Monday, July 06, 2009

scusstin cat

The side of this new ambulance is blazoned with stroke information but I think it should carry advertising for beer. At least that way we could generate some income and buy a few more of these trucks, which make the rest of the fleet look like hand carts.
And after all, beer is the motive force behind the majority of the jobs we’ve been hit with tonight. Drunken assaults, assaulted drunks, unconscious drunks, drunken falls, self-harming (with a bottle opener), spiked drinks, and a man – drunk - wanting his hip operation bringing forward at eleven o’clock on a Saturday night as he was tired waiting on the list.
I need a drink. But I have to settle for a Diet Coke down on the seafront as the sun drags itself above the horizon and survivors of the Saturday night apocalypse clatter home.

One last call – a psychiatric / suicide. Patient given as slightly violent, which I query with Control. Should we stand off a touch? It’s up to us. Police have been assigned, no ETA. There’s a grey wash of exhaustion in the air. Even the seagulls are gliding smack into buildings.
Frank takes the ambulance round the corner and into the street. There is a young girl standing outside a house with a mobile phone. She waves to us, it all seems calm, so we park up and introduce ourselves.
‘Mel’s upstairs,’ she says. ‘She’s taken about a dozen of these pills and says she wants to kill herself.’
She hands us an empty blister pack of Citalopram.
‘Is that everything she’s taken?’
‘I think so.’
We follow her up the stairs of a sparsely furnished student house towards a bedroom on the landing where a girl is being comforted on an unmade bed.
‘I just want to kill myself,’ she chokes. ‘I’m worthless and no good and everyone’d be better off if I was dead.’
All three girls are spilling out of ultra-short club dresses, the glossily sweet aromas of their make-up and perfume cut with smoke and sweat and alcohol. They are hyper-sexed figures from a Manga strip struggling in the grim dimensions and gravity of this room.
‘Kill me. Just kill me and walk away,’ Mel says.
At some point in the night someone has drawn a cat nose and whiskers on her face. ‘I’m scusstin. I’m a scusstin person and I want to die.’
Frank and I sit down on the other bed in the room. I put the clipboard on my lap. It’s an intolerable temptation to kick off my boots, lie down on this bed and go to sleep, and for a moment I wonder if that might actually help. Maybe it would be a calming influence. I remember reading an article about the psychiatrist R D Laing. If a patient was having a psychotic episode and was crouched on the floor with their hands over their heads, he would crouch down next to them and do the same. I bet R D Laing would’ve had no problem lying down. The shock factor. The distractingly idiosyncratic move. I could wake up after an hour or two, Mel would have straightened out, I could go home.
Instead I say: ‘What’s happened tonight to spark this off?’
Mel starts banging her head against the wall and her friend hugs her to stop it.
‘Nothing,’ the friend says, stroking away the strands of blond hair that are sticking to Mel’s face. ‘We had a nice time, came home, then this. She’s been like it before, but never as bad.’
Mel starts scratching at her legs, but her nails are all bitten back, so it doesn’t cause any damage.
‘Can’t you just give me an injection to kill me?’ she says.
There is a knock on the door downstairs and two policemen come thumping up the stairs.
I explain the situation to the first of them, a tall, buzz-cut guy whose blue eyes are no doubt capable of projecting his CV onto the wall.
Meanwhile, Frank says to Mel: ‘Do your family live nearby?’
‘They’re all miles away and I bet they’re glad about that.’
‘Brothers? Sisters?’
‘A little sister.’
‘What’s her name?’
‘Imagine if Claire came to you and told you she was really sad and wanted to kill herself. What would you say to her?’
‘I’d say don’t be stupid.’
‘Would you tell her she wasn’t thinking straight? She was being too hard on herself?
There is a pause. The policeman has tucked his hat under his arm; his colleague stands behind him on the hallway discretely studying his watch.
Mel suddenly snatches up the empty packet of Citalopram and shakes it in the air.
‘These are meant to be happy pills but they don’t fucking work.’
She starts trying to bang her head on the wall again.
The policeman steps into the room. We make room for him on the bed.
‘Now Mel,’ he says. ‘Don’t do that or I’ll have to restrain you.’
He puts his hat on the windowsill, sits down between us then leans forwards to take her hands. For a moment they sit like that, Mel cradled in her friend’s lap, both her hands held by the policeman.
‘I’m scusstin,’ she whispers. ‘I’m a scusstin person and I have to kill myself.’
‘You’re not disgusting, Mel. I’ve only known you a few minutes but I would say you’re a well loved young woman who just feels a bit under the weather at the moment. Why don’t you come with these guys to the hospital and speak to someone about how you feel?’
‘A little ride in the ambulance, Mel,’ I say, sounding like a poor salesman. ‘The pills you’ve taken won’t cause you any harm, but the fact you took them is a worry. We need to make sure you’re safe. So why not come with us to the hospital and we can find someone for you to talk to? Otherwise, I’m afraid it’ll mean a trip to the cells.’
The policeman gives me a slantways look.
‘I don’t think that’ll be necessary,’ he says. ‘I know Mel’s going to be sensible about this.’
Ten minutes later, he leads her down the stairs and into the ambulance. The policeman explains to her why he believes she is a worthwhile person. I chat to her friend about her studies.
Mel moans and pulls her hair. ‘I’ve done bad things, scusstin things. I’ve had sex with boys to make them like me.’
‘When?’ says her friend.
‘All the time. I don’t tell you ‘cos I think you’ll hate me.’
She starts scratching and slapping at her legs.
‘Don’t make me have to restrain you,’ says the policeman, reaching out to take hold of both her hands again.
She stares at him, a smudged and bedraggled, scusstin cat, paw to paw with the long arm of the law in the early hours of the morning.


Rob Walker said...

"She stares at him, a smudged and bedraggled, scusstin cat, paw to paw with the long arm of the law in the early hours of the morning."

My favorite line in the whole piece. Well done, Spence.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks for that, Medic7

I must admit I was a bit worried about leaving that one in. I thought it might read a bit like a rap lyric! I know I can get a bit carried away sometimes... :0)

petrolhead said...

Don't you dare take any of it out! It's all brilliantly written, you should write for AmbulanceUK, it could do with livening up! ;)

I really hope Mel was OK in the end, it certainly sounds like she needed help, but the fact she had friends with her who cared is good. The police officer sounds like he helped too, which is always nice to hear. It makes a change from hearing about police brutality!

Nagrom said...

A really good piece of writing - Particularly that line.
Just happened across your blog - Am enjoying it very much, makes me miss the work.

Anonymous said...

rap lyrics are the way forward fo shu bro


Wren said...

That last line touched me, as well, Spence. It brought out an involuntary "awww" of empathy for the girl, so obviously caught up in a precariously poor self-image, that basher of youthful hope and exhuberance.

But I also liked your description of how weary you were after a long night of dealing with drunks. "Even the seagulls are gliding smack into buildings." You do have a way with words.


family affairs said...

Oh, sorry, I thought it was the lyrics to a rap song Lx

Spence Kennedy said...

PH - I think it'd take a cartoon strip and a free gift to make Ambulance UK readable.
Mel was lucky in having such good friends. They were very supportive - especially considering how tired they must've been. The policeman was good, too - if a little scary (to me). xx

Thanks for that Nagrom!
Blacksmithing? What a cool thing to do! I always did fancy a bit of metalwork.

Anon - respect...yo

Thanks v much Wren!
God I was tired that night. And you can feel the dial on your tank of human tolerance and understanding tending to empty. I kind of fade - probably shrink a little... xx

Hey FA!
West side ;0) xx

Kaz said...

Hi Spence,
That brought a lump to my throat, so glad my two teenage daughters are happy and confident, its so sad to read about youngsters who feel that way about themselves.. I hope she will be ok


loveinvienna said...

I liked that line too - bit of poeticism ;)

Poor Mel. Glad she had her friends, you and the policeman (who seemed rather gentle and understanding, despite the buzz-cut) to help her sort herself out.

Was this bout of depression alcohol-related? Had a friend a few years ago who drank far too much at a house party and terrified us all by locking himself in the bathroom with a kitchen knife. I had to get two of the bigger lads to break the door in to make sure he was ok (he was, he'd passed out on the bath mat). It was definitely caused by the alochol - he was usually a chipper lad. As you can imagine, his parents weren't impressed when they got home...

Hope you've caught up on the zzzs :)
Liv xxx

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Kaz
I know what you mean. So often I'm attending jobs where young girls/women are involved and I'm thinking - yikes! I hope this won't be any of my girls when they're a bit older! (There was one today - I felt v protective).

Hey Liv
Yep - alcohol def played a part. It's easy to forget that it's actually a depressant.
I hope Mel's okay now - and realises just how great her friends are (I'm sure she does).

Chimera said...

Excellent stuff. the policeman's eyes..exhaustion, the manga girls. Its the fine detail you do so well.
Tanvi x

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks Tanvi x

Henry said...

Bloody hell Spence, that was an amazing read.

Spence Kennedy said...

Thanks v much, Henry!