14 September 2009

Girl in a blanket


She was waiting for me outside Accident and Emergency. A cold night and she had a hospital blanket draped over her shoulders. I cranked up the heat as she got in, but she said, “No, I’m warm as toast. These things are great!”

I had Chet Baker blowing a golden trumpet on the CD. Mournful he wailed into the early morning. He’d been matching my mood, but my passenger grimaced and asked if we could change the station.

I looked at her. Female. My age. There was only one choice. I reached over to the iPhone, turning on the ABBA golden hits video.

That brightened her up. In fact, after a bit it was a battle to keep her from getting up and dancing. The Fairlane’s a big car, but not that big!

It was a long fare out to a far western suburb and in between songs, her story emerged.

A week back, she had driven home drunk and crashed her car. Some minor injuries, but only to herself. “Rooted me car, but.”

She’d been looked after in hospital, come home and some days later had had a bad day with the depression and concern over upcoming court appearance, the expense of fixing her car and repairing relationships. She’d said a few things she probably shouldn’t have, gone for an afternoon nap and woken to find a couple of policemen, who escorted her to hospital, where she was locked away in a room bare but for a bed and a bucket and placed on suicide watch.

She’d gotten loud and cranky to begin with, but after several hours managed to convince a doctor that she wasn’t going to harm herself and they’d let her go, giving her a blanket and a Cabcharge card good for a ride home.

She and I and ABBA had a party on the drive home and she was anything but depressed when I dropped her off. Outside, her car was indeed rooted, crumpled bonnet and half the front end missing.

But she was alive. Alive and vibrant, and as I smiled goodnight to her at two in the morning, I hoped she’d stay that way.

There’s no future in driving drunk. Let a stranger drive you home in a silver cab.

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