Saturday night, and the town centre has reached that tipping point between the closing of the pubs and the opening of the clubs, when everyone’s drunk as much as they need or want, taken as much as they need or want, and spilled out onto the streets, loaded with just enough to make the distance between here and there. It’s an impressive, natural phenomenon, a migration along ancient pavements, pineal glands fizzing like sparklers.
Alexi hasn’t quite made it, though. She’s in a heap of friends on a bench in a pedestrianised street, but it’s difficult at first to work out who’s who amongst the tangle of flamingo legs, spangly tops, fright mascara. Somehow, almost by weight, Alexi rises to the front, surrounded by anxious faces & words.
She was unconscious!
She has a head injury!
She fell over!
Oh my god!
Alexi we love you babe…
Alexi is the least concerned of all of them. When I touch her on the arm and lean in to figure out if she’s the patient and if she actually needs any help, she leans in to me in a mirror image of concern.
‘I didn’t call you!’ she says. ‘Whoever you are.’
‘We’re the ambulance, Alexi. Your friends say you banged your head.’
‘I did. I fell over in the toilets and banged my head. But I’m fine. Honestly.’
‘Would you mind coming on the ambulance and having a chat? It’s a bit noisy here.’
The way her friends react you’d think I was inviting Alexi into theatres to have a heart transplant.
Oh my god!
Shall I call your mum?
Is she going to hospital?
She was unconscious, officer
Alexi we love you babe…
A biblical wail as I shut the door.
Alexi flops down on a chair, pulls out her phone and starts texting.
‘Alexi? I won’t keep you long. I just need to find out what’s happened and whether you need hospital or not.’
She lowers the phone, and then squints at me.
‘Hospital? Why’m I going to hospital?’
‘You’re not, at the moment. We’re just trying to figure out what happened. Your friends said you fell over and banged your head.’
‘In the pub toilets.’
‘Have you hurt your head?’
She leans forward. I root around her extensions, but don’t find anything other than glitter.
‘I didn’t call you,’ she says, straightening up again and flicking her head to settle her hair back in place. ‘This is so embarrassing.’
‘What do you remember about the accident?’
‘I don’t want to remember it, thanks very much.’
‘I need to hear you tell me what happened.’
‘God! I went to the loo. There was a big queue. I was dicking around. You know. Kung fu. But there was a load of water on the floor and I slipped over and bumped my head. That’s it. About a thousand people saw me do it. I just want to go home and kill myself.’
‘Your friends seem to think you were knocked out.’
‘I wasn’t. I may have closed my eyes for a bit to make it go away, but that was all.’
She frowns and leans forward to look at me again.
‘Who d’you say you were again?’
‘The ambulance, Alexi. How’s your vision?’
‘All over the place. But I think that’s probably the vodka, mate.’
‘Any nausea, vomiting?’
‘No. I’m fine. I’m fine. Look – can I just go, please? I’ll sign anything, anything you like.’
We release her back into the wild.
Her friends close around her, bear her away in a shrieking mass
Just as I’m about to get back in the cab, a woman from the pub comes over. She’s wearing a fluorescent armband, but I don’t think she’s a bouncer. She carries a clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other.
‘Not going to hospital, then?’
‘Er – no. She bumped her head in the toilets, but her recall’s fine, she’s not showing any concerning symptoms, she doesn’t want to go to hospital, so…’ I shrug and smile. The woman doesn’t return it.
‘So – not going to hospital.’
‘No. She doesn’t need it.’
The woman frowns at me.
‘In your opinion.’
‘In my opinion.’
The woman writes something on the form, and talks as she does it.
‘Alcohol plus head injury, but in medic’s opinion, doesn’t need hospital.’
‘No,’ I say. ‘She’s fine.’
The woman clicks her pen.
‘Let’s hope so,’ she says.