‘Jim! Calm down!’ I was thrashing wildly and strong yet gentle hands were holding me down.
‘Dad! I can’t stay here! I have to get back! I’m sorry. . . .’
‘Jim, I’m not your dad, I’m a paramedic. My name’s Rob. You’re in the back of an ambulance.’
I opened my eyes, then ceased thrashing. The eyes looking back at me weren’t those of my late-father; they were foreign, unknown.
‘How do you know my name?’ I asked, exhaustedly.
‘Well, you did have a wallet on you, but I know you anyway. You’re a journalist, right?’
‘You did a story not long ago, about country paramedics working criminally long hours and endangering patients’ lives.’
‘Yeah,’ I admitted. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘It’s ok,’ he smiled, ‘you heaped a lot more shit on the New South Wales health system than you did on us individually and, anyway, you’ve lucked out as I’ve had a full night’s sleep.’
‘That’s a relief. . . . Rob? How did you find me?’
‘A truck-driver reported your accident to us. You’re very lucky.’
‘Lucky?’ I said in disbelief. ‘A truck drove straight past me.’
‘That was the guy. He was out of radio-range and needed to keep driving closer to Tamworth in order to make the call. There’s not enough people out here to warrant a strong frequency.’
Freakin’ redistribution of federal representative boundaries, I thought.
‘We’re about one-hundred k’s from Tamworth. Just lie back and relax. You’ll be ok, but your arm and leg are . . . not good.’
I did as he said and relaxed, not worried about the right side of my body as I already knew it was fucked. I was just glad to be alive.
My little heart friend is starting to get just a little bit too jumpy. ‘Hey, calm down fella,’ I think. ‘I’m not a young man anymore.’ I shift my thoughts to the uncomfortableness of the wheelchair, which calms my heart a little, then shift my arse in order to get comfy. The song ends, and I sigh. Why do all beautiful things have to end? My housemate, and best mate in the world, Josh, yells from the kitchen: ‘Hey Jim, you want me to change the music? How ‘bout some Doors?’
The right side of my body tenses up, ‘No! How ‘bout some Aqua!?’
‘Yeah . . . right,’ he laughs, I’d spared him no part of that story, or at least what I could remember. ‘I’ll put on some Nirvana!’
That’ll do. It’ll be nice to reminisce about surf trips: driving around depressed ‘cause the surf’s no good, getting up to drunken mischief, then waking late to discover we’d missed some perfect, morning-glass. And of course listening to Nirvana to give the mood just that little bit more of a sharpening.
‘Hey dude!’ he yells. ‘She’s here!’
I turn and look into the house as the heavy base from Come As You Are starts flooding the house. She is here. I turn back and pretend I’m reading the paper. It’s hard: there’s nothing but wars ‘n’ crime ‘n’ rate rises in it. The screen door opens, closes, and her hand’s in my hair very quickly. Her touch sends wave after wave of pleasure down the side of my body I can still feel. Just like Lisa used to, ‘cept it was twice as good with her ‘cause I had total feeling back then. ‘How’re you doin’ today hon’?’ she purrs.
‘Goo . . . good,’ I croak, still as ill-at-ease around beautiful women as I was an eternity ago, as that 12 year old in the still-life painting.
‘You’ve been taking your pills, doing your exercises?’
‘Well, the pills taste awful and the exercises make me think I’d’ve been better off with a double-amputation, but yeah, mostly.’
‘If you took the pills without complaining, you wouldn’t feel so much pain.’
I couldn’t argue with her, she reminded me so much of Lisa. Raven-black-hair, blood-red-lips and a slight-curve to her figure I just couldn’t help but linger my eyes on. Her eyes are different, piercing green, while Lisa’s had been a soft blue. The nurse’s uniform is obviously a difference too. She sits down opposite me.
‘Jess?’ I started.
‘It’s probably not in your job description, but could you do me a favour?’ She eyed me suspiciously; I could be a bit of a sleazy-old-man from time-to-time. ‘It’s nothing like that, I assure you.’
She relaxes, ‘Sure babe, just name it.’
‘Grab the bottle of wine off the bench, get yourself a glass, put some Mozart on the stereo and join me out here for a moment, as a friend instead of a nurse, just for a few moments, please?’
She hesitates for a moment, then smiles, rises and goes inside.
‘And tell Josh to go do some shopping or see that bird he’s always talking about, if she actually exists!’
I smile and light a cigarette. Dad’d be proud of me.