Above the dark garden, the morning is sliding into definition, washes of blue and black.
There is a wide and brightly lit picture window to the left of the door, spilling light across a landscape of slabs and snails.
I pick my way over and peer inside.
Tristan is stretched out on his back on a sofa against the far wall of the studio, a mobile phone tucked beneath a shag of fried blond hair, one arm trailing down onto the laminate flooring. In a pleated white shirt unbuttoned to the waist, a dark satin waistcoat, tight black jeans and snakeskin boots that, toe to heel, he rocks gently from side to side - in those clothes, surrounded by this arty scattering of books and CD cases, he looks like an MTV riff on The Death of Chatterton.
I knock on the window again.
He pauses, turns his Kohl-rimmed eyes in our direction, but carries on with the call.
‘This is ridiculous,’ says Frank, stamping his boots on the paving stones, his breath misting in the early morning air. He turns away and then back again, inescapably roped to this place, this dead-or-alive hour.
‘I don’t think I can do this anymore.’
The update said that a crew had already been out to this address, to an overdose/poisoning. A twenty-one year old called Tristan had called for an ambulance at half past three, but refused hospital and sent the crew away. Two hours later, here we are.
I knock again, louder.
‘He’s coming,’ says Frank, ominously dropping his hands to his sides. ‘He’s coming. Right.’
Tristan opens the door.
‘Sorry, guys, sorry. I thought my flat mate was here. I thought I saw him walking towards the door.’ He frowns, and his gaze wanders off behind us to a point in mid-air, as if his flat mate was hovering somewhere above the hedge-line. Eventually after a few seconds he gives himself a little shake and refocuses. ‘Oh. Sorry. Thanks for coming, guys.’
Even though Tristan’s frame is slight, his voice has a rounded, melancholy tone, like someone blowing across the top of a milk bottle, or a bittern booming out on the marsh. Taken with his dark eyes and his abstracted gaze, he stands in the doorway with the wispy physicality of a rock’n roll sprite.
‘What am I thinking? Come in, come in.’
He shuffles ahead of us into the studio room and sits back down on the sofa.
‘My flat mate should’ve let you in.’
‘So why have we been called this morning, Tristan?’
‘I injected some heroin last night, and snorted some Methedrone to balance it all out. Methedrone, you understand? Not Methodone. Two very different things. Methadone’s a heroin substitute, yeah? Methedrone’s a stimulant. You can buy it on the web, man. It’s cool. Herbal. Cheap, too. But this weird thing – I rolled a cigarette, and then when I went to smoke it, it was already burned up, and the flat was all dark. I felt proper weirded out. It was like – woah! And then I got the shakes, and everything seemed to spazz out on me. I was a bit concerned, yeah? I’ve done this loads of time before, and that’s never ever happened to me. So I phoned up you guys for some advice. And the next thing I knew the ambulance people were here – just where you are now – all in green, like you. So they checked me over, and everything was fine. Then they said come to hospital. Which I didn’t understand. I mean, they’d checked me out, they said everything was fine, so why should I want to go to hospital? I’d only have to go if something was wrong, wouldn’t I? But everything was okay, and I felt much better about things, so they went away.’
Frank sighs and shifts his weight from one foot to the other.
Behind Tristan on the wall there are tiny art prints arranged in a diffuse grid from floor to ceiling. Except at the end of the sofa, where a three-quarter-sized photocard of a business man stands, his head replaced with a skull, smoking a giant reefer. A dusty folk guitar is propped up in the corner just behind him.
Tristan stares up at us.
‘What do you want me to do?’ he says finally.
‘What do we want you to do?’ says Frank. ‘What do you want to do? Why exactly have you called us?’
Tristan frowns, tilts his head to come at the problem from another angle, and starts again.
‘I took my normal drugs but they didn’t really work like I’d expected them to. I lost track of time, yeah? It was like falling into a black hole. I don’t know where my flat mate’s got to. I don’t know where anything is anymore. I’m feeling all … I don’t know … scattered.’
‘Look. Tristan. This is the second ambulance you’ve had out tonight. What did you want when you called us again?’
‘I thought it’d be the same people. I thought they would come back and we’d have another talk about what happened. What time is it?’
‘Do you want to go to hospital?’
‘You think I should go? Why? What’s wrong?’
‘You’ve taken some drugs, Tristan. They’ve made you all - scattered. I think you should go to hospital so someone can keep an eye on you.’
‘Well. If you think so.’
‘I think so.’
Frank turns round and walks out of the flat.
‘You’re going to need a coat, Tristan,’ I tell him. ‘It’s cold outside.’
‘Oh. I’ll be fine. I don’t need a coat. I don’t feel the cold. Or do you really think I’ll need a coat?’
‘Take a coat, Tristan.’
He stands up, but instead of moving off to look for his coat, he holds his position, listening.
‘Can you hear that?’ he says, turning his eyes on me. ‘There! There it is again.’
‘It’s the wind.’
‘No. I think it’s my flat mate.’
‘Come on, Tristan. Let’s go.’
He drifts after me into the garden, without a coat.
Your visual writing is so beautiful and Tristan is so stoned.
I love the term 'scattered'.
...he looks like an MTV riff on The Death of Chatterton...
Great line. Long time reader from across the pond. Just wanted to thank you for sharing your stories with us.
Jo - He was 'stoned immaculate' to quote Jim Morrison. Didn't need an ambulance - more a shaman. But we took him in anyway, sans coat. xx
Mark - Thanks for reading, and for your comment!
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