It’s late, and the last customer is hurrying out of the door of the takeaway with her food. She’s followed not long after by the man who served her, carrying a big black bag of trash that he tosses without looking into the paladin just outside. He wipes his hands on his apron and glances at us as we stand waiting outside the neighbouring door, then goes back inside, flipping the ‘Closed’ sign behind him.
Rae raps the knocker one more time.
Finally, just as we’re wondering what to do next, the glass above the door lights up, and a moment later a young woman is standing in front of us.
‘Are you the patient?’ says Rae.
‘Do you want to come out to the vehicle?’ says Rae. ‘Have you got everything you need? It’s cold tonight. What about a coat?’
The woman touches the sweatshirt tied round her waist.
‘This’ll be fine,’ she says.
She follows us onto the truck.
Meg is twenty. Even though it’s freezing tonight, she’s just wearing a Goth-black singlet and jeans. She has an intricate tattoo on her shoulder, a burlesque figure, with roses and lilies trailing down the forearm, almost hiding the puckered stripes where she cut herself with a razor tonight.
‘We were told you took some pills too. Is that right, Meg?’
She nods, and reaches down into her bag, pulling out a bundle of empty packets.
‘Have you taken all of these?’
She smiles and nods, her hennaed hair mussed and tumbling over her face.
‘Why did you take these tablets, Meg? What did you want to happen?’
‘I don’t know,’ she says. ‘I just took them.’
‘I’m sorry to ask you these questions, Meg, but we need to be clear. Did you want to kill yourself tonight?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘And did you call the ambulance?’
She nods, and apologises whilst I put the BP cuff round her good arm.
‘Sorry it’s cold,’ I say.
‘So I’m guessing that because you called the ambulance you changed your mind about killing yourself. Is that right?’
‘Good. I’m glad you did, Meg. Because now we can start getting you some help. Talking of which, I’ve got this lovely black milkshake...’ She shakes the activated charcoal up and down like a cocktail waitress in a bar. ‘It’ll start neutralising the tablets whilst we get you to hospital. I can’t promise it’ll taste all that good, but it’s important you drink it down. At least it’ll give you some interesting teeth.’
Meg smiles, and hugs herself when I take the cuff off.
‘There,’ says Rae, unscrewing the cap and handing her the bottle.
Meg takes it in her hand, puts it to her nose, gives it a sniff. Then she offers it to Rae.‘Want some?’ she says.