While I’m Waiting…
Fade in. A small English town at night. A row of terrace houses line a potholed street. A light glows from a windowless house. Inside, the interior is gutted and there is a painter’s ladder in the front room. There is a builder’s van parked outside..
I’m walking towards the house to score Heroin. Here, in this small commuter town, there is one supplier. Everyone knows who he is, the police, neighbors and his extended family. In fact – it is a family business. They have legitimate interests in the property game and use drug profits to buy old houses and renovate them for resale.
Instead of hiring laborers much of the work is done by junkies who owe them money. These broken bastions of men also sell dope for them. So that’s why I’m making my way to the house with no windows tonight. Inside I will find a cantankerous old junky laying a bathroom floor and he will sell me smack.
I do not walk right in to the house though. I have to wait for the call to come through from the main dealer before I can enter. So I lean against the rough brickwork of a nearby warehouse and wait for the call watching ghosts dance in the vapor of my breath. While I’m waiting I will tell you about
Jay. When I first met her, on the rain-smudged neon streets of Soho, I mistook her for a teenage boy. She was black, not the Barack Obama sort of black, proper black. Her short dreadlocks hung around her wide face like fuzzy carrots. She wore baggy jeans, layers of jumpers, a bandana and baseball cap. She wouldn’t have looked out of place in a scene from 8 Mile. She was small and dangerous. You got the impression that the wrong side of her would also be the wrong side of a baseball bat.
Jay was my first regular connect. She was a junkie middleman, a rip-off merchant and I didn’t know any better. Scoring weed and pills in suburbia had not prepared me for the world of street smack and crack.
Jay was a spider. She spun webs of words that bound me in silk sentences until I became her willing cash machine. And as I began to embrace Heroin more, as my calls increased and my spending become more extravagant her con-tricks become blunter, her rip-offs more audacious and her lies less believable. She was “arrested” with ₤80 of my money, her dealer had ripped her off… she was always going to pay me back but never did. I kept calling her because she held the keys to the my smack and I was starting to need it more and more.
I got off the Underground at Leicester Square. It was November and steam rose from the rainsoaked crowds who flooded into the warm station. Outside, the rain covered my face instantly and the wind chilled my cheeks. For the first couple of minutes I struggled through the crowds of tourists before turning into the labyrinthine backstreets.
Smell of greasy Chinese food and rubbish. I wound my way past stacks of cardboard boxes and heavy-syllabled men unloading vans. Heating systems expelled clouds of mist and the streetlights illuminated the rain that drilled down from heaven drowning rats in drains.
I emerge from the backstreets into the centre of Soho – London’s den of iniquity – and wait for Jay by a Pret a Manger shop that has shut for the night. I push my hands deep into my coat pockets with a sigh…. Jay always takes her time so while I’m waiting for her I’ll tell you about
Rex. He was my first proper smack dealer. I stole his number from Jay after she used my phone to call him. I used a fake name incase she ever found out and came looking for me. Not that she would likely find me in the herds of central London but drugs can make you paranoid like that.
Rex used runners – little more than children. They turned up, wide-eyed with fear carrying their deadly wares. After handing them ₤30-₤60, tiny balls would emerge from the recess of their gob and be spat into their hands then placed in my palm. Then they split, scurrying back into an internet café where they warmed themselves and waited for the next call.
When I met Rex he was driving a Honda Civic – the car of choice for wannabe gangsters. He handed me my order from an ash tray filled with little balls containing 0.3g of powder wrapped and re-wrapped in plastic and burnt with a lighter to seal shut. He was charming and seemed very enthusiastic to finally meet me,
“Give me a call anytime man! It was great to meet you – take care!”
And he was gone. I had money, a fistful of Heroin and a dealer who seemed to like me, what could be better?
After Jay’s sketchy portions I thought I had hit the motherload when I unwrapped my first order from Rex. It was twice, no, three times the amount Jay was giving me for the same money. The toot barely left my lips in the days that passed. I inhaled smack like air, chased brown blobs over miles of foil, exhaled clouds of it. My pupils contracted so much that everything was a blur.
My lethargy knew no bounds, my bowls slowed to a stop and all I could see was cash machines…cash machines in cold mornings, cash machines glowing at night, cash machines in pouring rain, cash machines in long-angled afternoon sun. I ate only junk food and tasted only the earthy elixer of Heroin.
Rex’s runners usually showed up within 15 minutes. Usually. But sometimes I found myself itching with impatience on a non-descript backstreet. It wasn’t raining for once and I had been there for around 30 minutes.
While I’m waiting let me tell you about
Nash. Half of his face was smile – even whiter when compared to his southern Indian skin and spiky beard. The first time I met him I had been waiting for two fucking hours.
It was deep December in London and my feet were turning numb. I had heard every version of “I’ll be there soon” from him. But I couldn’t walk away. My other dealers weren’t answering and I had already trekked to the wrong side of London. I had a social engagement fast approaching and didn’t have any other options. I couldn’t just turn up at a party and drink alcohol like the rest of them – it unleashed too many demons.
It was rush hour and I said to myself, he’s probably stuck in traffic. I walked up to the bus stop full of angry flesh. I walked back down the road again. I walked back up again. Some angry flesh got on a bus and more got off.
The ache in my tummy was lust and rage and fear. What I craved was on its way, I will have that delicious molecule in my blood soon… it was a painful high all of its own. So I stood there, freezing, pacing up and down the anonymous road. A short distance from me work on the new Olympic park was just beginning.
And then he arrived – his car was warm and womb-like. I opened my palm to receive unholy communion and smoked my hit in the nearest pub toilet. The bar was full of post-work suits, playing as hard as they worked.
I floated through them on my way out, past their big guts and monotonous lives thanking my lucky stars that I wasn’t them. They looked at me, a penniless junkie, face hanging with sleep deprivation and thanked their lucky stars that they weren’t me.
Nash and I became friends of a sort. He became my regular dealer and as I got to know his habits, the long waits became less as I learned that it was much better to meet him during the week when life was less hectic.
But he could be late like no other dealer I’ve known. Hours and hours. A few times I got so angry I stormed away from a meet like an angry lover, ignoring his calls only to reunite with him days later. You see – he had the best gear, he healed my hurts, provided abolition – I could never leave him.
It was a surreal moment when he wished me well in rehab,
“I hope you get off this stuff man”, he said.
“Me too” I replied. And then, “I’ll call you if I get back on it”
“I’ll be here” Nash said.
It is months later and I’m stepping off a train. I feel a volt of panic as I pass the police who guard the station entrance. But they don’t notice me and I’m out into the high street. I walk past hijabbed Muslim women, Asian men is gold-print t-shirts, shops with signs in Hindi and the last remnants of the white working-class smoking at bus stops.
I’m waiting for Nash outside the coffee shop. While I’m waiting I’ll tell you about
Wait. That’s my phone ringing
“Hey Nash… just two today… “
A double-decker bus rumbles past a coffee shop. An Asian man on a bike stops next to a thin white boy in a large coat. Another bus passes. They’re gone. Fade out.