I have no idea why I wrote this. I just started with a stream of consciousness style of writing. Still it does make me grieve for a fallen world and thankful of the grace shown to me.
“Look I do! I need 50mg of morphine stat. It’s an emergency.”
To be honest for a hospital this might sound normal, but we aren’t talking about a medico here, we’re talking about a junkie. True not any old junkie, quite an intelligent one, but a junkie not the less. So what would you do?
“Look Samuel, I just can’t”, I pleaded, the syringe in his hand occupying most of my attention, “when the Pharmacy Department do their audit, it will be found missing and I’ll get crucified for dispensing without permission”.
The syringe shook in his hand as he processed the information, beads of sweat running down his face. It was obvious that the edge of his patience was near and I had no idea how far I could push him. Pupils dilating he screamed, “Give it to me!”. Flecks of saliva flew into my face with the force of his words and I flinched at the force of his agony. The withdrawal was gathering momentum in his nervous system and shakes had start to take hold. It made the proximity of the needle even more precarious, jiggling just millimetres from my carotid artery I couldn’t suppress a shiver of apprehension.
The corridors echoed. Around me stunned faces gaped, completely unsure of what to do. This was not normal, a situation of such tangential relation to real life that nobody had decided how to react so far. Where on earth were the cops?
Samuel had only taken me hostage a few minutes earlier and already I could feel the sweat beading on my brow. How long would I need to endure this torment before we could return to normal? I’d not known Samuel personally. Dr Beckett had been his psychologist, treating his addiction, but I had been consulted on his treatment. His historical lack of violence was in my favour.
“Please can we talk about this?”, I pleaded. “You don’t need morphine. Dr Beckett has you on methadone, morphine won’t make a dent in your Heroine craving”.
“Please it hurts”, he whimpered and his body convulsed slightly bringing the syringe ever so slightly closer to puncturing me. Somehow I managed to avoid flinching, but the fear pooling in my stomach was starting to make me feel like vomiting. “I can’t deal with the pain anymore”, he whimpered almost to himself.
Around me people were starting to make their choices. Some were edging towards the exits, eager to depart. Others rooted to the spot had their hands extended as if they could arrest the danger simply by force of will, while a couple had edged forward towards us as if to restrain Samuel.
“Stand still”, he yelled. “Don’t anybody move or I will stick him”.
“Yes, please”, I echoed, “just stand back. We’re fine, just having a little chat. Aren’t we Sam?”
The recognition gelled with him and he relaxed slightly at the sight of his supposed aggressors relenting in the face of my plea. The saliva on my cheeks made my gore rise, but as his agitation subsided, I managed to relax in reciprocation of his mood and it helped him to relax further. “Samuel we can work this out, you don’t need to force things this way”.
“I know how hard it is to get through this period, but it is possible”, I coaxed gently. Mine weren’t just empty words, I’d also been a junkie at one time and dealt personally with the pain of withdrawal. Not just a craving. Not just a hankering for the next fix of pleasure, but more visceral, a raw plucking at the very nerves with an intensity that cries out for the release of the drug’s salvation. A pain more intense than the most exquisite tortures invented by human minds, and yet able to be beaten. “I have trodden your path and it is possible”, I soothed.
I could see the recognition in his eyes. The connection between us that gave him hope and caused the doubt to cross his face. Did he suddenly regret his actions, the choices in life that brought him to this point? I will never know, for a that moment a dot blossomed on his forehead. A fountain erupted from back of his head as the police marksman found his range and ended the siege. A siege that for all I knew could have already been ended, but may also have been just beginning.
With a finality that hit home, I knew he was dead and I curled up sheltering my shock and pain as his grip released me to my own volition. Shaking from shock, yet numb from the loss of a man no worse than I, I could do no more than grieve at the waste of life. Why was it mine to live and his to die?
The next hours passed in a haze of motion. Blankets, flashing lights, warm arms in sympathy, comfort from colleagues and officials. It occurred as was necessary in such circumstances – sufficient, correct and yet unsatisfying. A week of leave? Why of course, it’s the least we can do. And so I retire to my abode, nursing the trauma and grief of the experience. Expected to recover and continue, if not in a week, at least in the future since I survived.
And yet I wonder. Why was it mine the grace to survive and his the misfortune to die?