I’m three hours into my shift when she comes into A&E. Young girl. In her twenties, though just barely. Eyes not really taking anything in, legs hardly holding her up. She’s so like me. The old me that I don’t let anyone see.
Saint Joan they call me now. Kind and gentle, always there for everyone. A shoulder for the younger nurses and a friendly, non-threatening smile for the older doctors. A soft touch sometimes times, but always dependable.
But this girl. Oh this girl with her smeared make up and tiny gold dress, her warrior’s heels and stripped down eyebrows. She’s what the old Joan was like. The old Joan on a good night.
The bad nights…well, I can only remember the last one. The screech of breaks. The dull thud of a body impacting with the car bonnet. My hands shaking on the wheel, suddenly more sober than I’d been in years.
There was rain on my face as I stood looking down at the tiny, broken body that lay face down in a puddle of water and blood. She must only have been about seven. Sometimes I still feel angry at her parents for letting her play out so late, alone in the dark. How could they have been so irresponsible?
They never found the driver who knocked down and killed the little girl, even though it was all over the news. I sat in my flat, crying and shaking, for weeks as I sweated all the poisons out. When I finally went outside, I left the old Joan behind me. I became Saint Joan, best of nurses. Her only tipple a cup of tea, in the morning and before bed.
But when I see this drunken girl, staggering around the plastic chairs in reception, it’s like she’s come dancing out of my past. I wonder if I’ll ever be found out. And I wonder if I’m still the same Joan who did that thing.
Damian Mark Whittle