Falling Down

Paula goes on holiday. She’s organised, I guess. I don’t even know how much holiday I’m owed, probably a couple of weeks. She’s just had a week in Corfu and today, when she got back, she was brown and wearing a neck brace. She went on holiday with Wellington! Bit much, that.

I don’t go on holiday because it’s so depressing coming back to work. It makes work even more depressing than it is so it’s not worth it.

“Balcony?” I asked when I saw her. It was clear she’d either fallen from a balcony or dived into a shallow swimming pool. They’re the two ways British people die or get seriously injured on holiday.

“Balcony,” she confirmed. I think she tried to nod.

I personally don’t understand it. I mean, we have heights in Britain but then I’ve never been to anywhere like Corfu. I am more of a Culture Vulture than an Adrenaline Junkie.

“So, what, you just fell off it?”

“Pretty much,” replied Paula. “We were totally steaming because the cocktails are so cheap. Four for a pound and if you show you boobs they’re free.”

“Even yours?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s mad.”

“Then back at the hotel we found a glass door with a platform outside.”

“The balcony?”

“Yeah, the balcony, and we went out on it. Me, my sister and Wellington. To smoke.”

“And then you just fell off?” I wanted to understand. One day my children will maybe live to be old enough to go somewhere with heights.

“It was like…” Paula licked her lips and grimaced. “It was… I was looking out over the town. With the lights and the pool. Really beautiful. I just… I was drawn to it. Does that sound crazy?”

“Not at all,” I lied. “And then you fell off?”

“I was leaning over the ladder.”

“Ladder?”

“The sideways ladder they put around the-“

“The railings?”

“Railings, ladder, the thing you climb on to fall off. I just found myself leaning over it and I was looking back at Wellington and I lifted a leg and he was suddenly spinning slowly, the whole hotel was, and… that’s all I remember.”

“That’s crazy,” I told her. I hadn’t understood at all. “I mean, you wouldn’t fall off Sand Street Car Park?”

“No I wouldn’t,” she agreed.

“Or this place? You wouldn’t get up on the roof and just fall off it?”

“No, I know, it’s just… it’s hard to explain. It’s different.” Paula was reflecting on this and I didn’t want to push her.

“Well, you’re lucky, sort of,” I told her. I was glad she wasn’t dead or totally monged up. She could still serve sausage rolls but I wasn’t going to get all soppy and tell her that.

Paula smiled. She appreciated my concern. “I was lucky. If we’d been any higher…”

“Not worth thinking about,” I told her but she was still thinking about it.

“Four people died that night,” she said and she was on the verge of tears. She bit her lower lip.

“In your hotel? Just your hotel? Falling?”

Paula just nodded even though I could see it hurt.

“Only British people? I mean, it’s only British people for whom the concept of gravity goes – if you excuse the pun – goes out of the window when on holiday?”

“What?” She asked confused.

“Sorry, don’t know what happened,” I told her. “Started talking all weird there for a sentence.”

Her eyes were wet and were trained on me.”Loads more were badly hurt. It was like… 9/11. People… tumbling… every night.”

“It sounds awful,” I said truthfully. Don’t know if it was the neck brace or the fact she was upset but for second Paula looked hot.

“If I’d been on the first or second floor…”

“You were on the ground floor?” Well that’s a story! “No, that’s really lucky,” I said. “So…” I gestured to her neck brace.

“Some… some fat bitch from Dudley. Fell… while I was climbing back in. Landed on…” Paula pointed at her own head.

“Christ!” I said shaking my head. “It’s ridiculous. There should be some kind of, I dunno, test or something. You know? They should tell British people to just not even go on the balconies. Or something.” I thought for a better solution but there wasn’t one.

I drummed a pretty good short drum solo on the hot food counter with my fingertips and then left her. I felt I looked suitably moved.

“You couldn’t get my Nurofen from my coat could you?” Paula asked my back.

“Sure!” I replied but I was thinking, don’t milk it.

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