looking for geppetto

The front door is open. When I go in and close it, I see a sign thumb-tacked just above the letter box: Keep The Door Closed. 

I can hear Raymond talking animatedly on the phone in the front room. When I stick my head round the corner and wave, he waggles his free hand in the air and continues:

This is absolutely fucking ridiculous…. of course I can’t tell you the card number… well, for the simple reason I’ve lost the card. That’s the entire purpose of my call. If I had the card to read the number I wouldn’t be ringing you, would I? No I won’t calm down. I demand that you reinstate the two hundred pounds that was stolen from my account…. I don’t KNOW how they got the pin number. They’re CRIMINALS. That’s their JOB. All I want is for you to do YOUR job and give me back my money….

Something happens with the phone. He curses, holds it away from his face, bangs it twice on the arm of the chair and then tosses it out into the chaos of the room. 

‘Battery’s dead!’ he says. ‘You couldn’t do me a favour, could you?’

‘Of course.’

‘Locate the base that’s somewhere over there and charge it up again?’

The little front room is in a mess, as devastating as if flood water had unexpectedly rushed through the house and then back out again, leaving a tangled tideline of random stuff – trainers, trousers, duvet covers, exercise bike, milk cartons, who knows what. The only clarity in the place are the bookshelves, safely screwed to the walls out of harm’s way, the books neatly aligned in height order. They mostly seem to be about film, especially animation. Which makes sense, given the display on the hallway wall of some early Disney drawings – character studies of Jiminy Cricket, Figaro the cat, Pinocchio. 

I’d had some warning of the state of play this morning. The therapist who’d been in to see Raymond the day before had written an illuminating note: Patient reports that a stranger visited last night with a bottle of brandy – stayed for sex – stole money on his card. Police informed. 

Notes further back show that this isn’t an unusual event. Raymond has a long history of alcohol abuse and all the associated complications, medical and social. I’ve come round to dress the wound on his head, and generally see how he’s doing. 

He has no recollection of the fall.

‘Is that unusual for you?’ I say, gently cleaning the wound with saline, holding a swab to his eyeline to catch the drips.

‘No, sadly,’ he says. ‘It’s the booze, of course.’

‘I read that you tried a detox programme last year – which is good.’

‘Is it? Well – you get shunted into these things. My heart wasn’t in it. I’m afraid I didn’t just fall off the wagon I rolled it over and took everyone down with me.’

‘Worth trying again…?’

‘I don’t think so,’ he says, with a deflationary sigh. ‘It’s not worth it.’

I photograph the wound, dress it, check him over more thoroughly. He’s got lots of injuries, old bruises, new bruises. It’s like he drinks a bottle of brandy then throws himself into a giant tumbling machine. It’s a miracle he ever emerges. 

‘I love the Disney drawings you have on the wall,’ I say. 

‘Thank you.’

‘I remember the first time I saw Pinocchio. That scene where Lampy turns into a donkey. Good grief! And that bit where Pinocchio’s walking on the sea bed with a rock tied to his tail. Calling out Faaaa…ttttthhhherrr! And all the seahorses and clams and things come out to look. But when he asks them if they’ve seen Monstro the whale, they look terrified and disappear! I mean – what an absolute freakin’ nightmare!’

‘Yes,’ says Raymond. ‘I know. Story of my life.’

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