What is it about ambulances? You wait all your life to call one and then two come at once.
They did the night M died, anyway. They blue-lighted from two different hospitals and converged on the road in front of my Mother’s house. A crack-team of paramedics leapt across the lawn through the darkness, loaded up with an armoury of life-saving equipment – the SAS of the NHS. In my panic, I was unable to unlock the front door (M had locked it not half an hour before and put the key somewhere which eluded me).
‘They need to come round the back!’ I yelled at the voice on the phone.
In retrospect, I think I knew M was dead. The pupils in His unblinking, chocolate-brown eyes were shot, and fixed on a point beyond me. He had no pulse. His face was plum-coloured and doughy. But as they pounded up the stairs into the bedroom where He lay, somehow I believed this crack-team would bring Him round. I honestly did. I had been doing CPR for twenty minutes on a dead man, but didn’t allow myself to believe it was the end.
So when they filed down the stairs after forty minutes, grim-faced and exhausted, and one of them uttered the words: “M’s died”, you’ll forgive me for my response. “Right,” I said. “Right.”
Suddenly, inexplicably, I felt frightened of the body upstairs. Did I want to see Him? No. (I regret that response. A chance for a last cuddle before He went truly cold). I asked the paramedics to stay until the police arrived. And then I asked the police to stay until the undertaker arrived. I turned the television on loud (Match of the Day) as they removed Him from the house.
My Mother and I clung to each other in the sheets He died in that night. ‘Tell me this is a dream,’ I pleaded with her. She said, ‘I’m afraid it’s not.’
I slept fitfully and had strange dreams. But I slept, nonetheless. Then I woke, and He wasn’t there.