One of the police officers nods for a quick word off to the side.
‘Richard’s got a record for drug offences. Nothing violent, just a regular pain in the arse. Just so’s you know.’
The patrol car had come across Richard lying on the pavement having a seizure. But the strange thing was, he’d gone from full-on shakes and foaming at the mouth to jumping up and chatting. Now, he stands approximately upright, his body undergoing such a rapid series of contortions you can only think it’s drug-related. It’s as if a film had been taken of Richard in an awkward social situation – a study of all those casual changes of posture, the hip slouches, shifting from leg to leg, raising of eyebrows, frowns, smiles, head-shakes and stretches of the back – but then speeded the whole thing up by a factor of six. Now and again he plunges his right hand down the front of his tracksuit bottoms and fiddles around, clenching and unclenching his jaw, flicking his attention between us like a mouse surrounded by cats.
‘Hello Richard. My name’s Spence, this is Rae. How are you feeling?’
How am I feeling? I’m feeling good, thank you. How are you feeling?
‘Good thanks. Yeah – not bad. Now, Richard, the police have called us because they said you’d had a fit.’
A fit? Me? No. A fit? No. Who? I’m fine. Thank you.
‘Now – I’ve never met you before, Richard, so I don’t know what you’re normally like. But I have to say you’re behaving in a very bizarre manner.’
Bizarre? What do you mean? I think you’re bizarre. Who?
‘Have you taken any recreational drugs this evening?’
At this point one of the officers steps forward.
‘Richard? We don’t care if you have or not, mate. We just need to know so we can get you the treatment you need? Do you understand?’
Yes. Officer. Uh-hum. Yep. Treatment? What treatment? I’m fine. Seriously. I just had an argument with my boyfriend and I’m on my way home, if that’s okay with you.
‘How are you going to get home? I happen to know you live about fifty miles away.’
Do you? Do I? How interesting. Well – I’ll manage, thank you. Now, if there’s nothing else, I’d like to go. I don’t have to have treatment. I can refuse.
‘That’s true. But it’s our job to look after your well-being. If we don’t think you’re safe, we’re obliged to take care of you, otherwise we’ll get into trouble with the Coroner later on. So why don’t you let these good ambulance people check you over, and if they’re happy you can be on your way.’
No, thank you.
Another of the officers steps up.
‘One thing we have to do is search your bag and pat you down, Richard. Okay?’
Sure. No problem.
He takes his shoulder bag off and goes to tip the contents out on the pavement.
‘Whoa! Slow down, mate. Just put it down here and I’ll do it in my own time.’
He goes through the bag, holding up anything suspicious.
Poppers. That’s legal, that is. You can buy it in the shops. It makes it easier to take it up the arse, officer.
‘I see. What about these?’
Retrovirals. My prescription.
The search goes on, but apart from toothpaste, a diary and some other things, it all looks fine.
‘Listen,’ says the officer, zipping the bag up again and handing it to Richard. ‘The easiest thing would be for you to jump up on the ambulance and get checked over.
No. I refuse and you can’t make me. Just give me the papers to sign and I’ll go. I’m fine. Thank you.
‘Would it shock you to know that you don’t look fine. You’re behaving very strangely.’
Am I? I don’t feel strange. You look strange. Maybe you should go to hospital.
‘Yeah? Well. Maybe I should. At least I’d get a break from this shit.’
Suddenly Richard pulls his hand out from his trackie bottoms and holds it out to me.
Goodbye. And thank you for coming.‘Richard? Mate? I really don’t think he’s going to want to shake that.’