A linked metal walkway runs from the park entrance across the grass to the temporary ice rink, a long, white marquee cut out against the night by a sequence of halogen lamps. The whole thing has an Arabian feel, its domes swooping and sharp. The sides of the marquee are made of glass. You can just make out all the people inside, drinking and eating and watching, sitting on the benches taking their skates off, or putting them on. Outside, ropes of coloured lights trace the square of the rink in the air above, whilst below, louder and louder the closer you get, the fuss of the skaters, the frenetic cut and slush of their blades across the ice.
Rae knocks on the door marked First Aid. Josh, the paramedic on duty, comes outside to talk to us.
‘A bit of a strange one,’ he says. ‘I didn’t really want to call you but in the end I didn’t have much choice. What we have is a twenty-five year old guy, collapse query cause, not even on the ice. He was strapping his skates on when he went over. I thought it was just going to be a faint, but then he was complaining of chest pain, so I did the works. Nothing out of the ordinary. Then this chest pain started to become a bit more generalised, mixed in with a spacey kind of attitude. So whether it’s medical, psychiatric, drugs…? I don’t know. In the end I thought I’d better get him off to hospital.’
‘And what’s his story? Where’s he from?’
‘Apparently he’s a student from miles up country, doing something post-grad and high-end. No relatives here. Nowhere to stay. Is a bit vague about the whole trip. So – who knows? Come and say hello. He’s called Adnan.’
But Adnan opens the door before we have a chance to go in. He stands there smiling at us, and I wonder how much he heard.
We introduce ourselves and ask if he’d like to come to the ambulance so we can have more of a chat there.
‘I want my money back on the skates,’ he says, and walks over to the kiosk before we can say anything. We wait just behind him whilst he explains the situation to the attendant. The attendant is confused, says there’s a no refund policy. For whatever reason, possibly because the manager knows the situation and sees us standing in the background, authorisation is given and Adnan gets his money back. He accepts it without much response, and follows us out to the vehicle.
I know what Josh means. There’s a strange disconnectedness about Adnan. He doesn’t behave in the way you’d expect from someone who’d collapsed at an ice rink and had the ambulance called. He answers our questions without offering anything else, with the kind of brittle, synthetically amused air you might expect from someone who thought they had nothing to explain. We re-do all the checks. Everything seems fine. When we ask how his studies are going, he shrugs and smiles. He has an exam tomorrow, but he’s not worried.
‘It’s a long way for you to get back tonight. How were you planning to do it?’
By train, he says. But he can’t tell us what time, or what he’ll do to get to the station.
We tell Adnan that we’re concerned about him, for the unexplained collapse, and for his well-being tonight. He smiles again, says he’ll be fine, and can he go now?
We finish the paperwork and show him off the vehicle. But instead of walking in the direction of the station, he heads back to the rink. We follow him, out of curiosity, and also to explain to Josh what happened.
Adnan buys another ticket, and then goes over to the kiosk to hire some skates. I can tell that the attendant is as confused as we are. He looks over in our direction for guidance, but we can only shrug. He takes the money from him – the money that he had only a little while ago given him back – and holds it in his hand as he watches Adnan go over to the benches, take off his shoes, and quietly strap on the skates.