And God Bless Us
This is another extract from my memoir. I’m currently on my second draft. If you want to find out what happens when I get to the airport you can find that elsewhere on this blog.
It was late December and my China trip was approaching. I had thought about placing a few bags of smack up my ass and somehow smoking some lines in the plane toilet. But I knew those toilets had highly sensitive smoke alarms and China takes a dim, murderous view of drug addicts. Maybe I could inject? No, if you want to inject like they do in the movies it takes practice, as a newbie on a moving plane, I would shred my arms and get blood everywhere. I would have to come off heroin before going. It was probably for the best. After all, my habit was getting out of control. I had done the heroin experience and it had been fun, interesting and horrible. Now I knew people weren’t messing around when they spoke of its elusive power. So in the weeks leading up to the trip I tapered my use until I was using for two days and taking two days off. On my days off I caught up on sleep and did a little work.
My aunty and uncle had arranged a little Christmas gathering for me, their son and my brother and sister. I brought Penny, my girlfriend, along with me. I was not a day off heroin and I went on the nod around the Christmas tree. I remember everyone laughing as my eyes began to close, I would briefly hover between consciousness with a slack expression on my face, and then my head would drop. “We’ve never seen anyone this tired”, they chuckled, “when was the last time you slept, last year?” I smiled, only dimly aware of their festive shapes.
A couple of days later and the heroin was out of my system and my nerves were jangling like sleighbells in the snow. Indeed, snow was falling and forming china-white clumps in gutters and around the doorsteps of London. The heater in Hans’ old estate car blasted hot dry air my face as my toes thawed. The back filled with shopping bags. As the smack has worn off I noticed a sullen pain in my jaw, now I was sober and it felt as if my back teeth were being prized off with a cold screwdriver. I rubbed my cheek worried. I was supposed to fly to China in two days. My thoughts whirled around this and then Hans, not known for his tact, dropped the bomb,
“I think you should move out”, he said. I was shocked and appalled,
‘But mate I’m not doing anything wrong’ I said, playing innocent. This annoyed him, “look it’s becoming a problem, Meagan and Dan are moving out because of it”,
“They told me it was because the rent was too high”
“It’s also because they’re scared of you, you look terrible you’re up at all hours of the night… even the neighbours have been disturbed when you’re coming and going so late, you don’t move quietly, it’s like bang, thump, all night”. Scared? How pathetic, I thought. How can anyone be scared of me? All I practically did was stay in my room and smoke gear; that’s all I wanted to do and they didn’t know that I was doing it every day. For all they knew I was doing it as much as I told them I was – a couple of times a month. What a load of crybabies. And then I said,
“Look, I’ll stop, I promise I will, I’ve been toning it down recently anyway”, my heart was racing, maybe this was the time to stop, deep down I knew that things were getting out of hand. Hans went quiet. He was tactless but not unkind. “I’ll think about it” was all he said. I stared out of the window. The snow came down.
“You have an infected gum”, said the Dentist. It was the next day and he was probing around my mouth with blunt rubber-gloved fingers. “Your wisdom teeth have pushed it up and you have been chewing down it on it – didn’t you feel any stinging?”
“Nothing until yesterday – then it got really bad”. He looked surprised and then a miracle happened.
“I’m going to prescribe some codeine for the pain and some disinfecting mouthwash – I suggest you try and chew on the left side of your face until it’s better”. I tried not to thank him too profusely. The codeine, combined with my tapering meant I would certainly avoid going into withdrawal in China and it would be legal to take it across the boarders. It was Christmas miracle. I paid the high cost of the emergency appointment and went to pharmacy. I made sure to save the receipts and slips.
The snow laid a couple of inches thick all around and when I arrived home I found Dan outside smoking and Hans with him. It was the first time I had seen either of them since the awkward conversation yesterday. Dan exhaled a cloud of smoke into the frigid air.
“We’re just really worried about you mate”. I’d heard this old ruse before; how dare they be worried? I wasn’t doing anything other than a little bit of heroin every now and then, I still had my life in order and I paid the rent didn’t I? Fucking crybabies, I always knew they were squares.
“I’m not addicted, I can stop any time, I’m stopping now, I’m going to China and when I come back that will be it”. They didn’t look like they believed me. “Come on, don’t chuck me out Hans just give me another chance”, I was begging my two oldest friends not to chuck me out. What right did they have to do this to me? “OK, if you stop then you can stay”, Hans relented.
“What about you Dan?”
“Well Meagan wants to live with Anna so that’s all sorted for January”, he said. See I knew it wasn’t just about me, I nearly said as much to Hans right then. I watched Dan exhale more cigarette smoke, “you know who the real addict is here, it’s you, I don’t smoke”,
“Yeh but smoking won’t kill me”, Dan retorted,
“Yeh it will”
“Look you can’t compare smoking to fucking heroin”, he came back, “heroin can kill you instantly with an overdose or something”.
“But I can stop – you can’t”, by provoking him I was taking a small revenge for the indignity of having to beg for my place in the house,
“I think they’re both bad”, Hans said playing the diplomat,
“Are you serious? Like smoking is anything like as bad, at least it doesn’t turn me into a rambling moron”, said Dan and flicked the butt into the snow.
“What do you mean?
“You don’t make any sense any more man, you just start talking and it’s like you’re on a different planet, you don’t sleep, you’ve put on weight”, we were both breathing fast, the breath steam rising around us like dust in a cattle fight,
“I look fine”
“No you don’t”. Suddenly I switched back to being contrite – was this what he was talking about? Mood swings?
“I know I’m going to stop, I want to stop”, I moaned. This wasn’t fair; I just wanted to be left alone to take my heroin in peace, why won’t people leave me alone? What business is it of theirs what I do in my own room?
“I hope you do, look if you go back to normal, there’s no problem”, he said. I was back to anger again – fuck him, why can’t they accept me for who I am? Normal! Who wants to be normal? Fucking squares.
“Yeh” was all I said, looking down. “I’ve got to go inside and pack now.”