I wouldn't say I'm useless here, if she starts to suddenly writhe about I have the straps, the drugs, the training. Except she isn't, she's just laying there humming. She occasionally raises her knees but then she lowers them before it becomes a problem. I'd say that she's thinking but doesn't seem lucid.
I'm not happy to restrain her like the other raving lunatics; she's no harm to anything. I've met women before who seem lost; many, many women, the kind of women who strut around like aching swans. This woman aches but her pain isn't pride.
Her humming lilts in tired, half-remembered ways and the tune is gradually paring down between her lips.
'What song is that?' I say.
She looks at me with droopy eyes. She brightens up and offers me a perfect curve of a smile, one she must have been practising for years now. I smile back.
She is a very pretty woman. Blonde, big green eyes, petite. She's regained some of the colour in her cheeks but I don't think it'll be enough. Every time I pass through the psychiatric ward of the hospital all I ever see are pale stretched faces. All I ever hear is discordant humming, unmistakeably discordant, not like the raspy sweetness of the songs she's trying to sing. I think they're nursery rhymes.
I wonder what they told the husband, the kids. They probably never saw the signs or even properly heard this humming; it's not in the nature of a traditional family to notice the mother wilting. That's what I've found in suburban neighbourhoods like this. And yet the only other time I had a mental case in this ambulance was in September 1962 and that guy was a madman. He was thrashing about when we found him, almost killed a few other members of his commune apparently. They loved him like a brother and yet he still went rabid. From the way he was growling I suppose he thought he was a mountain lion.
Meanwhile this little lady here is perfectly still. I can't even hear her humming anymore. Her skin has turned a whiter shade. She's looking out of the window.
I approach and stand over her. I kneel down.
'Mrs Jordan,' I say. 'I want you to take deep breaths.'
I can hear a flurry of words buzzing in her throat.
She turns to me. 'Paris,' she sighs, adopting a crooked smile. It seems natural, less pretty more beautiful.
I mirror it. 'Of course.'
The back doors open and the ramp is pulled down.
'Welcome to Paris,' I say.
The ambulance fills with white coats but I lead the way.