John is not here.
John has disappeared.
I don't know where to start and so fuckit I take you back to thz beginning and will tell it as good I can in my state. Just bare with me I'm am trying my best. Now “sober... Tristram be sober!”
The Maudsley Hospital is a big grand building. It is more like a stately home than a mental institution. Verity pulled into the grounds and rolled straight into a parking slot. As usual she was happy as if we were going to a museum or something. I was nervous. My stomach was hollow and I felt a little faint. I remember steadying myself as I stepped out the car, closing my eyes and taking a huge breath. It was the pills, you see, I had already taken too many.
Leading up to the main visitors entrance is a set of thirteen high steps. At the top a thin bedraggled nurse had come out to meet us. She looked at me and smiled. I grimaced and turned my head. From that point on she dealt only with Verity. (1 - 0 Tristram Spencer!) Just as we entered the first specks of rain began to fall.
While Verity spoke to the nurse I stood back examining the fire evacuation plan on the wall. Now and again I'd catch the breeze or the scent of a passing doctor. They smelt of neutral white toilet soap and warm water. As they passed they'd turn their heads and watch me, not sure if I was visiting or being signed in. After finishing with the Plan of Evacuation I dragged myself past a few childish paintings until I was staring aimlessly out a window through layers of fine rain. And then the first in a bizarre series of events occurred.
Out in the grounds, being led around like an invalid, was my old postman. The one who for the past 5 years had not been delivering letters to me. His muscles had all turned to fat and his face looked like a boxer who had suffered a brain haemorrhage. He was completely out of it, one eye pointing north east and the other south west. I just sort of stared on in disbelief as this familiarish figure plodded slowly through the rain, with two blue coated doctors hanging off either hand.
“Mr Spencer. This way, please!” sang a new voice pulling me halfway back into reality. She was a large lady with an even larger arse and a set of keys poking out her right hand. Imagine a church bell in tight trousers and you'll get the picture. Verity flashed me a smile and held up a pair of clenched fists. She was trying to raise my spirits. It meant: We're going to see him! .
I followed Verity, who followed the Churchbell, who followed a familiar tune of corridors and doors. We were led through one? Two? Three, four? I'm not quite sure as by that time I was in a weird daze. I felt like a school child dragging behind his parents and being distracted by everything but the reason we were there.
“And now, if you'll just take a seat and John will be with you in a moment” said the nurse. Then she unlocked a door opposite and disappeared into the room. I sat down and closed my eyes. I was afraid of what might be led out. Would it be John? Or like the postman some kind of spastic version of him, all lopsided and goofy? I felt Verity's hand on my leg as she tried to steady my rocking. And then the world short-circuited and for a while stopped working as it should.
The door to the room holding John flew open and the nurse came running out. She shouted something like “he's gone!” and rushed down the corridor with her boobs swinging like wrecking balls. Before she ever got out of sight she was with a man, a head doctor I suppose. They both sprinted back up towards us. I looked at Verity who was now as shocked as me. “Did she say 'he's gone'?” I asked feeling flushed and dizzy. Verity just shrugged, then we got up and followed the nurse and doctor into the room. And there it was: a full length window with a huge jagged star shaped hole smashed right through its centre. Outside, laying in the daffodil bed, was a black moulded plastic chair with bent metal legs. Inside, clothes were torn up and strewn about the floor, but John was nowhere to be found.
“Well, he was free for release,” said the doctor “and apart from the broken window there's nothing illegal about it. My main concern is his psychological condition. He must have been in some state to have done that. Was he dressed or in his hospital gown?”
“Gown” said the nurse, now sitting and slouched back in a chair as if she needed fanning. “He was supposed to have changed but as you saw his clothes were all thrown around the room. Really, What are we to do? Phone the police?”
“No, let us not jump the g...” And that was it, I'd had enough and was off, on auto-pilot wandering down the hall with my hands over my ears humming... humming so I couldn't hear. Verity came running up from behind “Trist! TRIST!... TRISTRAAAM!” and then she was pulling on my arm and trying to turn me around.
“I have to go” I said tearfully “Please Verity, just take me home.” And for once in this shit of a life someone did what I asked.
On the way home I had Verity stop off at Morrisons where I bought a bottle of Bacardi and two litres of cheap table wine. Arriving at mine she offered to come in and wait for news and make some calls, but I refused. Instead, I entered alone, put the chain on the door, ripped the phone out the wall, popped another two pills and proceeded to get utterly and stupendously drunk. Sometimes getting completely leathered is the only sensible answer there is.