“i just don’t think i want to be here anymore,”
“like the room? or london? or like, metaphysically?” i said.
“that’s not what metaphysical means,”
“but like that?”
“yeah, i guess.” poppy said.
“ok. that’s ok.”
i put my hand on top of her hand for about three minutes. poppy held her head at a diagonal, letting her fringe obscure her face. she put her face in my chest, then made a noise.
“if you killed yourself, i’d have to kill myself too.” i said. i made my face smile. she sat up.
“don’t,” poppy said.
“i’d use my belt and fix it to the light fitting, then jump off the bed.” i said. she laughed.
“you’d be able to touch the floor. you’re too tall.”
“i’d find a way.”
we sat still.
“how would you do it?” i said.
“um,” she said.
“say,” i said.
“i don’t want to.”
we sat still some more. she put her face in my chest again. she said she’d probably take all of the pills in the flat. we both cried for maybe ten minutes. i told her she shouldn’t. she said she would.
i kissed her on the mouth. i could tell she didn’t want to kiss me. i got her macbook and googled ‘what to do if someone is threatening suicide’. i called an ambulance. the woman said it would arrive shortly. poppy started shaking and making me promise to come with her. the woman on the phone had told me to make sure she was warm. i put my coat on her and we went downstairs and sat in reception. people walked past.
the ambulance came. two paramedics got out and came to the door. they were wearing baggy green clothes. poppy stopped moving so i had to put my hand on her back and push her into the back of the ambulance. i felt cold.
i sat in the ambulance on a chair next to poppy. i strapped myself in. the paramedics asked her questions. she didn’t say anything. one had a clipboard with a form attached to it. after a bit the other one got into the drivers seat and started driving. the sirens weren’t turned on. one of the paramedics said the hospital was about a mile away.
when we got there the paramedics took us to a waiting area that had a curtain around it. they left us there. i said ‘thankyou’ to them and tried to look sincere. they closed the curtain behind them. i tried to make my face look happy.
“what do you want to do tomorrow?” i said.
“please do not ask that.” said poppy.
a young doctor came in to take her blood pressure and then we spoke to a psychiatric nurse, i think. she asked the same questions the paramedics did. she said the hospital’s outpatient counselling service would call. she gave us a leaflet about a refuge for the suicidal in finchley. she showed us the exit.
“do you want to go to the cinema?”
“yes. i’m sorry.”
“you do not have to be sorry. it’s ok. everything is ok.”
“i want you to see ‘gravity’. let’s go see ‘gravity’.” i said. i had seen ‘gravity’ already. i wanted to watch it again.
“are you hungry?”
“i’m really hungry. can we go to ‘westfield’?”
i started crying on the tube but i don’t think anyone noticed. we held hands. poppy didn’t say anything. we took the district line from whitechapel to mile end then changed onto the central line and rode one stop to stratford.
we got off. the station was not busy. we walked into the shopping centre. the shopping centre was busy. it made me feel anxious. i was still hungry. poppy wanted to look at some make-up in ‘boots’. she didn’t buy any. we went to the food court. we bought chips from ‘harry ramsdens’. they were cold. i was anxious that poppy would refuse to eat, so i ate all of my chips. so did she. they made me feel less anxious.
we rode the escalators up to the ‘vue’ cinema. there was a long line for the ticket machines. we bought two student tickets for a 3d showing of ‘gravity’. it cost about £30. we queued for popcorn. it was about £5. we went into the screen. i put my 3d glasses on. poppy took off her shoes.
we were both thirsty so i went out of the screen again and bought a big thing of diet coke. i had to wait in the line a long time. i paid with my debit card. as i was walking back past the ticket checker guy poppy ran towards me. she looked panicked. she didn’t have any shoes on. she told me she had been worried. i told her it was ok. we sat down in the screen again. i thought about how i did not want her to die.
“do you want me to call your dad?” i said.
“maybe that’s a good idea.”
“ok. i will do it. i will do it after the film, when we are back at the flat.”
“thanks.” poppy said. we didn’t talk. the film came on.
the first time i saw it, i was really stoned. this time it wasn’t as mesmerising. it reminded me of my mum’s birthday – the one after my sister came out of hospital. we went to the planetarium in winchester to see a show called ‘flight through the universe’. you sat in total darkness, leaning back and looking up. they projected computer simulations of the universe onto the ceiling. we started above earth, and flew away until we couldn’t see earth anymore. this is how ‘gravity’ made me feel.
we walked back into the shopping centre. it was less busy. poppy was still quiet.
“did you like it?” i said.
“yeah. i did. it was scary.”
“that’s what i like about it. it’s soo scary. like, the infinite and the finite and stuff.”
“i don’t think i like space as much as you do.” poppy said.
“i understand,” i said. “are you hungry?”
“no. i’m really full.”
“that’s ok. me too. i’ll call your dad when we’re back.”
we rode the tube to mile end and then walked back to flat. we bought toilet roll at sainsbury’s because we had used all of ours from crying. poppy talked a bit more and a bit louder. we sat in the flat. she called her dad and told him she felt sad. she put me on the phone and i told her dad that she wanted to kill herself so i had called an ambulance. i imagined the camera zooming out from me standing in a kitchen in london – until the earth was a tiny dot in space.
poppy’s dad said he would drive up once he had done what he was doing. i hung up. i put on the smiths and tidied up. the smiths made me cry. we watched the video on youtube where louis ck talks about being sad. i hid the pot and my tobacco. i hugged poppy. she was crying. i felt alone. i put my forehead against hers. it reminded me of george clooney’s space helmet touching sandra bullock’s. i looked at the clock. it was midnight.
poppy kissed me. i forgot about the space helmets touching.
poppy’s dad, thomas, arrived. he was still wearing a suit. it made me feel less vulnerable. he asked poppy what she wanted him to do. she said she wanted to go home. thomas said that his car was parked around the corner. i said i was worried about it parked here. it was a white lotus evora s. poppy said she wanted me to come with them. i said i could. we packed some things and left. it was about 1am.
poppy lay across the tiny back seats of the sports car. she seemed happy to see her dad. she was still very quiet. the sat nav said there was traffic on the westway so it took us through central london. we drove through tower hill, then blackfriars, then along the water and past buckingham palace and through hammersmith. people kept looking at the car. some roads were almost empty. every time the car accelerated i was forced backwards. i noticed the lights from the south bank reflecting on the water. it reminded me of the water in ‘gravity’. there were no other cars as we drove up the mall. poppy was asleep in the back.
when we reached the m3 there weren’t many cars left on the road. it was 2am. thomas was making the car go around 100 miles per hour. i asked him about his childhood. we were moving very fast. i remembered the scene in ‘gravity’ where sandra bullock and bits of her spaceship are falling to earth, burning up in the atmosphere.
i looked at thomas and knew he was going to die. i looked at poppy and knew she might die soon. the car accelerated.
we arrived in lymington at 330am. lymington is by the sea. the next day poppy and i walked to the shore.
“i do not know what to do.” she said. “i do not know what to do with the rest of my life.”
“that’s ok.” i said. “not everyone knows.”
“i don’t think i want to be in london anymore. i think i hate it. i know you love it. i think i hate it.”
“are you sure?” i said.
“whatever you need.” i said. “i have to stay in london.”
“i know.” she said.
“will you be ok without me?” i said. she nodded and touched her hair.
“yeah, i think so.”
“ok.” i said. we walked a bit further.
“do you know why you call your partner your ‘other half’?” i said.
“no.” said poppy.
“there’s a greek story, i think, about how everyone originally had two heads, four arms and four legs.” i said.
“yeah.” she said.
“one day the gods decided to punish humans by splitting them in half, so everyone only had one head and two legs and two arms. that means everyone is doomed to wander around, hoping they find the other half of their person. that’s why people say ‘other half’, and that’s why we feel alone.”
“do you think your other person is still out there?” she said.
“i don’t know. do you?”
“i don’t know either.” poppy said.
the wind was cold. i turned up my collar. i saw dead fish in the water. smaller fish were eating the dead fish. it started to rain. i thought about sandra bullock’s weightless tears. i noticed the tide. it was going out. we walked home.