Monday, May 07, 2012

theseus and the junkie

The lowest level of the underground car park only has a couple of cars left, huddled up close to the barriers. The rest of the space leads off before us, a strip-lit catacomb, resonantly empty, tiny stalactites of gunge quivering from the joints in the concrete ceiling, dripping into puddles of oily water.
‘We need a ball of string and a sword,’ says Frank, playing his torch ahead. ‘Hello? Ambulance?’

A voice from the other side. ‘Over here mate.’

***

Vince has overdosed on heroin. He lies on his side, taking occasional, deep-brain gasps, the very minimum. His girlfriend Sonia stands over him, swaying from side to side with a beer can in her hand, her long hair hanging down partially obscuring her face. Her words are slurred but she’s still able to tell us what we need to know.
‘Where’s the needle, Sonia?’
‘Don’t worry, mate. I’m good about that shit. I dropped it in the can. Listen.’
She gives it a shake. It rattles.
‘How long’s he been like this?’
‘Twenty minutes or so. I tried pinching him out of it but it didn’t do no good. So then I called you. Sorry. Sorry, mate. It’s a fuss about nothing, I know.’
She kneels down by Vince and shakes him by the shoulder. ‘Vince! Vince, you muppet. You o-deed again. Vince!’
We set him up with an airway and oxygen mask. I support his breathing whilst Frank jabs him in the arm with a shot of Narcan.
‘What’s he like when he comes out of these?’ asks Frank.
She shrugs. ‘All right. He’s all right. I mean to be honest with you he won’t be all that happy about it, but he’s all right. Aren’t you? Hey? Vince?’
After a few minutes Vince starts to show signs of movement. He groans, and finally sits up. I take off the mask as he gags and pulls out the airway. Sonia kneels beside him and hugs his head.
‘Vince, mate. You were so out of it. These guys saved your life, man!’
He curses blindly and pushes her away.
‘I’ll feckin’ do yous’ he says. ‘The feck.’
‘Vince! They saved your life.’
He staggers to his feet, his legs planted more than shoulder width apart, swaying forwards and backwards so violently it’s a miracle he stays upright. ‘The feck are yous,’ he says, drool from his lower lip like one of the stalactites has taken root in his mouth.
‘Vince – ease off, mate. You need to go to hospital so they can keep an eye on you. I think you’ve had some of that strong gear that’s going around.’
Vince takes a swing, but all his movements are so thickened by heroin it’s like he’s fighting underwater. Frank could make a cup of tea in the time he has to side-step the punch; Vince topples forwards onto the concrete again.
‘Vince! What’re you doing, man? They’re here to help you. You were proper out of it.’
But Vince is muttering, grunting like an anaesthetised bull, struggling to get back on his feet to attack us again.
We step aside and try to calm him down from a little way off. He needs to understand that the Narcan will wear off, that he’ll be vulnerable again. Sonia does her best to make him understand but he’s too enraged to listen.
Time passes.
We become distracted by some of the grafitti on the walls this end of the car park. Amongst the tags and crude pictures and phone numbers – a love poem, written in green marker pen, whose closing lines are:
So do me a favour and remember what I said
That girl was everything to me – and she was quality in bed
Sonia comes over.
‘He’s not going,’ she says. ‘But I know what to do. I’ll keep an eye on him.’
‘Are you going to be all right down here?’ I ask her. It’s inconceivable that anyone could spend the night in this place, let alone a young woman on her own.
‘Oh yeah,’ she says. ‘It’s normally just me and the dog.’

8 comments:

I'm Hannah said...

I wish my man would write me a poem as pretty as that....

Spence said...

Just goes to show there's poetry in the darkest places.

Maybe you've just got to take him down a few more underground car parks for inspiration... :/ x

I'm Hannah said...

eeek!
on second thoughts...

jacksofbuxton said...

Isn't it time that a Government somewhere took a grip with drugs?Wouldn't it be easier and safer to allow addicts to take drugs in a safe environment?You'll never stop people taking the bloody things,but wouldn't it help control the issue?Save you and Frank risking life and limb to deal with OD patients in underground car parks.We have ways,legally,of stopping people smoking and drinking.Why not offer the same for drug addiction?

jacksofbuxton said...

Also hope you had a good bank holiday weekend as well Spence.Regards to you and yours.

Spence said...

Jacks - Totally agree. The whole drug thing is way out of control & proportion. I can't imagine we'll ever have a government that's brave enough to take the necessary steps, though. I suppose they're always going to be chary of being seen as 'soft' on drugs. But something's got to give.

It's true that there is a rehab programme for users, though. Methadone gets prescribed quite regularly, and there are needle exchanges to make things a little safer. So not all bad news, I suppose.

Bank holiday was great, thanks. Hey, Jacks - our dog Lola won 1st place in the 'Dog with the Prettiest Eyes' class at the local May Bank Holiday fete. (And then - 2nd best in show!) I know! Who'd have thought it! Inordinately pleased. Don't even mind that we spent about a tenner on various tombola and didn't even win a tube of smarties.

Hope you had a good one. :0)

jacksofbuxton said...

Well done to Lola.I once won a potato most like it's owner competition....

Spence said...

It's probably worth pointing out that the judge of the competition was our local vet. So although the official title of the category was 'Dog with the Prettiest Eyes', unofficially I think it was 'Dog whose owners the Vet most wants to keep sweet because they must have spent about a million and a half pounds on pointless drugs & minor surgery over the last few years.'