‘If it is Martin, that’s some kind of record.’
We were only signing his birthday card that evening at nine. Happy fortieth. Have a good one. And here he is – we can tell as soon as we pull up it is Martin – lying in the recovery position on the pavement barely a hundred yards from the pub they started at.
Martin works on reception at A&E. He’s always looked slightly out of place there. A slight, well-groomed man, he should be the brand manager of a hair products company, or a journalist on a fashion magazine. Sometimes he wears a badge on his shirt: Gay Icon.
Jessica, one of the other receptionists, is kneeling next to him, stroking his lovely hair, her breasts ballooning dangerously out of the tiny dress she’s packed herself into, her sling-backs off and in the gutter. She coos and clicks, like someone coaxing a kitten out of a tree.
‘Matty! Matty! Come on, my lovely darling! Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? You’re a good boy, that’s who! Maaaa-ttttty!’
‘So tell us what happened, Jessica?’
She pushes the hair out of her eyes and adopts a clownishly serious expression.
‘You know Matty, don’t you?’ She puts a hand to the side of her mouth and whispers: From - the - hospital?
‘Yep. We only saw him a couple of hours ago. That’s pretty fast work.’
‘We were supposed to be going on to a club, but silly Matty took some ketamine and here we are! Maaa-ttty? The lovely ambulance people have come to rescue you. Come on, Matty!’
She smiles up at us again, her eyes so big they suck the light from the streetlamps along this section.
We check him over. As soon as we’re happy he doesn’t need immobilising, we get the trolley out and haul him on to it. The whole time we’re doing this, Jessica staggers around, trying to help but getting in the way, leaning in to kiss Matty on the head and each time almost pitching onto the trolley herself.
‘Just give us a bit of room there, Jessie. You can come on board when we’re all settled.’
‘Maa-tttty! I’m here, babe. Love you.’
She gets a phone out to call someone, but ends up frowning and holding it close up like she was trying to make it work with the sheer power of her mind.
* * *
A thrill of attention as we roll into the department.
Blimey! He said he was going to have a good time...
Oh my good god! Three hours!
And so on.
Martin senses where he is, and jumps off the trolley in horror.
‘Quick! He’s in a K hole!’ says Jessie, grabbing him by the hands and pushing her face into his. ‘Matty! Matty!’
Alison, the Charge Nurse, does her best to rescue him, but Martin pulls away, mumbles something, lurches off across the corridor to the far wall, then sinks to the floor.
‘Let’s get him in a side room,’ says Alison. Jessie staggers over, but Alison keeps her away. ‘You’re making it worse,’ she says. ‘Go and get yourself a coffee. Try to sober up.’
‘Love you, babe!’ says Jessie, kissing her hand and blowing on it.
Then she turns back to us.‘What have you done with my shoes?’