Alex walked across the road and looked at his house. His house was a hot mess and his life was about to unfold into a flaming disaster. It was only Friday yet the unravelling of that night had lasted a lifetime. What is next? Surely there can be nothing else. His items; his lovely, expensive, cheap, old and new items had been ejected from life because of a fire. What do you do when your lovely, expensive, cheap, old and new items become fire? That’s a reality Alex is currently facing.
Alex got in the taxi that was sat waiting for him at the end of the road. The driver wound down his windows and with an appropriately long glance towards the hive of activity behind him, tore through his words. “What the fuck has happened there?” As though living through it wasn’t enough, Alex was supposed to annotate the disaster to passers-by and nosey night people.
“Over there? That used to be a house but now it’s a space that caught fire and ruined my life and possibly killed my best friend” – that will teach you to be fucking nosey thought Alex. Get back in your box and drive me away from here.
The taxi driver clearly regretted the whole journey because he never spoke another word until he reached the hospital. The only words he said then were “don’t worry, you can have this one on me” which, as far as conventional pity goes, was actually fairly handy because Alex only had a £20 note and the journey was £4.93 and the change would have weighed heavier than his current existence in his pocket.
The walk through to reception at St Mary’s Hospital felt an effort. How could a three second walk be taking so long? The night was beginning to catch up on his body, not just his mind and time was becoming an elastic band stretched back to breaking point.
“My friend, he is here.”
“I’m going to need more than that. Sorry” spoke to receptionist, with pointed truth.
“His name is Bill. Bill Stevens. He is here. He’s probably in a bad way.”
The nurse stood behind the receptionist looked up and spoke gently:
“OK, go down the corridor and take a left, then see the nurse in that reception area.”
And just like that, the elastic time sprung right out of its tight tension into the face of Alex. Into his smoky, tired face. The time-lapse that was is now being played outright and the floor is running away from him in record time.
The closer to reception Alex got, the more he realised that life was about to change in real time, and the human consequences of the massive, dancing flame was about to come about. Alex – scared, smoky Alex – was about to open his mouth and ask for directions to his friend when across the room he saw Sarah, Bill’s sister and Alex’s most recent phone call. Involuntarily, Alex stopped moving. He was feet away from his best friend who could, possibly, be dying, and his best friend’s sister who he loved and was dying to hold. Alarm bells were ringing in his head and Sarah must have heard because she swung around urgently. Her elastic, too, had been released from its coil.
“How is he?” said Alex.
“He’s inhaled some smoke. He’s inhaled quite a lot of smoke.”
“Might he die?” was Alex’s reply.
“He might. But he has a chance” said Sarah.
The pair were still across the room from each other and clearly both felt it to be weird because after snapping free from the conversation, Alex approached Sarah. There was a still vibe to the room, one that held more history and weight than was on show. Now wasn’t the time for romance.
“We’ve got to wait and see. He’s being taken care of by a man whose name I don’t remember” whispered Sarah. Maybe that would have been a bit funny if the situation wasn’t grimly depressing.
Yet that is what the night had become. Sarah and Alex were supposed to have gone out. Drinks were ready to be drunk and life was supposed to change for them. For them, for the better. Not like this. Not for them. Not for Bill. Sarah took Alex’s breath away, but it was the fire that took Bill’s away and now all they could do was be together and hope for the best. Hope for a new best.