“Ali, ALI? You can hear me right?”
Her voice is gentle, insistent and she never once looks away from Ali’s face.
“Picture a woman standing in a small street, quite close a to a... A stobie pole. Only she’s not standing on a street corner see, but in a theatre. To her left is the shiny red of the house curtain and in front of her is the ‘people’ smell of the crowd. (This theatre will be needing new seats soon and some of the audience are hoping the first act isn’t going to be long. The chair’s springs are sticking into various arses.)
You are staying with me, right?”
The bleeding woman nods.
“Don’t die on me now” There is a lot of blood. “I sent that fat, nervous woman to call someone. Hold on.
Maura licks her lips. They’re dry, too dry. It’s grose. Where is everybody?
“On this stage, the lights dim.” She whispers “Darkness....”
Maura takes a breath, interupts herself. It’s gaspy as she hadn’t realised she was holding onto the air. In anticipation for the story she has begun to tell?
Despite the hand supporting her bleeding friend and their uncomfortable position on the cold cement, Maura smiles. She loves stories. Almost imperceptively, so as not to disrupt her friend; the wound, this moment - Maura tries to shift and fails. Her right leg goes slowly numb and she dreads the pins and needles that will follow, later.
Ali’s voice is feeble, her tongue is tied. Her eyes are no longer open, but she is still there, prompting. Wanting something for the pain.
“Ali look up at me mate?”
The bleeding woman complies.
“I’ve got on a sports bra, I’m going to try to tornique the wound”
Without easing away from her load, Maura disrobes and rips at her white shirt. She ties the leg. Ali winces and her neck is at a funny angle as the other woman bends down to tie it off.
Breathless now, Maura sits back and continues.
“The lady on our stage, she starts her monologue” Clears throat ...
“Once I’ve battled my way through another glorious, orgasmic moment back to reality and the buzz from sexual stimulation has receeded, when the low hum of want is drowned out by the bright shiny daylight.”
Ali looks up, the pallor of her skin scares the other woman. In addition she can hear the woman’s breathing. Shallow and laboured.
“No sleepy time” Maura kisses a finger and places it tenderly on Ali’s pasty forehead, their story forgotten. As she looks up, boots - attached to the strong legs of two emergency servicemen - send relief flooding through both the women.
They roll Ali from her and commence putting her body onto a stretcher. Her body. The woman is lifeless, a soupie, greyish tint to her skin and her dry cracked face. Maura wants to touch her. One last time.
“There’ll be a next time” a nurse by her side reassures gently and drags her away to sit under a blanket. Apparently the shock can do funny things to her system and she must be molley-coddled and still.
Maura chokes on the hot chocolate and wonders when it is she can go home.