What happened to me? I used to go to church on Sunday mornings. How did I end up here? Standing stiff in an icy breeze on a Sunday morning in December, waiting for drugs. I had been waiting for15 minutes when I noticed some other people shuffling around in a dodgy way much like I was: hands in pockets, hood up, eyes down. I clocked that they were fiends like me because their brand of hooded shuffling lacked direction which set them apart from normal people. These guys were moving but not going anywhere. Their mannerisms were peppered with the agitation of a person who really really needs some smack, or crack, or both. Slowly, more addicts arrived glancing at their watches and fussing with their phones. We eyed each other suspiciously – a chance for socializing this was not. We just pretended not to notice each other, walking, going nowhere on this grey morning, framed by towerblocks who stood stark against the polluted sky.
A large man with thick dreadlocks shuffled alongside a slight girl, both wore over-sized parkas and tracksuit bottoms. They looked like they could do with a wash but they were not homeless. Their flesh was youthful and taught and there was more than a glimmer of attractiveness about them – perhaps they were a couple, but it was hard to tell. Heroin destroys your sex drive; they could have been just friends. There was a small man with the hanging, yellowed skin of an ancient user. He paced around behind the petrol station with the rest of us. He wore dirty Asics, blue jeans and a light jacket. He was cold and agitated and coughed in Glaswegian. Here was another, his body hung like an old sofa in need of re-upholstering. His coloring was ghostly.
The dealer still hadn’t arrived. I cursed and stamped my feet in the cold. My Converse were battered and my feet were freezing. Two guys, sounding quite jovial for bagheads joined the growing crew of fidgety crack fiends, junkies and dabblers that was growing behind the Esso garage.
‘C’mon man, there are about 10 people waiting here and it’s getting well hot’
One of the new arrivals was speaking to the dealer who was, by now, around 20 minutes late. To kill the eons of time that stretched out between me and my high I considered chatting to some of my fellow mangy addicts but I couldn’t think of a suitable opener…
‘Soooo picking up heroin on a Sunday morning too huh?’
Nah, too awkward. A car pulled up. And my heart went to leap out of my throat,
‘He’s here!’ we all thought. The atmosphere changed immediately, from addled desperation to Christmas morning. I was first at the door and… realized it was a mistake. I looked down onto the passenger seat and saw a square of foil and a readied tube and lighter. Damn, it’s another user. The car driver darted a look into my eyes, terrified, he was not expecting a crew of desperate-looking junkies to start pawing his car like the evil dead. By now we had all realized it was a false alarm and the disappointment was palpable, I called the dealer.
‘Is he late is he?’ The dealer said
‘Yeh man, you need to sort your runners out, he’s very late and there is about 10 of us waiting around here’ I replied
‘I’ll get on the phone to him’ he replied and hung up. I have only met the dealer himself once or twice, you rarely see him. He pays a handful of teenagers ₤100 a day to exchange drugs for money in the roads and alleyways. It was unusual to have so many people trying to score in the same place at the same time though. Perhaps it was because it was 10:30am on a Sunday morning and other dealers were not serving. The parka couple started pacing around and then the dreadlocked man exploded in a mini tantrum
‘God! He’s so late’. I sighed and checked my watch. The runner was close to 40 minutes late. God knows what the own-business-minding thought of the junky supermarket that was forming behind an Esso garage in Camden Town on Sunday morning. The two strangely upbeat junkies were chatting loudly, the ancient smackheads looked as if they were about to burst into tears and the guy in the car had locked all his doors and sat with his arms folded.
The runner finally turned up. He was easily the healthiest looking person there, a 6ft Asian lad. He walked up but stopped as the junkies formed a vague queue around him. He unwrapped a fist-sized bundle revealing a handful of small bags each about the size of a 5p piece. Half contained a light, tan colored powder, the other a solid white substance.
‘I got both’ he proclaimed
This meant that he was selling crack as well as heroin. I let the harder-core junkies go ahead of me. I didn’t like the thought of getting between them and their fix. I never liked picking up heroin as much as other drugs. I find picking up other drugs to be more of a celebratory experience but, for some reason, whenever I found myself asking a roadman (dealer) for a ‘white’ (crack) or a ‘b’ (brown – heroin) I automatically hunch-up and start avoiding eye-contact with people. I shuffle away with a barely-audible ‘cheers mate’. Other junkies have similar body language but the crack heads are a breed apart; their attention spans are so short they resemble twitching insects, buzzing, trying to get the most amount of crack they can from any source whatsoever. I always had the impression they would think nothing of stabbing you in the neck with a toothbrush.
‘2 bs please mate’ I said. The irony of my polite sentence wasn’t lost on me as I took 2 5p-sixed bags of light brown powder and gave the runner ₤30. I walked away without glancing back at the other customers who were now fading from the scene like mist in sunlight. I was in a hurry because I had to start my shift at a pub within the hour and it looked like I was going to be late. I decided to do a small amount at the pub to help me through the afternoon. It wasn’t long before they stopped returning my calls. After I finished my shift I all but ran home and tipped half my stash onto some foil and rolled up a separate square of foil to make a tube. I heated the small pile of brown powder and it liquefied into a dark brown substance and started to run down the foil which I held at an angle. I followed the wobbly blob using the tube to suck down the trails of light smoke it left in its wake. As soon as I stopped heating, the liquid solidified and stayed stuck on the foil like a bored beetle. After smoking a quarter of the blob, I felt profound warmth throughout my body. My spirit was held by angels. No longer human – I was infinity.