My first time in an ambulance

Written for Traumaqueen

I hadn’t meant to talk to him.

He’d called and I thought it best to anwer.

In the hours before, I’d organised my belongings, such as they were. I lived in a tiny room in the back of someone’s house: who knows who. I lived in a bad part of town, wrong side of the river, but it was mine and I loved it.

My chest of drawers was screwed to the wall at the end of my single bed because there was no space for it on the floor; I had a wardrobe and a shelf otherwise and very little to put in them, and I liked it that way.

I was 17 and trying to be independent, trying to deal with my failures and the early crumbling of a plan which seemed sound. Monday to Friday I went to work as a clerical assistant in the office where my mum was a manager, trying to quietly complete my SYS qualifications after my early excision from school where I never really belonged, but desperately longed to. I had been banished, like a deeply disappointing Scottish ghoul, to the inner reaches of the North East, where my negative influence could be safely surrounded and buffered by middle-aged women with smiles and children and harmless chatter.

In the evenings I met with other angst-ridden, goth-dressed, dog-collared adolescents: we drank coffee, got drunk, had ill-advised relationships and blurred the boundaries of friendship on an almost nightly basis.

Everyone was “bisexual” for one reason or another – to piss their folks off; to piss their friends off; to get to the person they really wanted to fuck, perhaps. We had fun, in a fucked-up sort of way, almost competing to be the most bonkers, or the least succesful. Fortunately, comparing the percentage of your youth spent getting pissed in the Market Bar, pissing off the staff in Costa Coffee, or engaging in mostly-harmless street wars with Invernesian neds is an excellent way to judge your success in life or lack of it.

I’d walk home, alone, through areas I knew from my work: ill-advised places for a seventeen year-old girl in a bright blue studded dog-collar and a variety of outfits from that season’s most haute couture goth range of clothing (black baggy jeans with a black, ripped vest top, preferably made of lace and showing bra) to be.

I probably deserved the kickings I was anticipating but never received. I never had so much as a sideways glance from the people who could see a mile-off I didn’t belong in their territory. I think, no, I know I wanted that kicking. I desperately wanted them to jump me; punch me; kick me to the ground and finish the job.

After my evenings of coffee and group-misery, I went home begging for a kicking and when I didn’t receive it found myself having to improvise cut-off tights for sleeves to cover the scars on my arms.

I saw a psychologist: I expect she was very expensive- she did house-calls and everything.

I had a prescription: I never took it. It sat on my shelf and looked at me strangely until I was forced to hide myself away from its sight.

I had friends, family, stability and freedom of a sort: I was very lucky, very cared-for, but very unhappy and I couldn’t understand why.

In the end I had blood on my walls, on my sheets, on my razorblades, on my arms. Pills in my stomach.

I hadn’t intended to answer when he phoned to chat, but I did and I must have sounded strange.

“How are you doing” he asked. He was older, a good friend, more aware than most.

“I’m ok”

“Good, why’s that? What’s happened”

“Nothing, it doesn’t matter any more”

“… I don’t understand. Are you alright”

“It’s ok, none of it matters any more”

“What have you taken? I’m calling an ambulance. Stay there”

I cried, and begged and in the end accepted it was coming, and I must have wanted it to come or I would have pretended better. I sat on my bed, looked at the piles of belongings I had made, names and notes and explanations I wouldn’t need. I looked at the dishes I had washed, the bed I had stripped and the sheets I’d laundered.

I put the notes away and went outside to wait for the ambulance.

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2 thoughts on “My first time in an ambulance

  1. This is great writing, from the heart.I said it when I first read it that you are very brave for sharing this and yet again I have a massive lump in my throat and tears running down my cheeks xx

  2. Maybe you remember me, maybe you don’t. That’s not what’s important. We haven’t spoken in over a decade. I came across your blog in a fit of reminiscience this evening, while looking for all the people I used to know.

    What is important is that I’ve spent the last five hours unable to sleep, thinking about what you’ve written here, and what I’ve discovered your life. I can’t quite explain why, but what you’ve written has struck something deep within me and stirred up a lot of things that had become a distant, unfamiliar memory. In the spirit of semi-anonymised public detailing of one’s innermost thoughts, and because I can’t find your e-mail, I feel compelled to share this with you here, to be lost to the depths of cyberspace.

    If you turn your mind back nearly 15 years now, you may remember those interminable journeys in the school bus. You may remember the lads in the year above you, particularly the slightly over-weight lad with the bad haircut and a penchant for eating sweets and being miserable. Yup, that’s me.

    I realise now that the appropriate term is “depression”. Everything around me acquired a certain bitterness. Life was measured in millimetres left to pull on a trigger. The black dog, ever faithful, haunted me.

    At the time, all I wanted was for someone to care about me; to love me. Most people thought I was acting for effect, and left me alone on my bad days. Specifically, I had wanted the person to care about me to be you. I said nothing, being too self-absorbed, with a self-worth at rock bottom, and a predictable response in my ears. It’s somehow cathartic to say it all openly now. I remember you once saying that someone should give me a hug. For various mundane reasons of time and space, you couldn’t, and no-one else offered. If one thing could ever have made a difference, it would have been that.

    Reading what you’ve written here, I suddenly see things quite differently. I had no idea that you knew anything about what it was like, no idea about the issues you had yourself. I couldn’t see beyond myself. If I’d known, maybe I’d have seen things differently. Maybe it wouldn’t have made any great difference, but just knowing there was someone else there who understood would have helped.

    Times have changed since then. I went to university and faltered through. I lost four stone and got fit. I fell in love, and found someone who did care, and still does. I went back to university and am about to get a doctorate. I’m looking to settle down and start a family in the forseeable future.

    The black dog is still there. He sits in the corner, part of the furniture, but still watching. He’s tamed now, but he’s kept on a tight leash. I found a niche where I can be happy and now I can see the world without that shroud, and it’s a wonderful place. Occassionally I still wish I’d gone those final few millimetres, but now I’m reminded of what I have to live for.

    It is my sincere hope that you find someone, something, some change that will break the cycle you’re in, as I have. I hope you find it soon. You say you are honest and loyal and loving and kind and funny and strong, and I believe you. On top of that, you are one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever met, and from the look of your photo, that hasn’t changed. You are not a failure. You have a fighting spirit, you have enormous potential, and you will succeed. It just needs time, drive, and a pinch of luck.

    I’d like to leave you with that hug you offered all those years ago. I think you need it more than I do now.

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