Thursday, November 25, 2010

the man in the cupboard

A policewoman intercepts us as we pull up outside the house.

‘It looks like Chelsea might be suffering alcohol withdrawal,’ she says. ‘We got a call from her to say there was an intruder in the house. When we got here, she was outside in a bit of a state saying he was hiding in the cupboard. Mate – it’s a tiny little box for the electric meter. A cat wouldn’t fit in it. Anyway, we had a good look round the rest of the house and reassured her. Didn’t find a thing. It’s all quiet now. She’s upstairs on the sofa with my colleague. What else can I tell you? We’ve been here before, nothing serious, all alcohol related. She was meant to go the substance misuse people this morning to start on a programme. We gave them a call and the woman there said to call you guys, because if she’s having serious hallucinations and hearing voices, she should probably go to hospital. Anyway. See what you think.’
The policewoman moves off to make a few calls. I knock on the door, shout up ‘Ambulance!’ and we trudge up a flight of worn blue stairs to the living room.

‘Oh my good god, look who’s coming up now,’ says Chelsea. ‘That’s all I need. I’m not sick you know. You’re not carting me off to hospital.’
She is sitting on the edge of the sofa, a straight line from her hips to her eyes. She is a curious mixture, a cut-up collage of a woman; dance instructor, northern comic, clairvoyant. Her eyes are lightly underscored with sleeplessness, and she holds herself perfectly still as she talks, but despite the strange context of our visit and a living room crowded with uniforms, she seems remarkably sanguine.
I pull up a chair and lay the clipboard across my lap.
‘Chelsea? We heard a little bit from the police about what happened, but I’m still not exactly clear. Can you tell me what’s been going on?’
‘Right. What it was – this man broke in to the house and wouldn’t go. He was chasing me round, saying stupid things, you know, whispering, singing and carrying on and stuff. I kept trying to get him out but he just wouldn’t go and I got really scared. Then he jumped in the cupboard and I could hear him whispering behind the door. So I ran out and called police. When they got here he’d gone, thank god. All I need is to change the locks and I’ll be fine. Honest. There’s nothing else going on. I’m not mad.’
‘The thing is Chelsea, there are some aspects to the story that don’t quite add up. You know this cupboard the man hid in? The police say it’s really, really small. Too small for anyone to hide in. So from our point of view, you can’t blame us for thinking maybe what you were having was some kind of hallucination.’
‘Once he was out I was fine. I just need the locks changing.’
‘The police said you’re due to start an alcohol detox programme soon.’
‘Yeah. I was supposed to go this morning, but all this business stuffed it up.’
‘When was the last time you had a drink, Chelsea?’
‘Four days. Maybe five.’
‘I think it’s a brilliant thing to do. It’s definitely worth it, but it’s going to be tough. You know more about this stuff than me, though. All the side effects.’
‘Yeah. I’ve done it before. I know what happens.’
‘So you know you can suffer with hallucinations – incredibly vivid, you can’t tell them from the real thing – but hallucinations nonetheless.’
‘Yeah.’
‘So do you think it’s possible this man in the cupboard could’ve been a hallucination? Horrible and scary, but not what you might call real?’
‘Yeah.’
She stares at me.
‘But now he’s gone, you can all bugger off.’
‘Let’s just check your blood pressure and what have you. There are other things that can upset your balance, and we ought to rule them out before we decide what to do next.’
‘Fair enough. Only hurry up ‘cos I need to go out and get some fags.’
Frank runs through the procedure whilst I fill out the paperwork.
The flat is geometrically tidy, everything laid out on an invisible grid. It’s like sitting in an Etch-O-Sketch drawing of a room, angular and flat, with a spikiness to the air that even the bright morning sunlight spilling in through the window does little to warm.
‘Everything checks out,’ I say.
‘Good. I could’ve told you that and saved you the bother.’
‘The only thing that’s unusual is this story about the intruder, though.’
‘I’ve told you. He was behaving very odd, all the things he was saying, the way he said them. I was scared. Anybody would be. You would be. And then when he shut himself away in that cupboard, I didn’t know what else to do but get the police. Now he’s gone, I’ll be fine. Honest.’
She smiles at us pleasantly.
‘All I need do is change those bloody locks,’ she says.

13 comments:

Karla said...

Another great post! "The flat is geometrically tidy, everything laid out on an invisible grid. It’s like sitting in an Etch-O-Sketch" Brilliant! I am new to your blog and have spent the better part of a week reading the back posts. I'm almost caught up. So glad to hear you are writing a book! Stay safe. Karla

Mariodacat said...

you certainly do run into some unusual situations. I hope the lady gets some help, or you'll be back.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Karla. It's funny about the Etch-O-Sketch thing. I haven't seen one for years - utterly superceded by electronic toys now, of course. Compare the EoS with a DS - it seems so incredibly primitive! Just as magic, though. Still no idea how it works...

Cheers MarioDC
It's all out there...
Told you I'd put a cat in the next post! ;)

Jane said...

Ah poor woman - alcohol addiction is such a terrible thing. Had experience of it in my own family and see the effects of it everywhere.
Great description of the flat and "She is sitting on the edge of the sofa, a straight line from her hips to her eyes."

Mollie said...

I chuckled at "a cut-up collage of a woman. Sounds like our saying back home: been through the wringer twice.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Jane
Sorry to hear you had personal experience of these issues. Hope everything's good now. Alcohol has such a widespread effect - it makes up such a large part of our workload!
Thanks for the comment x

Hi Mollie
I love that: been through the wringer twice. I feel like that at the minute - but I'm just off to work, so I'll have to buck up! :/ x

Alexia said...

another fascinating but disturbing story...

you are such a clever writer! others have posted some great phrases above - I also like Her eyes are lightly underscored with sleeplessness - very nice!

Alison said...

I have just finished reading all of your blog entries. Some of them have made me feel very sad (mainly those about lonely elderly people) and others have made me laugh out loud! I am completely hooked on the blog and can't wait for your book. Please keep on writing!

Elaine said...

I found your blog about two months ago and I think I've read every post now. All I can say is WOW!

You're an incredibly gifted writer and it just keeps me coming back for more. Seriously, you should hold master classes in characterisation You're a genius, Spence.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Alexia

So many of the incidents we go to have that disturbing aspect; it's only reading back over them you get an impression of the number. I remember when I found a diary I used to keep when I was ten or eleven - half the entries were about the TV I'd watched that night! (Does that have anything to do with what we're talking about? Prob not - I'm delirious from lack of sleep!) :/

Hey Alison

Thanks v much. If you've read all of the entries you'll probably need either a stiff vodka tonic or a flick through the little book of calm - either way, thanks for perservering & the lovely comment!

Hi Elaine

So that's 2 VT's I've got to pour now.

It's really kind of you to say such lovely things. I don't know about characterisation - but I could def hold classes in procrastination. The internet's brilliant, but it's a bit of a curse too when you know you should be doing some writing but you've just got to check out the blog on the Apprentice or something... :/

California Girl said...

It's ironic, I think I can write and then I read your pieces (I don't even think of them as "posts") and I am knocked out by your descriptions of people and thinks. Your use of adjectives blows me away.

Wren said...

Spence, you're incredibly observant and have a wonderful imagination. I keep wondering how you come up with such apt analogies as you describe people, places and events. All that good stuff the other who've commented here have said about this post? Ditto. ;o) Stay safe, warm and well.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks v much, CG. I think if my head gets any bigger I'm going to have a job buying hats.

I think it's quite an advantage writing these things about events that have happened, so it becomes an exercise in putting myself back in the situation as best I can. I don't think I manage it half as well when I'm inventing the situations. It's much more difficult!

Thanks for the lovely comment, CG. Really appreciate it.

Hi Wren

Great to hear from you again. Hope you're well and everything's good with you.

It's like I was saying to California Girl - the people we meet in the job are often so vivid, and have such vivid things happening, that finding ways of describing them seems that much easier.

When I'm doing other writing, it's much more difficult. I've been struggling with a book now since Feb. Plotting is all over the place, characters not all that convincing blah blah sniff. :/ x