EIGHT – Reportedly
“We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance” – Marcel Proust
With my death, the group on the cricket field gravitate in little clusters towards the slumped form in the middle. Set against the enormity of the universe, the stopping of my heart registers as nothing more than a pin-prick but for them it is something of an event. On the boundary, meanwhile, the crowd becomes restless. I say crowd but this is nothing more than a man and his dog. Having wandered out to watch an hour or two of cricket in the sun, the man has so far had to make do with little more than a couple of overs. He lies back and tilts his hat over his eyes, easing out the glare of the sun. The dog stirs and wanders around the perimeter, searching meticulously for evidence of other dogs. Having found their telltale signs, he leaves his mark for the next dodo.
A cloud drifts across the sun causing a shade to race across the pitch. Though it is still baking hot, a shiver ripples through the players as they press together. A couple of them attend to the body but most, although wanting to get close enough to see, cannot bring themselves to get close enough to touch. It is evident to the man spectating that they do not know what to do. He shuts his eyes again and dozes. He doesn’t know what to do either. In the event, it is the most unlikely of individuals who takes charge.
Enter Dave, once of the mechanical workshop. An ex-employee, recently made redundant, he is better known for his darts than his leadership. Expertly he flips the body over so that I am face upwards and then tilts my head back, opening my jaw in the same movement. Once my mouth is open his fingers reach inside and check that the passageway is clear. Having established this, he pinches my nostrils together and exaggeratedly draws breath before his lips meet mine in the “kiss of life”. For a moment the man on the boundary is roused from his slumber. What a display of oscular dexterity, full English breakfast, he grins to himself.
Dave, meanwhile, moves on to chest massage. Alternating this with the kiss, he stays with me, willing me to draw breath again. This goes on for some minutes without response. Increasingly, his efforts have a vain quality to them. The other players unconsciously draw slightly away, perhaps sensing the spectre of death that has settled on my shoulder.
Suddenly, there is a shout. “The ambulance is here.” There is more shouting. “I can see it, I can see it,” someone cries! It careers wildly across the pitch. The man on the boundary sees it but he remains horizontal, now bored by the entertainment. There is more interesting fare every Friday night outside the Chicken and Garter at chucking out time. His dog wags its tail, unlike him it doesn’t know the meaning of the word ennui.
The ambulance crew leap out their vehicle and attend the stricken figure. There is a slick professionalism about their work as they charge up the portable defibrillator. One of my team-mates, meanwhile, gesticulates wildly, shouting at the ambulance crew – “he’s got an internal defibrillator, he’s got an internal defibrillator”. Like a monkey on speed his arms wave in maniacal discord. Presumably the ambulance crew know what he means. They wave him aside and rip my shirt off.
The players hold their collective breath as the word ‘clear’ rings out ‘clearly’ across the ground, quickly followed by a ‘thump’ as the defibrillator delivers a whack across my chest. Still no-one dare exhale as the ambulance crew check for signs of life. My heart has been stopped for three or four minutes now so the general air is one of trepidation.
The thumbs up from one of the ambulance crew is greeted by an enormous roar from the players and a snore from the spectator. He’s still not bothered. His dog lifts its leg in sympathy.
I wish I could re-assure you that this was it and we all chugged merrily off to hospital. But like I told you before, my heart is a real fucker and when it fucks you, it fucks you. There are no half measures. Thirty minutes later, we were still there. My heart kept stopping and having to be restarted by the crew. Like something you fix that works perfectly whilst you keep your eyes on it but breaks as soon as you look away.
Eventually, they managed to establish some sort of stability and carted me off. Fortunately, I slept through the whole thing.