Not Just a Cry For Help
Sam shivered as the door finally closed behind Gene. He hadn’t been alone - not that he could remember, anyway - for more than a few minutes at a time since the day they’d found him. He’d been alone then all right, starved and broken, abandoned in a dank garden for the dogs to sniff at.
In the hospital, Gene had made sure he was rarely left, giving up all his spare time day after day to sit with Sam after he woke up. Before, too, the nurses said with puzzled frowns. Sam had smiled weakly and murmured “He’s my Guv. Thinks this is all his fault.”
“Of course,” they had said, exchanging glances.
But it wasn’t Gene’s fault, it was Sam’s, all of it. The doctors had told him not to think about it, to concentrate on getting better, but that was a lot easier said than done.
He lay still, listening to the silence of the empty house. All he’d done today was wake up, refuse breakfast and sit in Gene’s car for the journey home, but he was already shattered. Gene had insisted on carrying him in and settling him on the sofa in Gene’s front room, where the radio and telephone were close at hand so he didn’t have to get up. Sam closed his eyes just for a moment, trying to get used to being back.
When he had turned from the monstrous pain towards the false light, he had crossed a bridge out of the real world into that terrifying place he had inhabited before Gene, and now he seemed marooned there. He could see Gene on the far bank, calling him, standing solid and calm and strong for him, but he couldn’t find the way back. Nothing seemed real any more and most of his mind was still lost in that place. He couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t see clearly, couldn’t feel anything except pain.
Sam woke, shaking. He’d dreamt he was back there. In that cold, dusty room with the hole in the floorboards. He had heard them jeering as they took turns to circle and taunt him, aiming their kicks at his head, his ribs, his groin. There had been one in particular who had taken great pleasure from the way Sam tried to pretend he didn’t care, that he could take whatever they cared to dish out. He couldn’t, of course, but the pretence was all he had.
Gene had said to stop going on about it, anyone would have been the same, but it wasn’t that simple. A better man could have talked his way out of the situation. A stronger man would have fought his way out. Sam had done neither, simply curled up for protection and allowed them to dominate him and damage him until he was no use to anyone and probably never would be again.
A sudden creak from the hall made him jump. The house was full of strange noises, and he’d been away so long he couldn’t remember which stairs creaked and what each door sounded like as it moved or shut. He concentrated hard – if anyone got in he would need to know where they were. The creak sounded again from the hall. Or was it the stairs? That was it, only the stairs. Lonely and scared, desperate for a friendly voice, Sam switched the radio on and let the familiar tones of Johnnie Walker wash over him. He needed to go to the toilet, but wasn’t sure he had the strength to get there. Perhaps in a while.
Next time he woke he was cold. Gene had covered him with a blanket before leaving – like an invalid, he thought bitterly – and it had slipped off. He couldn’t remember falling asleep again but the clock had moved, so he must have done. Rain coursed down the window and he wondered if Gene was out in it. Through the unrelenting noise of the downpour he strained to listen for voices in the street outside. At some point he must have switched the radio off, but he couldn’t remember doing it. He’d get up in a minute, he decided. Check all the doors were locked. No need to lie about on the sofa all day like he was ill. Just a few more minutes, then he’d go and get something to eat. That would be after a piss, he realised; his bladder was now straining to bursting point.
Sam woke gradually, cock throbbing and erect for the first time since he could remember; pity Gene wasn’t here to see it, he’d said the doctors had told him it could be months yet. Sometimes Sam could still feel the tube he’d had for ... oh, fuck. In his momentary pleasure he’d relaxed too far and the toilet situation was now desperate. He lay still for a moment, thinking it through. No way could he make it up the stairs by himself; it would have to be Gene’s old outdoor toilet. At least it was clean nowadays. He sat up carefully, and waited for the dizziness to subside. Pushing down with both hands he got himself to a standing position, but his right knee buckled immediately and he sat down again, missing the edge of the sofa and ending up on the floor.
OK, crawl then. Fine specimen of a man you are.
He shifted carefully until he was on his hands and knees. Even that was exhausting; tears of weakness welled up and he brushed them away. It was a mistake; he’d automatically used his right hand, and he shouted in sudden agony as pain shot up inside the cast on his left arm. Rolling to his right to relieve the pressure on the smashed wrist and elbow, he lay curled on the floor sobbing angrily as his overstretched bladder spilled over, soaking his trousers and the new shirt Gene had bought him to come home in. He grimaced in disgust as he clutched the fallen blanket to his groin in an effort to avoid soaking the carpet. Gene was going to be livid - first day home and he’d caused all this extra work, and now he smelt like a tramp. He lay still as his injured left arm shrieked in pain and the reeking warmth in his clothes grew cold.
Sam woke suddenly, in terror. He’d heard voices. Someone at the back door. Someone on the stairs. A footstep in the kitchen, coming nearer. Sam lay silent, listening as hard as he could, fingers tangled in the sodden blanket. What would he do if they came for him? He couldn’t fight, he could barely stand. He sweated as he strained to hear and locate every sound. The wet trousers stuck to him, the smell rising as he moved.
Sam thrashed and twisted in his sleep and woke sobbing with fear and pain and exhaustion. There were sounds, noises, voices, coming from the stairs and the kitchen and the hall, from the back door and the front door and the window of the room where he lay huddled on the floor helpless and alone, and he clutched at the phone, fingers trembling and slipping in his urgency.
He held it together while he waited to be put through, but as soon as he heard the beloved whisky tones he fell apart, babbling frantically to make Gene understand before he could put the phone down on him.
“Gene, I’m scared. They’re here, I can hear them. Please Gene, they’re going to get me, come home, Gene, please?” His voice rose in panic. “I’m so frightened, Gene, please don’t leave me here by myself. I can’t fight them on my own, come home, please, Gene.” He was crying now. “Please, I’m so scared.”
There was a silence. Eventually, Gene spoke.
“Sam, there’s no-one there. They’re on remand, you know that; they’re all going down.” His voice softened. “Really, Sam, there’s no-one there. It’s just your imagination.”
“They’re here, Gene, please, I can’t get up, I can’t cope on my own. Come home, I need you, please Gene?” Begging now, no pride left.
“Of course you can, you daft bugger. You’re just tired, that’s all. Get some sleep, you’ll feel better when you wake up.”
“Gene, don’t leave me here by myself, I’m so frightened. Gene, please come home.” It was a mistake; he could hear the impatient sigh.
“Sam, I can’t. I’ve got a city to run here. Just piss off and let me get on with it for God’s sake; some of us have got work to do - scum to catch - while you’re sitting about twitching at shadows and crying like a girl. Get some sleep, and get yourself better. I’ll see you later, OK?”
Sam put the phone down, shaking.
Even Gene doesn’t want you now, you twat. That’s it. Nothing left. Only the pain; the endless pain and the guilt; the pills and the fear and the shame.
He couldn’t stay here now; couldn’t be here, pathetic whining little shit that he was, when Gene got home. Can’t let him see me in this state. He started to stand up, then realised if he fell again he might damage his left arm even further. It hardly seemed to matter, but he still couldn’t bring himself to risk it. It was probably time to take some of the many tablets; perhaps a glass of whisky would wash them down and help him sleep through the lonely day.
He couldn’t remember getting to the kitchen, but he knew it hurt. There was no one there; never had been, of course. Just him being stupid. He couldn’t bear to think what Gene would say when he came home. He’d probably say Sam was a useless bloody nancy who couldn’t be left alone for one day without making a drama out of it.
Gene had left all the tablets in a bag on the table. “Bloody hell,” he’d said. "You’ll rattle like a chemist’s shop, Gladys.” The memory made Sam smile briefly. Gene deserved better, someone who was whole. He sat at the table and looked at the packets. All of them. Biggest first? By colour? What do they taste like? Who gives a shit? At least it wouldn’t hurt any more. He pulled the bag from the table and followed it clumsily to the floor.
He tried to stand up – one last walk for Christ’s sake, can’t you even do that? – but between the knee that wouldn’t bend and the one that couldn’t take his weight it seemed he’d had his last walk some time ago and he hadn’t even noticed. He looped the bag round his arm and set out for the sofa.
Halfway there he realised he’d forgotten the whisky. That might be better, let Gene think it was an accident, confusion. Not Gene’s fault. Never Gene’s fault.
Oh God, Gene.
Reaching the sofa at last he let the bag slide from his arm and sat on the floor getting his breath back. The wet trousers had chafed his legs and every bone in his body hurt. Every joint and every sore, every stitch and bruise clamoured as he forced himself to breathe evenly. Controlled to the end. Bonus points, Tyler. Well done, like anyone cares.
He’d need water. Gene had left him a jug on the table, but they’d forgotten about a glass. He’d been awake about an hour this time, must be a record. Concentrate for fuck’s sake. Sam Tyler, the man who forgot to off himself because he was thinking. Glasses, stupid. More crawling. More like dragging by now, what with only one arm to lean on and the buggered knee. Both of them. Oh for fuck’s sake, get a grip.
Glasses. In Gene’s oak sideboard with the carvings round the doors. It had been his mum’s, he just kept it because it was handy “so the place is tidy, Dorothy, since that’s so important to you. Everything tucked away out of sight, out of mind. Just how you like it.” God almighty, focus, damn it. Glasses. Loads of them. Wedding present crystal, Woolworth’s best, wine tumblers. Special wine tumblers. Anniversary glasses.
Special tumblers for special occasions.
So you know I love you. Always.
When was it, anyway, their anniversary? Been awake, what, two weeks now? So it was... dunno. What’s the date today? Monday? Too tired to get the diary. World’s better without. Back to the sofa, last journey now. Fill both glasses. Special glasses, Gene, look. Mind’s gone, can’t remember anything, but I remember this. I remember us, when I was still me. Raise a glass to us.
Don’t spill the water, you fucking idiot. Put the glass down. Crawl up onto the sofa. Sit down. Right. Packets, open. Bottles, lids off. Start swallowing. Surprisingly easy. Bit dry. Drink water. Not too much, no more pissing now. End here. Gene. Three more, pink ones. I’m sorry. Blue ones, six to a strip. I love you. That bomb. Ray. My fault, stupid arrogant bastard. Orange ones, bigger than the rest. Hard to get down. More water. Glen, should have helped him more. Good copper. ’Nother bottle, white ones. Twenty at once. June. My fault again. Useless. Sick now, bit of dribble on the shirt. Useless. Sam? Can you hear me, love? Keep going. Force them down. Mum? More white ones, that’s boring.
Cortina, loved that. Front seat. Sex. Oh Gene, please. Blue ones, yellow ones. Three more, slower, can’t ‘member colours names more. No, no, NO. Dark. Cold. More white ones. Useless. Love you. Can’t see, feel sick now. Like drunk. Sick on the shirt. Liked this one. Gene, please. Fuck. Gene, wait, I