My eyes spring open with the zest of a kid on Christmas morning. My heart is pounding so hard that I can see the bed covers moving. And what in God's name is this ringing noise? This incessant assault on my ears. In one swift manoeuvre, I sit bolt upright in my bed, my body filled with so much energy I feel as though I could do a thousand press ups. Although my mind is far too wired to actually hold a thought. My every neurotransmitter alive with electrical activity. Their ebb and flow, threatening to short circuit my brain.
But hold on! Wait a minute! Somebody is calling me. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a voice is penetrating that piercing ringing noise. Am I going mad? Have I lost that final marble?
"Andy, Andy, please, you've gotta help me man".
I spin my head around, to face my demons. Surely, I'm slipping into the realms of the clinically unwell. It's time to have a word with Satan, who has undeniably taken over my mind. He wants to take me with him. Take me on journey into the darkness of my very core.
The sudden rush of blood to my head, takes me off guard. And then the dizziness stops, allowing my eyes to refocus. I am faced not by the Devil, but by my mate Del Boy. Who is uncomfortably hunched over the sofa, clutching various parts of his body. From the dark patches on his clothing it is evident that he has been bleeding for quite some time. His glasses are completely shattered, their bent frame hanging comically from his ears.
"Del, Del, what are doing man?", I ask him.
I'm hardly able to contain my excitement that I have not gone mad. I try to tell him, that for a minute, I thought he was the devil. But the nature of his injuries, ensures that he does not actually give a fuck, about my close shave with insanity.
"Listen Andy, you've gotta get me to the fucken hospital man", he demands.
His heavy Glaswegian accent is enough to stir anybody into action. It has the same affect as sticking my head into a bucket of icy cold water.
"Fuck! Del, Del Boy, what happened man? How did you end up like this", I enquire.
His expression of disbelief, ignites a suspicion inside me. I have an inkling that I may have played my own part in his current situation.
"Are ya fucken kiddin me man?",
"Ya cannae remember what da fuck happened?", he asks me.
(No, but I have a feeling you're going to tell me -I think to myself).
Getting Del down the two flights of stairs from my apartment is a struggle in itself. Now we only have to walk along the harbour, over the bridge, down the Old Reijn (river) for around a kilometer, to the Central Leiden railway station, through the station to the university and across the grassy patch, to the University Hospital. This task would have been made infinitely easier if A, I was not still totally wired from whatever last night had thrown at me, B, I was not supporting a Scotsman with a suspected broken back amongst countless other injuries, and C, Del had not managed to smash his glasses to smithereens and can't see above a metre in front of him.
Our painfully slow and painfully, painful (for Del) journey is briefly punctuated at the harbour fence, whilst I contemplate strapping Del Boy to the back of my old Dutch bicycle. He does not seem to conform to my idea, so we continue our quest. A perilous journey which is filled with much groaning from Del, and much interrogation from me. I need to get to the bottom of this bloody mystery.
"Andy, what can ya remember man?", Del asks me, after numerous, obviously ridiculous questions on my part.
"Well, I remember going to see Frank Black at the LVC (concert venue in Leiden)", I tell him.
"Yeah, yeah- aye he was fucken good like", Del responds. In a sudden burst of pleasure that temporarily overrides his pain and then infuriates it even more.
I think about it for a minute and it all comes back to me. Frank Black, front man and god like genius, formerly of the Pixies. A legend in the world of rock and the inspiration for Nirvana. How I'd longed for this concert, after seeing the Pixies twice in the early 90s. It is now the year 2001 and I've been waiting for this for months.
"Yeah, yeah, it's all coming back to me Del", I recall. "He brought the fucking house down last night. I remember, it was amazing. Frank Black truly was amazing".
Del tries to nod his head in agreement, but this does not bode well with his heavily damaged spine. In my mind I visualise my actions of last night. I remember downing beer after beer and then diving into a small crowd of people, in this wonderfully dark and intimate venue. The crowd were going wild. Crying out for more as Frank Black blasted out, tune after tune. His vocal chords, bellowing out his inimitable primal screams, his fingers strumming at his guitar with the passion of a somebody that's just picked up something extremely hot.
Del, see's that he is losing me, and interrupts me from my current spasm of Frank Black euphoria with his next question.
"Aye, but Andy man. Do you remember the fucking pills that you gave me?".
(Oh! so that would be why my mind feels like it's been through a mangle, I think to myself. At least I can cross a brain aneurysm and insanity off my list.)
"Man, they were fucken brain shakers", Del informs me.
Although he still groans with pain, every 10 seconds, I am beginning to have my suspicions that his back is not broken. The semblance of a smile upon his countenance, as he talks about the quality of the pills, helps to substantiate these suspicions.
"I was fucken dancin like a man possessed", he tells me.
And with those very words, my serotonin saturated brain is kick started into action, and memories of last night come flooding back.
"Yeah, I remember, I remember", I yell. "You were all over the fucking dance floor, like Bez with a bout of worms" (Bez, for anybody who missed the late 80s and 90s, is the Happy Mondays, drug fuelled, frenetic dancing, maraca shaking talisman).
"You had a crowd of people just watching you, as I recall", I tell him. Hopefully this injection of ego will help him get to the hospital faster, I think to myself.
"Aye, they were fucken lovin it man", he interjects. "And they were fucken lovin it even more when my glasses fell off and I fucken stood on em", he informs me.
The image of this last sentence enters my head and I struggle to stifle my laughter.
"Oh shit! Yeah I remember, I had to escort you back to mi.......ne", I remind him.
Of course, he needs no reminder. His smashed body and glasses are obviously a product of this very fact.
We reach Leiden railway station and stop for a minute whilst Del catches his breath. Once we are through the station, we will be able to see the hospital in the distance. This thought triggers a new question in my mind.
"Do you have insurance Del?" This is not the NHS you know?", I tell him.
He has obviously given this some consideration already and quickly responds with.
"Cannae use yours Andy man? I can pretend I'm you. I'm sure that we can get away with it".
Fifteen minutes later and not only have we made it to the hospital but we have also magically changed identity. I am now a much younger Glaswegian man, with a heavily damaged spine and a smashed pair of spectacles, whilst Del is a totally wired Englishman, who just happens to be insured.
Two things happen, whilst we wait for Del (Andy) to be treated. He manages to complete the whole story (as far as he remembers it) of how he ended up in a crumpled heap on my couch, and we manage to make total and utter fools of ourselves as we try to keep up the lie of our exchanged identities. This starts within 5 minutes of being there, whilst filling in the paperwork. Without fail every time the receptionist asks for his/my details, we both respond with different answers. By the time the form is filled out, the nurse either thinks that we are incredibly stupid, or we are scamming the insurance. Meanwhile Del can't remember if he's me and I can't remember whether I'm Del.
Fortunately we are not challenged on this and despite a further calamity of school boy errors, Del gets treated and receives confirmation that he has not broken his spine. It transpires that he has heavily bruised it, most likely from a fall of around 5 metres. Which just happens to be approximately the height of the window at the back of my apartment.
So, what about the story? Well in short, it turns out that despite Del Boy's desperate pleas for me to escort him home pronto. I decided that the buzz of the pills was too good to miss out on and somehow managed to convince Del that it would be a good idea for him to have another one, twenty minutes before we headed home. With the benefit of hindsight, this idea was never going win the Nobel prize..
In any normal city, this would have been a bad idea. But being Holland, this is not a normal city. Just like Venice and Amsterdam, the city is traversed by a myriad of canals. Not a terrain for a wasted man to be effectively leading a blind man home. Although Del informs me that things were apparently going fine for the first 5 minutes, until the second pill kicked in (for us both at the same time) and we somehow managed to dance off in different directions.
What happened next is shrouded in great mystery, but by the end of the day, and with the help of our friend Ian, we are able to perfectly patch it together.
So here are the clues. 1, Del has somehow managed to lose all his money. A fact that only comes to light, when he attempts to pay for some new glasses on the way back from the hospital. 2, Del seems to remember falling from a window. 3, I seem to remember lying in bed and listening to Del calling me from some distance. 4, We both seem to remember that there was some traumatic act involved in last nights proceedings. 5, Del is in some considerable pain and his glasses are broken beyond repair.
Del and I spend the rest of the afternoon musing over what may have happened and we think that we have built up a highly probable hypothesis. And here it is.
My apartment is on the 2nd floor. In my apartment there are 2 big windows, which are located at the back of the only room, at a height of approximately 5 metres. My bed is situated next to the windows and when I wake, one of the windows is open. This leads us to believe that Del has somehow managed to get into the room via the open window. But how? And how, in gods name did he sustain his injuries?
Behind my house is a large car park and builders yard. This is always locked and has a gate which is at least 2 metres high. The yard is surrounded by a 2 metre tall fence, which separates it from the gardens of the houses beyond. Tall trees line the fence and make the gardens virtually impenetrable. Especially to an all but blind man who is off his face on Ecstasy. Even if he were to get over the fence, we fail to see how it would have been possible to get past the houses.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that Del did not enter the room via the open window, we continue to follow this course of enquiry because, to be perfectly frank, we have run out of better ideas. Of course this still does not explain his injuries, although somewhere in the back of our minds, we seem to remember that I may have dropped him on my first attempt to pull him through the window and possibly succeeded on a second try. We both agree that the Ecstasy must have acted as a pain killer.
Not totally convinced with our predictions but devoid of any new ideas. We put the whole episode to bed for a short while, until there is a bang on the door and Ian enters the room. Upon seeing Del's injuries, he calls out.
"Aye aye boys, what's happened here?"
After listening to the evidence. He walks over to the window. Hoists it wide open, sticks his head out and after a minute of inspection calls us over.
"Aye boys, I think that the mystery is over", he tells us.
"Check the wall, there's bloody hand prints all the way down it and if my eyes don't deceive me, there is Del's money in a pile on the floor down there".
And he's right, although it's anybody's guess how we did not see this evidence in the first place.
The cloudy story of Del's temporary paralysis has been demystified, and we are able to sleep in peace. Well, at least I am.