The beating heart of Scotland, watching its flowers amid the English roses, quickening with each surge, each setback, each addition to the score board, hard fought on the heavy, wet pitch – no longer so green, pounded by boots, running, turning, heaving – becoming heavier with the now insistent rain, challenging the ball, taking it further or not as far as the kicker intended, to be scrambled for by the thirty hearts, pumping blood to thirty bodies – to muscles in legs, to arms, and to brains perhaps two metres above the ground – while, nearly five million times a minute, the hearts of 67,000 pump a rear guard action against the cold and the wind and the wet, striving for concentration, excitement, warmth in frozen feet and bodies clothed in penetrating dampness so some begin to head out, dodging the puddles of spilt beer, the discarded Irn Bru cans, the dropped chips with their smears of sauce, red, brown, curry while those determined to stay to the all-too-bitter end count down the minutes on the clock, unforgiving in its seemingly glacial descent to well that’s that then.
On this night, then, 67,000 hearts continue pumping as the bodies stand, inch out of rows, move as one slowly up then down steps to the concourse, where individual figures emerge distinct, each now separate heart navigating the darkness towards the bus stops, the tram stops, the cars and one man’s heart beats as he throws sodden coats and hats and scarves in the boot, and one woman’s heart beats as she starts the engine, turns the heater on full, joins the traffic stop-starting through the winter streets, black, slick, glistening silver, red, orange, green, slowly towards fish and chips in an hour, and we should be home by ten, with no response – surely not asleep already.
Not asleep. Afterwards, the woman will not know how many times her heart beat while his did not, while vigorous compressions took over from the fist-sized muscle in his chest, while sledge-hammering volts tried again and again to re-establish the delicate electrical pulses, while the blue lights arrived and left, the sound of the siren fading into the night.
The passing doctor, the very tall policeman and the woman. She asks is he dead and the passing doctor answers I don’t know and the very tall policeman asks if she would like him to drive her to the hospital and she feels stupid questioning whether he is insured and the journey takes five minutes or an hour to Saturday night’s Accident and Emergency Department, starkly fluorescent, dismally empty, quiet as though holding its breath, yet she has to repeat dates of birth three times and in some part of her mind she acknowledges herself as she must appear – the soaked through, bedraggled, bewildered figure escorted by the very tall policeman along corridors to the small bare waiting room, where alone she is overcome by the crushing silence of her heart beating.