he says very carefully:
‘No. Ketamine is a dissociative anaesthetic.’