Low down and dozing in the seat, my knees wedged up on the dash. The interior lights are off but the engine is still running, the radio tripping quietly in the background. Dark figures move around the hospital forecourt, smoking, chatting, making calls, occasionally hurrying out from the lobby into taxis. The night is warmer than it was and a fog is coming in from the sea, rising up over the wall in hectic, luminescent rags. I watch the perimeter streetlamp; it darkens and dims, darkens, dims, as the fog rolls around it; and after a moment it’s easy to imagine that it’s not the fog moving but us, and that this is the deck of a ship, and we are its crew, standing or sitting, alone or in groups, all lit by that fitful orange lamp, sliding inexorably together into dissolution.
I am fading. Lain down and done. I see rather than feel my mouth slackening, my breathing becoming heavier. I am the ghost of an ancient photographer asleep behind the drapes of his tripod, dreaming images onto the plate:
a man shouting and crying, raising his arms; a police officer swiping them aside and speaking sternly;
a Community Responder kneeling in the hallway, bobbing up and down like a beam pump;
the livid red marks around the young girl’s neck from the dressing gown cord she hanged herself with;
the lightless pits of her eyes;
the co-ordinated mess of the effort to save her; the tubes, chemicals, syringes, pads; the paramedic coolly speaking to himself, watching himself – sharps away - the right thing done, the right order;
outside for more equipment; faces on the verge, watching and shivering;
the inconsequential weight of her as we snap the scoop stretcher into place, top, bottom; can we use the dressing gown to lift her hips a little? thanks.
the slick, blue fury of the drive to hospital; a car, pulling over to the side of a deserted street, putting on its hazards and watching as we pass;
the faces gathered round the trolley in resus all looking in our direction as we push through the doors; taking over compressions, thank you;
the facts; the flock of gloves efficiently following their appointed movements;
the police officer outside resus, opening a notebook;
liaising with the second crew; swapping back equipment that got mixed up on scene; tidying the back of the truck;
retrieving the scoop from resus; the doctors and nurses have dispersed now, the few that are left in the room are detaching lines, moving apparatus aside, finishing off, insulating themselves with banality;
the immature line of her hips as we ease the scoop stretcher apart; and on settling again, the gentle tipping inwards of her toes;
a cup of coffee, a sheet of paper, picking white fluff from my trousers;
climbing into the cab, turning the lights off, sliding down into the seat, the fog flowing up over the perimeter wall, the lamp beginning to move, and letting myself be dragged along behind it, irresistibly out to the very furthest line of that black horizon, the limit of the world, where the sun must surely rise again soon, as it always has, and people wake to see it.