Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way Chapter 3

Here's Chapter 3 for you. Artwork by me X

Community Care

   Spid’s a lucky, lucky bastard. How the fuck he does it, only he knows. Okay, I’m lying, cos I know how he did it: Stakki’s sister.
   This place is falling apart and the fact that they were only building it thirty years ago as part of an ‘urban regeneration’ makes you wonder if they’ll be knocking the new places down in another thirty. I wasn’t even born, but the people who remember will tell you about the big lorries of prefabricated concrete driving up and down when they were building the crescents and all that. The Victorian terraces were unfit for human habitation, they’d said. Slums. “Unfit for purpose” is the new cliché: that’s what they were saying about this place ten years after it went up. And they’ll say it again. If we’d’ve had the money to renovate them, or a landlord who gave a shit, the old terraces would have had all mod cons plonked in’em and be in perfect working order: plenty still stand and no one’s pulling those down. Ironic as it is, they’re building near replicas now (just scaled down, hard to believe though that is; the windows and doors smaller and cheaper, without the fireplaces, cellars or character).
   But they wanted to cram people in like fleas on an old dog. And don’t forget the constant need for lining the pockets of the bigwigs, eh? So that’s where the Hulme crescents came in, with their dimly lit so-called deck access and unaffordable, under-floor heating systems. They had the nerve to lie that they’d based the plans for them on the Royal Bath Crescents: even named them after their Georgian architects. Talk about taking the piss. I mean, do you see the resemblance? Any resemblance? Who visits Hulme and thinks, wow, what a beautiful place! It resonates with the spendour of polite Georgian England! Nah, I didn’t think so. S’pose they just thought because we were from generations of poor folk, that we must be stupid, eh? 
   So here we are, just down the road from the beauty of Robert Adam Crescent, where the architecture’s been condemned, and just across from Rolls Crescent and Royce Road, in the place where there’re less cars per population than virtually anywhere else in the entire effin country. Well, if you checked the prices of the insurance premiums round here, you’d think everyone drove Bentleys.  And as for interior and exterior décor, well that’s the only thing about this place that’s looking good. Every wall in Spid’s flat is covered with graffiti. He’s got a foldout table with his decks on and a speaker on each side. I love this old place. It’d probably be dead already without the squatters. Keeping it alive. It’s probably the most vibrant part of Manchester at the moment and everyone wants a piece of it. Musicians, DJs, artists, poets: people are coming from all over just to party and get a piece of this place. It feels like history in the making, well, underground history at least, but we know that’s the only history worth reading. And the parties we have here are fuckin legendary. But tonight we’re going down PSV, or the Lighthouse or the Caribbean Club as it’s also known, which brings me back to Stakki Kays. And his sister, Kiwi.
   Spid’s getting rehoused into one of the new flats. Otterburn Close’s days are numbered. Kiwi filled the forms in for him. It’s not that Spid’s illiterate or anything; we went to school together, just down the road from here, back in the day. That’ll be gone too soon, meet the rage of the bulldozers along with the rest of the place, no doubt. Seems office complexes, commuter hotels and exclusive, gated housing developments are more important than local businesses or educating poor kids these days. I mean, they don’t even give us a Dales. Everyone knows it’s the cheaper version, so what do they give us? Asda. Well, moving on, Kiwi knows how to answer the questions on the form: that’s the difference between her and me old mate. Spid works the odd evening cash in hand for her and they got talking. From a conversation about how the Prince’s Trust gave her a grant to set up in business producing and selling her herbal highs and the free holiday in Crete she got through a women’s charity, they got round to chatting about Community Care grants off the social. And rehousing forms. Either the council or DSS had a total systems failure or Kiwi’s a bloody good writer, because when they’ve finished building the flat he’s been offered, he’s getting a grand to kit it out. He showed me the letters. But back to tonight, and we’re getting ready for a night out and I’ve just put some heavy Conflict on the decks. The Ungovernable Force.
   -You still got them free tickets?
I have to shout over the music, but Spid can’t hear me and keeps shouting
Back at me.
He eventually understands but shrugs.
   -Fuck knows where I put ‘em. Be alright, Staks’ll let us in, he put us on the guest list.
   -Funny old life, eh?
   -Funny old life. Lost the bus, losing the squat and turning into a fockin Norman Normal.
Norman Normal. See what I mean? Where do all these names originate from? Maybe there really was a really normal bloke called Norman once but I guess this one’s more to do with the rhyme than Happy Larry. Larry the Lamb? Who knows. If you find out, drop us a line.
   -You’ll be working in a bank next, Spid.
   -I’ll be robbing a fockin bank if it all goes tits up.
Spid’s sitting on his battered old yellow-brown sofa and rolling a spliff the size of the Camberwell carrot from Withnail and I. He’s still got the same skinning-up tray I painted him for his birthday on one of my mum’s trays way back when we were fifteen. I did the sides black and the wobbly edges silver and on the tray itself it’s got a rip off of the Subhumans Day the Country Died picture, except the snotty, puking punk’s got Spid’s face. Yeah, we’ve been friends for years, me and Spid.
   When the record finishes, the door’s shaking like it’s being kicked in and someone’s shouting to be let in.
   -Open the door you fockin cunt!
   -Ha ha, that must be Kiwi.
Me and Spid are laughing now. She’d been nearly breaking the door down and we hadn’t even noticed. But it ain’t Kiwi, it’s a bunch of people from the squats and buses we vaguely know. No matter, the more the merrier. It’s always like this at Spid’s place, people in and out all hours, punks, hippies, Travellers, students; anyone up for a good time. They’ve got Special Brews and White Lightening; one of them’s drinking from a bottle of Strongbow.
   -Eh, put anuva record on then Gaz
So I’m flicking through the records til I find The Day The Country Died, cos seeing the tray’s made me want to listen to it. I put it on a bit quieter than before so we can hear each other, swear I’m going deaf, the amount of noise I force on my ears sometimes. We get to talking, me and Spid, about the old times, people we used to know.
   -Yeah, Jascha, he was sound; wonder what happened to him?
Last time I saw Jascha we were stopping in the bus somewhere in Devon and the tourists got a bit ratty.
   -Yeah, remember him telling that stiff arse American couple they were parked up in a designated rave zone, and they were breaking the law if they didn’t want to join the party?
   -Gaz, they were Canadian. Yeah, I remember that, fockin comedian he was.
   -And they either believed him, or-
   -Or they were shitting their pants
   -Shitting their pants probably.
   -More likely, yeah.
I stretch and laugh. Good memories, definitely. Funny how those memories always come with some sort of block on the bad parts. Cos at the time, I was whingeing a lot and I remember Spid whingeing a whole lot more, but, yeah, when I look back it feels like it was fuckin paradise.
   -I was pissing my sides when they drove off in their swanky camper.  
   -Good night, that party.
   -Yeah, seriously. Talking of parties, what time’s Dred-Rock start?

   Me and Spid push past the queue outside the Lighthouse and lean up to the ticket window.
   -On the guest list mate-  Spid grins, shoving the free tickets through the slot under the window. See, he’s not that disorganised after all. –Spid and Gary.
   -Alright, go on, have a good night.
The girl behind the window rips the tickets and hands them back to Spid as she starts to serve the next person.
   It’s eleven thirty and the bar and dance floor are still more or less dead. People are mainly sitting on the raised platforms behind camouflage-netting, the so-called chill out corners. The smell of weed hangs with fag smoke in the air and I’m looking around to see if I clock anyone I know. Up on the stage there’s Stakki with his decks on the table in front of the massive wall-hanging I painted for him, a skinny girl with dreads on the decks, better looking than Stakki, but that’s what he asked me to do and for the twenty quid he offered me, it seemed like a bargain at the time. Every time I see it, I always notice the mistakes on it. He’s churning out all the old favourites, heavy dub stuff. There’s always a bit of jungle later, but not yet, and it’s not like the crowd’s going wild or nothing. It’ll pick up later, it always does.
   Shalom’s behind the bar. There’s not even a queue. Spid’s chatting her up like usual. She’s a beautiful woman, no mistaking that: high cheekbones, long, black hair she’s wearing in braids tonight. Full, painted lips, always glossy and sparkly with that lip gloss she’s always putting on. Spid gets all schmaltzy about her sometimes, going on with himself like, ah, Gaz, I wanna know what that lip gloss tastes like. So I asked her once, Shalom, can I borrow your lip gloss a minute? She looked at me in a sort of what the fuck? way, then handed it to me. I unscrewed the lid and I went to paint Spid’s lips with it, Oi, what you doing, you nutter? Shalom was asking, but Spid was pissing his sides, just licked his lips and said, Strawberry. Her skin’s flawless, looks like she’s never even had a spot in her life, all translucent like those bars of toffee you used to get in the swimming pool vending machine, with the little hammer you were supposed to break it with. Yeah, whatever happened to that? It came in a little aluminium tray. Highland toffee, that’s the stuff. Maybe they still sell it to tourists in the Highlands, eh?
   And there’s Stan. He’s sat with the Gardner over in the farthest corner, but he sees me and stands, beckoning me over.
   -Oi, Stan the man!
He looks proper wasted, eyes red and slitty. The Gardner greets me and I sit down.
   -So who was that bird you sent to see me then? Stan asks.  
   -Ah, that was the lovely Tania. She found you, then.
Stan pulls out two tenners and waves them at me with a leer of satisfaction. Here we go. I never meant for him to do one. I know, call me a hypocrite, cos it’s not like I’ve never done it myself. I’m not being funny, but it’s proper pissed me off. Pisses me off that he’s gloating over it like he’s a fuckin hero for pulling a fast one on Tania. Thinks he’s a clever cunt, but I don’t see bragging’s ever had any purpose.
   -You burned her, ya tight bastard!
   -Gaz yer goin soft. You got the hots for her or somefink?
I’m shaking my head, part in answer and part in annoyance. Stan’s still going on with himself
   -She’ll learn one day and by that time she’ll be doing it to some other virgin, that’s just the way it is.
   -Yeah, yeah.
Even the veterans get fucked over every so often, but not like that. Well, now I’m gonna have to tell her something to keep her sweet. We’ve all had our share of shit in this game.
   -Well enjoy yourself, cos she might be coming down later.
   -Nice one! There was twenty more an’ all. Got meself some class skunk from the great Gardner in the sky. So we’ll be seeing her later, then? Maybe then me and her can get together, share a blunt and get down to some serious romance. Nice little body she’s got on her, eh, Gaz?
And he’s laughing like the old pervert he is. He’s well into his forties and Tania’s just nineteen. I might look like I don’t have morals, but like I said, I like Tania and I’m feeling a bit of a cunt for sending her to him in the first place, but losing forty quid’s better than whatever he has in his mind now and I remind myself to warn her off. I just give him an evil and he claps me on the back, cackling and saying
   -Ah, Gaz, soft as shite.
   The Gardner’s the name we all give this bloke who’s sat here, chain rolling and chain smoking his home-grown weed. He’s got sensi, skunk and whatever else takes his fancy, which he calls organic. Two flats knocked through in Otterburn, boarded windows and tin foil lining give his gardening project the perfect hiding place. It’s like summer in Barbados when you go in there. Sunglasses are optional  is his catchphrase when you walk through the door. All lights and fans, and he’s got filters rigged to the vent system so no one on the outside smells nothing, or at least, that’s the idea. Cos every time I’ve been up there, either I’ve got a nose like a sniffer dog, or the gavvers are turning a blind eye. Either way, he does an exceptional trade and never gets busted. Fair play to him, he looks happy enough tonight, and he’s one of the nicest blokes you could meet.
   -Just leave it, Stan, okay?
   -If it’s herbs she wanted, I’ll help her out; always happy to be of service, grins the Gardner. Stan’s laughing and miming someone having a toot.
   -Aah, in that case, I can’t help you, and in that case also, you did her a favour, Stan. But the karma will get you in the end, and I advise compensation in the form of green, my friend.
   -That’s what I was gonna tell you, Gaz, I was doing her a favour. Anyway, right, you don’t know me, I don’t know you: I’m not Stan, I’m just his mate, up from London, ‘cept I used to live here, right? I was just round there when he was out and took the opportunity to do a bit of business with her. ‘Cept she never showed up. The guy let me down. What’s me name?
I just play along with it. He enjoys some sort of fantasy world where he’s some superfly diamond geezer, but everyone else knows he’s just a tosser who has to shave his head really close because he thinks if he does that people won’t realise he’s gone bald. Forty-something going on fourteen.
   -Uh, Rob, yeah?
   -Rob, fockin nice one…Rob. You fockin twat, Gaz, Rob.
   -Alright, but I don’t fockin know ya so I’m gonna do one now.
   -Suits me, ya smelly bastard.
I go back to the bar to find Spid. He’s still chatting to Shalom.
   -Alright Shalom? Look, Spid; if Tania comes in and you see Stan, you don’t know him, right?
Why the fuck I’m bothering to play Stan’s game is beyond me.
   -Gaz, I don’t even know what she looks like.
   -Agh, just forget about it.
   Spid’s winking at Shalom now and shuffling off across the dancefloor, doing her a silly dance to try and make her laugh. He never gives up. There’s a throwback from the sixties dancing too, enjoying the lights, her arms in the air, grey hair long and held under a tie dye headband, pink, wire-framed glasses and a psychedelic dress. She moves in snaky spirals, like she’s still a teenager, eyes half-closed, content. I love it when I see the older ones still having a good time. This place is good like that, you get a real mix of people from all walks of life. Yeah, PSVs ain’t bad.
   -D’ya wanna drink Gaz?
   -Wouldn’t say no, cheers lil sis.
Shalom hands me a can of Red Stripe but I ask her for ginger beer instead. She cracks the ring pull as she’s taking the money off a bloke with loads of facial piercings. Face like a fuckin pincushion. I mean, I got a few in me nose and me ears, but you can’t even tell what this geezer’s face looks like. Maybe that’s the idea. Just as she turns to put his money in the till, the doors open and in walks Tania with a group of her uni mates, two blokes and a girl.
   -Oh, shit, here she comes. You don’t know Stan, right?
Last thing I want is shit off Stan calling me a grassing bastard. Why the fuck did I send her there? Anyone but Stan.
   -I don’t know him anyway.
Tania sees me straight off and runs up to me, tugging on my sleeve.
   -Where’s your mate then?
   -Hi Tan, alright?
   -Oh, don’t act the innocent with me: where the fuck is he?
Tania’s shifting from one foot to the other, hyperactive.
   -Nah, seriously, I don’t know what the fock you’re on about. What mate? What the fock happened to you? Stop pulling my fockin clothes, woman.
I give her my best smiley face, like. Look, I told you before, I like her: I never set her up. I’m as pissed off with Stan as she is. And if you don’t believe me, I want her to.
   -Yeah you do, you know exactly what I’m on about. I always treated you right, Gary, I thought you were my friend.
   -You are my friend, Tan, you’re my mate, you’re cool. I like you. Now tell me what happened.
   -Where the fuck is your so-called mate? If you’re my friend, you’ll tell me where he is!
   -Cockney fucking Stan, that’s fucking well who!
I’ve never seen Tania like this. She was never like this with me before, and trust me, I’ve scammed her good and proper, but all friendly, like.
   -Oh, you went down there, right? What, wasn’t he in?
   -Oh, the bastard was in alright!
   -Hang on a minute, it’s Stan we’re talking about here. Cut the bastard bit out, eh?
Her eyes are like saucers now, like they’re about to pop out of her face.
   -Look, he ripped me off, alright? Now where is he?
I shrug my shoulders and shake my head, all concerned.
   -No, not Stan. Look, I don’t know where he is, but he’s not like that anyway. He’d not rip off one of me mates, no way.
   -Well, the bloke I saw wasn’t even a Cockney!
   -Did he say his name was Stan?
   -…uh, no,but…
   -Well, there you go.
   -What does Stan look like?
   -Black guy. Funki dreads.
Now, I’m wondering how I’m going to carry this information to Stan, not that it matters in the end. In the long term, it’ll all be jumbled up with the rest of the bullshit she encounters if she stays on the bumpy old downhill moped.
   -I told you. It was probably one of his mates. He don’t exactly keep the best company.
   -Well, if you see him, tell him I want my forty quid back off his mate.
   -Forty quid? Did you a favour really. You that desperate to get yourself a habit? I told you; you shouldn’t be doing that shit. Do yourself a favour and get yourself a nice bag of skunk and lay off the brown for a bit, eh?
   -Just tell him.
   -I’ll do that.
I feel sorry I ever met Tania sometimes. But when I think about it, I just remind myself that if it hadn’t’ve been me, it would’ve been someone else. And I try to look out for her in my own way.

   The place is filling up, the dancefloor slightly populated. Shalom comes to say bye to me: her shift finished, she’s heading for the New Ardri for the herbal tea party.
   -Been here four hours and it’s only just getting going. Well, I’m off; have a good one, say bye to Spid for me.
But I don’t have to: he must have been watching her from wherever he’d buggered off to, cos he’s already walking over, giving her his best hug and a kiss on the cheek. Like I say, he doesn’t give up easy.
Tania’s dragging me onto the dancefloor and jumping around too fast even for the General Levy that’s bassing out of the sound system booyaka booyaka
   -Got some phet if you want some
   -Nah, yer alright
   -You sure?
   -Never touch the stuff

Now I feel someone putting their hands on my shoulders and I turn round to see Spid, grinning from ear to ear.
   -Alright Gaz, who’re your friends?
   -Tania, Spid: Spid, Tania
Tania’s giving Spid a big hug now. Thank fuck for that. I didn’t wanna dance anyway. Can’t be arsed with dancing, truth be told. She’s trying to get Spid to dance and they’re talking, looking over at Tania’s friend, who’s dancing with her other two mates. They look like right pricks, dancing like a load of corpses, stiff and jerky. That’s why I don’t like dancing to anything except punk. Rarely even bother with that, but you can’t go wrong with a bit of jumping around. Then Tania’s dragging Spid up to the girl she came in with and putting their hands together like Bob Marley and the two politicians, except this is definitely a little more romantic. So much for his dreams of lifelong love with Shalom, but seeing as she’s not interested, he’ll have to fish elsewhere. I hear Tania’s squeelie, girlie voice even over General Levy
   -Sarah! This is Spid, he’s gorgeous, isn’t he? Oh my god!
There’s quite a lot of oh my goding and Spid’s sucking it all up, laughing along with it, taking the plastic pint glass of purplish liquid she’s passing to him and smelling it, giving her one of his quizzical looks.
   -What’s that? Meths? Makes you blind, what, are you an alchie, it ain’t that bad is it?
Thinks he’s funny, but so does she.
   -Snakebite and black; taste it, it’s nice.
He’s slurping out of the glass, downs quite a bit before he hands it back.
   -So you’re a mate of Tania’s, right?
   -I live with her actually.
   -So you’re not her mate then?
   -Course I am.
I leave Spid to do his spiel and get myself back to the corner. Time to sit down. I don’t see Stan any more, thank fuck, but Kiwi’s here, sitting with a group of people we’d hung outside the Sally with last summer, on and off. Kiwi shouts me and a couple of people shift up so I can sit down.
   -You comin to the party after? The bloke next to me spoke.
   -Might as well; where is it?
He hands me a photocopied hand-written flyer with a map on the back.
   -It’s at our place. We’re getting evicted next week, so might as well make the most of it before the twenty eight days are up. Stakki’s going down later with the decks and there’s a couple of bands. Me brother took his decks down earlier, should be massive.
   -Sounds good. Oi, Kiwi, You going to this party?
   -Yeah; come with us. I’m going down in a bit with Aaron.
   -Yeah, I will, nice one.
Yeah, I’m happy I’ll be leaving with Kiwi. Spid comes up the steps and over to me.
   -I’m getting off now, going back to Sarah’s.
   -Who, that mate of Tania’s?
Aaron shouts over at Spid, winking at him
   -Alright Cassanova?
He’s obviously seen something I’ve missed.
   -You’re not coming to this party then, Spid?
I hand him a flyer, but he gives it straight back to me.
   -Nah, Gaz, I got business to attend to.
   -Alright Spidster, see yer tomorrow, right.
   -You bet, come round about lunchtime.
   -Nice one.
   -See yer Kiwi.
Spid slopes off, looking over his shoulder at me, laughing.

*   *   *

   I wake up in a darkened room full of people sitting around on various mattresses and floor cushions. Indian throws hand on the walls and some bloke with a guitar is singing some Bob Dylan song. There’s loud techno coming from somewhere else and jungle from another direction. And drums. Nothing makes sense. The floor’s littered with dog ends and empty cans. I rub my eyes, yawning, aching again like a twat on this hard bleeding floor, and sit up. Dawn light’s filtering into the room through an orange chiffon scarf someone’s pinned over the little skylight in the sloping ceiling.
   -Wossa time?
A crusty girl in a worn woollen jumper turns round and smiles at me as I check my pockets. Can’t believe I’ve fallen asleep in public, but I’ve not been robbed, thank fuck.
   -You’ve been out for about four hours; it’s about six, I think.
I remember getting here, just don’t remember coming into this room.
   -Was I in ‘ere when I fell asleep?
   -Dunno, you were crashed out when I came in.
   -Shit. Have you seen Kiwi?
   -Kiwi- Stakki’s sister. Bright red hair.
    -Don’t think so.
My head’s in pieces. I’m getting to my feet now in hot and cold sweats, skin creeping. Mouth tastes like someone’s shat in it, ears blocked, nose and eyes running the Manchester fuckin marathon. I walk the corridor, checking for a bathroom. The second room on the left doesn’t have a door and I look in. It’s like punk pillar at midday, ‘cept these aren’t punks, but it’s full, even the empty bath’s got people sitting in it, sharing spliffs and drinking. There’s a bloke sat on the toilet with his trousers round his ankles and by the stench, he’s actually shitting in public. Well, it takes all sorts, eh?
   -Is there another bog in this place?
The public shitter replies happily as he looks up from his NME,
   -One on every floor, man. It’s palatial, man, patatial…
   -Cheers mate.
   -Let me know how you get on, mate. Do you ever stick your hair up, by the way? I’ve always wanted a mohawk…
His words fade as I head towards the stairs.
   The bathroom on the next floor down has a door, but when I open it, I’m confronted with a girl throwing her guts up, her mate slapping her on the back. Well, at least there’s someone else who feels as bad as me, cos my guts are starting to feel a bit like hers probably do, but by the looks of her, she’s got a considerably longer time to wait until she can heal her wounds. The ground floor bathroom’s locked and there’s a fuckin queue of four people. I seriously can’t be arsed with this, but I need water.
   -Have they been in there long?
A waifer-like girl in a cheesecloth dress shakes her head and the door opens.
   -Save my place, love?
She nods and I head for the kitchen. There’s a massive table in there like the type they have in the costume dramas, the ones the servants prepare the food on, and there’re people all sat round it drinking mushroom wine. They start chatting to me about the mushrooms, how they got them down Heaton park, asking me to join them, but I just go fill up my pill bottle from the tap, telling them to have fun as I leave.
   I don’t have to go outside or anywhere else, because the queue’s died down that fast even the cheesecloth girl’s gone and the bathroom’s empty. Maybe they all went in together, who cares? The washbasin’s filthy, its blue enamel coated in crusty white scum which has obviously been building up over a period of years rather than weeks. We’ve got soft water in Manchester, so you can’t blame limescale for that. I run the tap for a bit, washing my spoon and rinsing out my mouth, drinking a bit, though I make sure I don’t touch my mouth on the tap, cos it’s sprouting black mould. You think I’m not bothered about stuff like that, don’t you? Think I like it? Fuck off. Do you like mildew and shit? You don’t, do you? So why the fuck should I?
   I fill up from my bottle cos the mould on the tap’s put me off and I sit on the bog lid to empty the gear into me spoon, adding a bit of citric from the film container I keep it in. I like this opaque plastic one, matches the clipper lighter I’ve got now. Small things please small minds, my mum used to say. But I don’t wanna think about my mum now. Not now. I give it a bit of a crush with the orange lid once the water’s in and give that a lick when I’ve finished, force of habit. I’m heating it now and that divine smell…I’ll maybe tell you something else about this when we get to know each other better, but I’ll keep it to myself for now…the clear, brown liquid’s formed now and I drop in my filter, feeling the warmth through the plastic as I pull it up into the syringe, then flick the bubbles up and push them out.
   -Hurry up, mate.
There’s someone hammering on the door now and another voice:
   -What’re they doing in there? Shagging?
I put the pin back between my teeth and shove everything else back into my inside pocket, get my shoelace. Roll up my sleeve. See, there is a reason I cut off the sleeves on this fuckin coat, and I’m not regretting it now. So I tie myself off and swap the pin for the end of the lace between my teeth. My fuckin arms are destroyed. I’m feeling around for even a quarter-decent vein and hoping to fuck I find one here, cos I’ve done the rounds all over the place and it’s not getting any easier, and the cunts trying to break the door off its hinges ain’t helping.
   -Hang on
I shout at them through clenched teeth.
   -Well, hurry up, I’m bursting.
   If it was a bloke I’d tell him to go piss outside, but it’s a female voice so I just tell her I’ll be out in a minute. After digging around in all the well-worn scabs, I’m feeling like going in the fem. I’ve tried both arms and hands, between the fingers and I’m not even bothering with the legs at the moment cos it’s just not been happening there lately. I mean, if they call this having a dig, I reckon it’s a fuckin exercise in gravediggin. Seriously, I always said I wouldn’t go in the arteries, but there’s always a point when you stop giving a fuck. Fuck sake. Every time I pull back the plunger there’s a fuckin bubble, and I hate missing. It stings to fuckery. So I try just above the outside-thumb part of my wrist. And I fuckin miss. The vein’s wobbling around, pushing aside every time I try for it and this pin’s getting blunter every try. It’s almost like a fuckin tapestry needle. But here, here…we…fuckin…go…
   I try again and blood’s shooting into the barrel, cauliflowering into the brown. Jesus. My teeth let go of the lace and I push the plunger all the way as fast as it’ll go before the vein’s decided it’s had enough, pull back again and shoot the deep crimson back into my wrist.
   As I stand up, I flush the bog and it hits me like a truck. Not felt this for a long time. This stuff I got off Scarlets and it’s fuckin dynamite. There’ll be overdoses on this shit, trust me. I don’t give a fuck about the cunts knocking at the door any more now than I did before and I take my time, standing up stretching my arms high, arching my back and stretching my neck back as far as it’ll go. I take my time washing the pin, stashing my ‘quet before I open the door.
   -It’s all yours, mate. All yours.
Someone in the queue mutters under their breath at me
   -Fuckin smackhead
But do I look like I give a fuck? I’m way past the stage of wondering how they know. I mean, look at me: when I say I don’t have much meat on my bones, I ain’t exaggerating. And when I looked in the mirror just now, my eyes were pinned like poppy seeds. And besides, It’s not me who’s desperate for a piss: like I said, they can piss outside. If you don’t like it, don’t fuckin do it. End of. And like the saying goes, judge not. But I reckon those who preach it are the most judgemental of all…
   The front door’s wide open, mellow trance audible from the front room. I see Kiwi on the decks as I poke my head around the door. Stakki’s crashed out on the floor and a bloke with long ginger hair and a beard’s having a conversation with a woman I vaguely recognise. There’s a joss stick burning in a brass holder, dead pink ends protruding like the spines of a cactus from its central orb, lines of ash surrounding it in a dusty, grey star. Kiwi looks up and grins at me.
   -Where were you? Last time I saw you, you were sitting in the corner in that room with all them drums, knocking about on some bongos with some Rasta bloke, cained out of his box on sensi. Kept calling me daughter of Iration. Said his name was Moses. It was all getting a bit weird for me, so I came down here to see Stakki and you’d vanished when I came back to find you.
   -Fuck sake; I don’t remember how I got there, I just remember waking up in the attic.
   -What, and you missed the party?
   -I guess.
   -So that guy really is called Moses?
Turns out, I find this out later, but Moses had actually carried me upstairs like a kid and put a blanket over me cos I’d crashed out in the doorway of the drumming room and people were nearly standing on me. Yeah, I told you Moses is a top bloke. Heart of gold.
   -You sticking around? Asks the ginger bloke.
   -I need to get some sleep at some point, but yeah, what’s going on?
That’s Kiwi for you, always up for a party.
   -Aaron’s cooking a meal tonight if you’re up for it and Sam’s cooking space cakes for afters.
   -Wicked, I’ll bring me mushroom wine.
Kiwi sticks her tongue out, pulling a Filter record out of its sleeve. –Imagine calling a baby Moses!
   I slip out of the room and through the front door, this gear seeping through my veins like magic. I’m cotton-wool heavy. The sudden brightness outside hits my retina with a stealth of bright white light. Through blotches of light stuck on my eyes, I see a collapsed sofa in the long front garden grass, uni kids sitting half asleep, smoking. The morning’s surprisingly warm for the time of year, the kind of deceptive pre-spring day you get in England which you hope will last, but never does. I’m sitting on the doorstep, scratching my nose and leaning against the brick-built porch. Lighting a roll-up I made earlier and found squashed and dry in my back pocket, I inhale smoke with the new morning’s diesel. Close my eyes, enjoying the opiates, remembering better times from years ago, when I’d have closed my eyes and seen strange landscapes flitting behind my eyelids.
   I remember the first time I tasted heroin. Like magic: pure, fuckin magic. I was with Spid, but he never loved it like I did. When I talk to some cunts who say they didn’t like it, never touched it again, I don’t get it. Then I read about how some people have strong opiate receptors, some don’t. Some have nothing worth speaking of to enjoy it with in their chemical make up. So it’s all in the body chemistry and I’m glad to say, I’m one of the lucky ones. I struck gold. Yeah, the first time it was like going home. We were in Spid’s bedroom, but I breathed in that smoke off the foil and I was in a poppy field, the warm breeze blowing over me, these white and purple poppies everywhere, just swaying, sun warming me. I knew where I was but the image and texture of what I saw was so lucid. Floating, weightless, paradisiacal opium dreams. And I never looked back.
   Even though this gear’s fuckin dynamite like I said before, I wish I could bring back those times. Gotta get home, I’m thinking, get my head down, but I can’t be arsed to move. Some seriously nice fuckin gear, this. I love the way it tastes in my throat, the itchiness of my skin, the whole fuckin thing. Makes me remember why I can’t get clean: I don’t fuckin want to. Ten years I’ve been in this madness and Just now, just now, I can absolutely and bottom-of-the-heart-feelingly say I don’t ever, ever, ever want to let it go.
   Enjoy it while it lasts. After a bit, I open my eyes, the sun cutting into my pupils. I stand, yawning, stretch, and drag myself back inside and into the attic. I’ll get home later. Then I remember: I said I’d meet Spid. And apart from that, I’ve got work to do. There must be some potential earners in here. Like I said, this measly little bit I’ve got left won’t last forever.

*   *   *

   Spid’s looking at the blue translucent resin clock on the mantelpiece which stands amongst various American whisky bottle candle holders and match boxes. Twenty to nine. An X-Files poster on the wall depicts Mulder and Skully in soft, yellowish focus with the words The Truth is Out There. He turns and checks on Sarah. Still asleep, her mouth hangs open, pouting. He’s pulling back his side of the duvet, careful not to disturb her, and standing up, replacing the cover. The ashtray on the bedside table is overflowing with fag butts and roaches. Last night’s bag of skunk lays next to it, now only stalks, seeds and a couple of buds.
   Grabbing his clothes and shoes, he tiptoes over to the pile of clothes Sarah took off the night before. Sitting down next to them, he’s getting dressed, poking her trousers for the sound of keys. Nice one. Checking she’s still sleeping, he slides the trousers towards him, pockets first, and grabs the keys tight in his fist, shoving them into his pocket soundlessly. He’s nearly dressed now, just putting on his socks and boots, treading carefully across the carpet to the door. Sarah hasn’t even shifted. Leaving the room, he creeps downstairs and slips out into the street.

© Vee 1993-2012

1 comment:

  1. conflict! Geez it's been a sight since I listened to them. ah the good ol days. ;) I think that is aprt of what really draws me to this story, even if it's in another country, still takes me back.

    "You might trick some you scheming scum, but you'll never get our obedience. You can batter, beat us, even imprison, yet still you'll never ever defeat us."