Sunday, September 11, 2011

lifestyle changes

Keith is sitting half on, half off the ambulance seat, one hand on the Entonox mouthpiece and one hand on the arm rest. When the pain in his right flank comes on strong again he bows his head, clamps down on the mouthpiece and takes several deep draughts.
‘Is this like them helium balloons?’ he says as the pain subsides. ‘Is this gonna make me go all Mickey Mouse?’
‘It lowers your voice a bit.’
‘Yeah? Well, so long as it eases the pain I don’t care what I sound like.’
‘Good. I’m glad it’s helping.’
A tall, powerfully built man in his early forties, the only thing that stopped the ambulance wheels lifting up at the front as he clumped up the back steps was the weight of his thickly gelled quiff acting as a counterbalance.
‘I’m stressed. I know I’m stressed,’ he gasps, struggling to find a comfortable position between the chair and the floor, his face pale and his eyes rimmed silver with the pain of it all. ‘Would that bring this on, d’you think?’
‘No, not really. Not if it’s renal colic or something like that.’
‘What else could it be then?’
‘Some kind of infection – don’t know. You need to see a doctor.’
He tokes on the Entonox and then studies me for a second.
‘Are you married?’ he says.
‘Yep. Married. Two kids.’
‘I was. We just split up.’
‘It’s not your fault.’
He takes some more Entonox.
‘Could it be the old Hong Kong Flu, do you think?’
‘How d’you mean?’
‘You know. The clap. An STD.’
‘It’s possible. Why?’
‘I saw this woman up town last week. Fifteen years, that’s the first time I done it.’
‘D’you mean a prostitute?’
‘I don’t know. I met her online. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was. Anyway, I seem to remember someone telling me it takes five days, then you can’t piss, and it feels like a donkey kicked you in the kidneys.’
‘Did you have unprotected sex?’
‘No. ‘Course not. I took a flick-knife.’
He laughs, but then the pain grabs hold of him again and he dives down into it with the mouthpiece clamped in his teeth and the demand valve hissing. When this bout ends, he slowly surfaces.
‘It’s good stuff, this,’ he says, waving the mouthpiece in the air. ‘Where can I get myself some?’
‘And it doesn’t give you a hangover.’
He hands me the mouthpiece.
‘No. You’re all right,’ I say.
‘Fair play.’
He takes some more as the ambulance moves off.
‘I’ve just changed my line of work,’ he says, shifting his position again. ‘That’s stress for you, right there.’
‘You’re not kidding. What did you use to do, then?’
‘I was in the house clearance game. Twenty years of it. It got so I could tell everything there was to know about a person, just by what they had around them in their house.’
‘I bet.’
‘I was good. I used to get all the best stuff.’
‘What about the relatives?’
‘Oh sure they’d circle overhead quick as you like. But I knew the tricky little places, you see. I knew where people liked to put things. I did all right. But it weren’t all plain sailing though. Sometimes we’d get called in to some terrible places. This couple I remember – hoarders, they were. Didn’t throw nothing away. I took three tonnes of paper out of that house. Piled up, great columns of the stuff, floor to ceiling. They’d made little alleyways – runs, you know, like rats - to move about. And of course the drains had packed in years ago, so you can imagine what the carsey was like. Hell on earth. After that job, my partner Malcolm, he burned all his clothes, shaved his head and took to wearing the strongest cologne you could imagine, but I could still smell it on him three weeks later. Made a profit, though.’
He pauses to draw on the Entonox again.
‘I could get used to this,’ he says when the pain has eased again. ‘But I know I’m stressed. I can feel it. What do you do about that, then? What do you do about stress?’
‘I don’t know. Talk to your doctor for one thing. There’s lots you can do.’
‘Like what? Pills, I suppose.’
‘Yeah – pills to help you sleep, calm you down, help you through the bad patch. But they could refer you on for some talking therapies – you know, counsellors who could help you with any lifestyle changes you might need to make.’
‘Lifestyle changes?’ he snorts. ‘Listen, mate. I’ve had enough of them already.’


VM Sehy Photography said...

Nice ending. Seems like he did have a lot of lifestyle changes going on.

I can't imagine cleaning up after hoarders. I just read a book about that. The descriptions of some of the houses made my stomach turn, and it takes a lot to do that. I love to clean up, but not that much.

Spence Kennedy said...

It's amazing how many houses you do come across that are piled up with stuff like that. And even though it looks like neglect, it's often the case that the person has rejected help and simply opted to live like that. A thin line between sanity and insanity, sometimes!

jacksofbuxton said...

When Mrs Jack was in labour with both our girls,she did ask the anaesthetist if she could take the gas and air home with her.

There was a piece on ipm on Radio 4 a few months back about hoarders.It can be an illness/obsession for these people.The guy they interviewed knew he had a problem,nut couldn't bare to lose anything he'd got in the house.

Spence Kennedy said...

It would be a very differnt kind of Saturday night experience if the pubs were all changed into Entonox bars. Raging drunk inside, but perfectly sober a moment later walking home. Nice.

I suppose you get a sense of the hoarder mentality when you hesitate to throw something away because you think 'Mm - that might come in handy later.' A feeling that's reinforced when later you think: 'If only I'd kept hold of that thing - it's just what I need for this thing.' But I fight the urge! I'm terrible. Half the time it's as much as I can do to resist throwing myself in the bin. :/

Unknown said...

I can't have gas n air, tightens my throat up, maybe my asthma don't like it. The idea of the entonox bars would make your jobs so much easier...great idea!!!!

I have to get into a frame of mind to Chuck stuff out... Mr trebous comes to mind (life of grime) when I read about houses rammed to the rafters.

Spence Kennedy said...

Mr Trebous has become the patron saint of hoarders. It's become a real thing (probably always was - just didn't hear about so much...)