I'm sure, in fact totally certain, that it is only those with imagination who eventually succumb to madness. For once you possess the ability to imagine there is a tendency to mentally create a multitude of endless possibilities, all criss-crossing and colliding in cerebral space until the mind becomes so overwhelmed that madness really becomes the only refuge. Right now I feel Iím on the edge of full blown psychosis, my only wish is that I was already there.
Elliot, bless his heart, arrived before the police could claim me as their personal trophy and bundled me into his car. Our journey to Offaly was punctuated with me obsessing about a multitude of hypothetical scenarios, like for instance Nero and my Mother tete a tete discussing my wayward ways, my lack of sexual restraint or worse still my mother spewing her version of events to some shark faced journalist who then would go on to publish the juicy saga to the entire nation. Iíd face ruination, death by exposure. How on earth do celebrities cope with having their lives paraded before the world. I can think of nothing worse.
Elliot, calm and serene person that he is did his utmost to dispel my fears. He even bought me some sticky toffees and hugged me and reassured me that everything was going to turn out fine. He claims to have an ability to predict the natural outcome of these sort of things and that in a weekís time Iíd be laughing about the whole charade. Yeah but it was still now, hence I would remain demented.
By the time we arrived in Offaly I felt shaky and clammy. Once the grey walls of the police station came into sight my stomach turned over. I told Elliot I felt sick and before we went into the station he held back my hair as I empty retched onto the ground. He wiped my face with a tissue and told me to be brave and to breathe deeply. I think people tell you that when they donít know what else to suggest but you know what it works. After about ten breaths I felt a lot calmer and realised that the only way to survive the ordeal was to detach and embrace the melodrama as only I could. I stoically reapplied my lipstick and combed my hair. I mean there could be cameras anywhere and I so wanted to let the nation know that I was a babe and not the shrivelled rat that had appeared on page one of the tabloids.
The inside foyer was dark and unwelcoming. Not a camera in sight.
"Elliot I think I want to go home now."
"No you donít. Take the bull by the horns and youíll be fine."
Elliot ruffled my hair and right then I could swear I felt an energy field between us, a connection that I hadnít felt before. But I was confused and frightened and so dismissed what I felt as a nervous reaction to my crazy circumstances. Elliotís my friend, thatís all.
I introduced myself to the guard manning the desk who pointed me in the direction of the interior office that housed my mother. My heart sank in response to the official nature of his voice. Iím not the type of person who survives easily without warmth and nurturing not when I feel scared shitless. Not that I expected him to take me to his bosom and say there there youíll be fine. But he could have had a more people friendly approach to help erase my trepidation.
Feeling a bit like the condemned walking along the green mile I shuffled down a corridor until I caught sight of my mother deep in conversation with a female guard. Considering that I was one of the pivotal characters in this plot you would have thought she would have afforded me more attention. But I know my mother once she has a receptive audience she takes centre stage eclipsing my presence entirely.
"Anna dear, thank God youíre safe. Why I must have stormed heaven to get you off the hook and here you are. Silly girl picking up hitch hickers at your age." She smiled at me benevolently making me feel like she can do as the dutiful daughter who barely measures up to her expectations.
I looked into her eyes to see if I could ascertain some element of recognition on her part of my exact relationship with Nero, a flicker perhaps or was she feigning indifference until she got me home and scalded me alive.
"Over there through the office on the right." She said dismissively as she continued her conversation about the pros and cons of mixed peel in Christmas pudding. The world could be on the verge of nuclear warfare and my mother would continue to immerse herself in domestic trivia. I Ďve got to hand it to her though , sheís the one whoís ultra confident unplagued by insecurities and forever mouthing off some radical opinion or another.
Her latest is her dissatisfaction with the introduction of the euro into Ireland. She keeps saying to those who will listen that Ireland will have a third world currency once itís overshadowed by the Euro. So she is stocking up on non perishables before our money looses its value. But people listen to her as though sheís a financial expert and hang onto her word as gospel because she sounds so bloody confident. In China sheíd be locked up for her radical opinions, maybe condemned to death? Her ability to superimpose her own interpretation of reality on life never ceases to amaze me anymore and all of my life I have spent trying to either escape from her energy field or trying to please her. I have invariably failed on both counts.
I knocked tentatively on the office door and slowly opened it. There were no windows only the light of a single bulb hanging on a rather exposed looking wire over the table. Nero sitting on a black chrome chair had his head slumped on the table. I coughed to let him know he wasnít alone.
"Jesus Anna what did you do? What did you tell the cops?"
"Nothing. Thereís been a horrible mistake"
"Look as far as I can see we were both consenting adults. I didnít force you to do anything you werenít prepared to do."
"I know that " I whispered wearily.
"Then why on earth have I been kept for questioning. I thought and then I dismissed the thought that you had filed a charge of rape against me. Can you begin to imagine how I felt not knowing what youíd said to them?"
"You were questioned on the grounds of an alleged kidnapping because of my insane mother. Itís a long story and look I truly am sorry about whatís happened. None of it was your fault."
Nero smiled for the first time and he got up from the chair to hug me.
"Iím sorry too Anna. I should never have walked away like that but I got this crazy insane feeling into my head that you wanted it like that to full fill your fantasy. Then once I got back to the hostel I felt awful but it was too late to turn back the clock. Could it be that Kismet devised this entire drama to get us back together to end unfinished business?"
"No it was my mother interfering in my life when she shouldnít have done. And yes I did fulfil my fantasy with you, only you werenít a stranger so I guess I didnít expect you to walk away and leave me exposed to some oriental business men."
"Look I know what I did was wrong so thatís why I imagined youíd concocted this story of revenge to get me back for abandoning you like that. It was most insensitive of me but I guess I too got carried away with the fantasy. Did you like it?"
"Did it live up to your expectations?"
"Look Nero lets leave it shall we to the realm of fantasy. Look Iím not sorry about what we did in the lift but the afterwards was hard. But we can let bygones be bygones."
And so we went our separate ways, each of us not truly knowing what the other one felt. I felt torn and knew as he walked out of the building that Iíd probably never see him again. In time I would forget what he looked like but not what he made me feel. Lets face it unless magic tints reality this place is hell.
All of a sudden I felt quite overcome with a sense of grief. My rational mind askd me what did I expect-Ėcommitment? Some happy ever after Officer and a gentleman scenario? I knew these belonged to the realm of fantasy but I couldnít help feeling bereft and cheated. I am aware that my emotions tend to by pass logic but surely that is all the more liberating and truthful. I wonder if after every intimate encounter we actually we leave behind a little part of us. So maybe thatís what I am mourning for, the inconsolable loss of me. Mmmmm I hope Iím not completely disintegrated.
Elliot sensed my utter despondency and left me sink into the black hole of my own thoughts. He knows when to let me be and for that I was grateful. Itís always best I find to sink into the pit of despair, wallow in the nebulous swamps of the feelings and then slowly climb back to the land of the living. This is a private journey, one that I can only make on my own. I find it is for more damaging to avoid feelings as inevitably they surface with a vengeance.
"Fancy a Chinese take out?"
"Well I am so can you look after the car and if a guard comes by tell him that I wonít be long."
Elliot disappeared into the Chinese Palace, leaving me alone in the car in the dark. Shit, fuck and damn, blessed trinity I had clean forgotten about the after morning pill. No time to loose. I unleashed myself from the confines of the seat belt and raced into the Chinese take away. Layers of people were standing around waiting for food or reading the menu. Where was Elliot? Ah yes there he was in the front row just about to be served. The smell of food almost made me gag. Gag? One of the first signs of morning sickness?
"Elliot!" I screamed.
Everyone turned around and stared.
"Anna are you alright?"
"No Iím not! Please come out to the car immediately."
"Yeah. Wait a second while I give my order."
"No this is urgent I tell you."
"Well so is this. Iím starving. Iíll join you in five minutes."
"It may well be too late then. I need to go to hospital right now."
"Are you alright love?" asked a heavy middle-aged lady with giant loop earrings and emerald studs. Funny the details I focus upon when I panic.
"Fine. Couldnít be better " I mumbled as Elliot shoved me out the door.
"What the hell do you think youíre playing at. Do you always have to be the centre of attention? Jesus I was just about to be served so this better be good Anna. Real good."
"You have to take me to accident and emergency in the next hour."
"What the fuck is wrong with you now?"
"I think Iím pregnant"
"I had unprotected sex in my most fertile period. I need the morning after pill fairly lively."
"You mean you had unprotected sex with a stranger? Are you mad Anna? No are you insane?"
"Look it happened. It wasnít as if it were premeditated or anything? And yes I know about Aids and other equally horrible diseases that I could have contracted but right now all I care about is that some little alien is making himself at home in my womb and I want him ousted. Do I make myself clear?"
Accident and Emergency was thronged with bodies all equally demanding to be seen at once. We were all emergencies, especially me. Elliot ran up to the triage nurse to explain my predicament while I sat down and mentally calculated how long I had left. Like Cinderella I had til midnight before my time was up and my life was over and there Iíd be a single parent, destitute, penniless, sporting evidence of my sluttage.
A guy on my right was nursing a head wound that was bleeding profusely. He confided that he had been waiting an hour as car accident victims had arrived and were currently being treated.
"I think I Ďm dying. Can you tell the nurse I'm dying love?" He looked decidedly bloodless and pale, his eyes becoming more unfocused as he spoke.
Anna to the rescue. I made my way to the desk.
"Can you get a nurse or doctor to look at the man on the fourth seat from the right. He says heís dying. Heís loosing an awful lot of blood."
The receptionist, a hard faced long nosed unsympathetic creature gazed at me as if I had taken leave of my senses.
"That man my dear girl practically lives here. His wife tries to periodically scalp him and if you were here for as long as I was youíd see why she does. Donít worry. He looks much worse than he is. Those who are at deathís door are treated first."
There was no point in saying anything even though I did think man with scalped head was nearer to the pearly gates than she thought. Still who was I to play God when I could scarcely manage my own life.
I went back to another seat and sat next to an elderly man who coughed and hacked in manner of one with terminal consumption. How long more did I have to wait in this breeding ground for contagious diseases and bleeding and gaping wounds. This was like Dantes inferno. Further more I had to wait which I Ďm sure is the punishment for using A&E.
Elliot my knight in shinning armour had found a nurse who would treat me after her next patient. How he managed to do this is beyond me but Elliot has a way with charming any woman. He has the ability to play them like an instrument until they begin to whistle to his tune. He came back , a great big grin fastened on his face.
"She thinks Iím your brother so say nothing otherwise. Five more minutes Anna, thatís all."
Five minutes enough to make me think about what I was about to do. Two options: a) I could forget about the pill and leave it up to fate and destiny to decide. If it decided that a soul desperately needed an entry into the planet then I would be pregnant. If so how bad was that option? On a scale of one to ten it had to be a nine. Which of course was the prelude to option b) Get rid of it. But I would be forever deleting a sweet smelling baby. What if it were a cute little girl like me. Or equally a life sentence? A baby with a father whoís only claim to fame was he was an Aboriginal lover, a lofty idealist whose whereabouts I was unaware of? But he had good genes, a kind heart and not a freckle in sight.
"Will the girl who wants the morning after pill come this way?" bellowed the nurse across the room.
All eyes on me as I disappeared around the corner. Disapproving eyes that mentally stripped me of whatever dignity I had left. Elliot said heíd wait in the car cos he was fed up with the hospital smell and the constant commotion. So I was left alone to face the ordeal.
The nurse whose tag said Nurse Leary turned out to be a jolly sort who joked and laughed all the while she took my details. She didnít judge, not in the least which made me feel better about taking the pill in the first place.
"Well here you are me darling. Hope for your sake it works."
She handed me the tiny red pill that I obediently placed in my mouth. Nurse Leary watched me as I pretended to swallow it. Yes after going to the trouble of getting this far I pretended.. You may think this is insanity and maybe it is but I couldnít go through with destroying another human being. Not at my age when my biological clock was striking loud and clear. I was going to leave it up to the Gods to decide. All I could hope was they would do a better job than me.
I left the hospital with instructions to swallow another pill in the next few hours but I deposited it in the bin on the way out. I, Anna Moran, was throwing caution to the wind and maybe was about to sign her own death warrant. But after the ordeal I had been through maybe I had nothing to lose. And maybe a little mini me to gain.