A BOOK by Shane Levene (text) & Karolina Urbaniak (photography). Foreword by Martin Bladh.

The Void Ratio is now released. Please buy a copy if you are able. I've given years and books of free writing here and on various other sites, will continue to do so, and would appreciate enormously  your support with this printed book. 

THE VOID RATIO is the amount of black space in the psyche, the unresolved conflict arising from the trauma of dying and the consequence of living.
Through a series of photographs (Artefacts of Self-destruction) Urbaniak isolates and records the forensics of a ‘lifescene’ (here being the author’s own drug paraphernalia) at times discovering a breathtaking beauty emitted by the objects. Urbaniak’s lens turns the otherwise inanimate objects into landscapes, monuments, horizons, revealing the universal blackness of history and corporeal qualities of the user in the traces of blood and carbon left behind.

For his part, Levene focuses on the physical body and the abstract mind, the struggle to come to terms with and accept time, existence and mortality. It’s quickly understood that 15 years of hardcore heroin addiction, over 60‚000 intravenous injections, have been administered in an attempt to fill this volume of void. Far more than the stereotypical writing so often found in drug literature Levene’s texts employ heroin use and addiction as a means to explore far grander themes of history, nostalgia, consequence and trauma.

*      *      *
“Levene’s words are something like when you find a long lost old faithful, a throbber on the shin, aaaaah.....''
‘The Void Ratio’ left me dreaming again of the fucking nightmare...'
“...far from serving solely as a portrait of a mutual friend, Urbaniak’s work in the Void Ratio captures the debris left behind in the wake of the virulent drug epidemic sweeping Britain today. Stark, powerful, poetic... The Artefacts of Self-destruction is the perfect companion to this small collection of Levene’s words.
Shane’s writing is by turns beautiful, scabrous, funny, heartbreaking and dangerous. In my opinion, Shane is one of the few, actual honest-to-God Poets we still have writing today. “
TONY O'NEILL – author.
Black Neon, Digging the vein, Down & out on Murder Mile

64 Pages
Soft Cover bound
Size 18x22cm
Standard Edition £20
Collector's Edition £40*
To order a book please contact

*Collector's Edition of 26 numbered copies will include book, two  18x22cm photographic prints and a mounted 'heroin art work' made and signed by Shane Levene.

Collector's edition artwork

(Click on image to enlarge)
heroin art chasing the dragon
Dirty Rotten Heart

Blackbird weeping

The Decadents

Medusa grieving
Tattoo Brut
Black Spider
The Beast
Road Kill
Skull & Bones

Union Smack Jack
The whip &the lash
The void ratio
Junker Man
Egon H
Dead Dog

Chasing the dirty dollar
Burning heart organ

Black Heart
Schizoid in Nilsen's glasses


Lucifer Grieves

Collector's edition photographiuc prints 18 x 22cm

My fathder during his 15 minutes of fame

heroin art chasing the dragon
Levene injection collage


I am on all fours, in the bathroom, over a plain white towel.  There is a spoon (handle end) and a screwdriver shoved up into my arse and stale stodgy shit all over my fingers. The towel beneath me is covered with dark drops of blood and small currents of excrement. A sharp pain arrives and cuts my guts in two. I am convinced I am dying. It's nineteen days since I last passed a bowel movement and I have resorted to self-surgery. I summon up my strength, brace myself against the pain, and strain once more. Trapped wind immediately forces its way through my buttocks and up my  lower back. I freeze, awaiting the agony to pass.  Thoughts of almost three weeks of food inside me, turned to waste and going nowhere, are scaring the hell out of me. I am thinking internal poisoning, septicaemia, a ruptured colon, burst blood vessels in my head and brain haemorrhage. I am soaked in perspiration. For a few moments the trapped wind subsides. My stomach muscles ache so much that it hurts just to strain. This is not constipation. Constipation is what I had suffered the previous nineteen days. What I have now is fecal impaction (a blocked rectum) caused by the initial week-sized boulder of shit which was too large to excrete. That's what is so terrifying: when I strain, I am shitting.  But with the anal passage blocked the shit has nowhere to go and so backs-up, fills out my rectum, which in turn expands and pushes inside my buttocks.  My arse is literally full of shit...

--The Forgetful Arsehole

*    *     *

Fuck.  That hurt. Sometimes it hurts so little and other times it hurts so much. And you know, I've known every type of pain there is.  No pain is serious. It's just, well, painful. Death doesn't hurt.  Dying is easy.  It's holding onto life which hurts. People don't realize that. Junkies don't realise that.  Numbing the pain is holding onto life, not chucking it away.  Don't be fooled by peoples' make-up or myths. What I'm doing isn't self-destructive; it's  quite the opposite. The Médecins sans Frontieres are self-destructive. Applaud them. Hero-worship them. Walk about pretending to be them.  I'm not willing to die. I'm doing everything and more to stay alive...

--Deathly Hallows

*    *     *  

As we speak all the ghosts of my life are within me: all my mothers, all my lovers, my entire childhood and youth and my now. Tomorrow is a day away. Tonight I am home and I have bed and heroin and company. If I am to die, at least it is in this place where I killed myself.

When I arrive back in Hackney off the night bus I am alone for the first time since arriving. I want to break down, just for a moment, surrender myself to the streets, have as much of my body as possible touch against it; have my city enter me and cleanse me and then filthy me and poison me. I have not eaten all day and I'm hungry. I buy some fried chicken and chips. If this is to be my last night then this is my last supper too...

--Will He Murder Myself Tonight


A Syllabus of Deceit

The first post of the Into the Mind season of writing here at Memoires of a Heroinhead. This is the first part of a mammoth post concerning the study of the deceitful practices of a young addict who turned up here at the end of summer on a foreign students language course.

A Syllabus of Deceit
- part 1

Spread thin. He admitted to that. Trey, a young junkie over from Massachusetts, a foreign student with a yellowish, rubbery, bloated looking face, like he had water retention or chronic diabetes. In fact, his entire body was like that, still a little popped out from youth, pumped full of blood from his early years spent working out prior to falling foul of the needle. His biceps were what got to me the most. They ripped out the arms of his t-shirt and just looked wrong on him, looked wrong on a junkie. More than any other part of him it were those biceps which stayed in my mind and repulsed me long after his vile little presence had shot town.

“Man, I can't believe I'm in the company of the HEROINHEAD!

You think you could shoot me up man? It's cool if not. WOW, I've been shot up by the Heroinhead... What an honour, I swear. Man, that was intense!!! ”

He'd constantly say ridiculous stuff like that, prattle on about how great my writing was, tell me he was my biggest fan and that he not only wanted a book of mine but needed one. It was all bollocks of course, the initial wave of deceit to try and stand him in good stead for getting what he really wanted. But the truth was, like so many junkies become, Trey had no compassion within him, not for man, beast nor tree. His had become a motivated character, everything he said or expressed was calculated against some kind of favourable return. He had desperate needs and very little means, save for youth, a fresh tight arse, and a heart full of sob stories. He was at that early stage of addiction where one suddenly finds oneself in too deep,needing heroin to either function physically or psychologically, all choice in the matter gone. All one can do, anyone, is adapt and try to survive off what you've got. The easiest way for Trey to supplement the drugs he could harvest himself was to have a support group of people around who empathised with him and would help him out whenever he was in dire straits. His entire personality was a projection of that, a projection of someone who wanted to inspire empathy in others. And if ever he appeared to have human emotions, it was only an appearance, each tear or smile or compliment given for a desired response – then or later. That's the game he played. In the company of other addicts he would talk of the illness and what hell it is just getting up. Around homosexuals he'd whittle on about his inner torment over his sexuality and how it had left him isolated and troubled and talk of the different façades he was obliged to keep up with different people. If he was near a veterinary surgeon he'd no doubt talk of his love for animals and how he could only relate to beasts. He said all the right things to everyone, tapping the community around him, gradually extracting money and favours from people or worming his way into a position of trust where his light fingers would sneakily start getting to work. One by one, each person who had done him a good turn would realize they had been used and pull back. With the well drilled dry Trey would move on to new pastures where the process would start over again. I understood that about him immediately; that he used people as a conduit to get what he wanted. I warned him to be straight with me, told him I saw through every trick and lie in the book, could predict to an uncanny exactitude what addicts and dealers were up to from the smallest behaviours or words.

“I pitch a straight ball” he said, unaware he wasn't even pitching straight right then.

“They all do,” I said. He shot me a queer look.

“Come on, it's this way," I said, "We're walking.” And so Trey followed, always a step or two behind, probably thinking he was safe back there where I could not see what he was up to. I didn't need to see; I already knew. In the three months that Trey traipsed behind me, often sulking like a admonished puppy dog, he would go through a whole range of petty junkie tricks and behaviours: a perfect study for a willing host.

It almost began at the start. He had mailed me saying he was in Lyon and wanted to score. He mentioned my writing and said what a fan he was. In the event that that didn't sell it he dropped in mention of a full student loan he had and wanted to blow out on heroin.

"I want to get the Heroinhead high!" were his words in that first mail. It was a short message but it told me a lot. It told me that Trey did not have a physical dependency on heroin just then. If he did he would never have gotten on an aeroplane and have flown halfway across the world, knowing that he'd crawl off the plane the other end and be bedridden and deathly ill for the next two weeks in foreign climes. It also told me that he was either a real fan and a false addict or vice versa. If it were more me he was interested in, then he should be quite calm but excited, almost passive where the drugs were concerned. However, if indeed he was an addict, if heroin were the foremost thing in his mind, I knew it would be a jumpy little fuck who showed up, terrified of being robbed.

I met Trey outside the Croix Rousse metro station. It was an afternoon at the end of summer and the public square was crowded. Trey was late and nervous. I spied a jittery dishonesty within him immediately. I didn't like his voice or the way his eyes flitted about as if he had someone a little way off watching out for him. He was too small and too broad to be any friend of mine. He gave me his hand. I tried to calm any fears he had but it was evident he was scared of being robbed. It was heroin that brought him here. I let go of Trey's hand. It was sweaty, slimy. He was in a mauve t-shirt with a scuffed black rucksack on his back like a parachute. I eyed his arms but couldn't detect a single injection mark. He saw me looking.

“Man, I know I don't have any marks but I'm straight up.”

I didn't reply. I decided there and then that he would have to take a shot in front of me. If he refused on any count, no matter how valid, he'd get no gear and I'd have no more to do with him.

“OK man, so how much to get us high?”

When I told him the price I saw his silly little brain doing somersaults in his head, making the same shapes like fingers stretching about in a pocket.

“50 euros a gram?” he repeated aghast, the first honest expression he had shown.

“It's not cheap here... as you must've read? And the minimum you can buy is three...”

“Three! Man, I didn't figure it'd be that much. And what you ripping for yourself?”

“I'm not ripping anything. You called me out, said you'd get me high.”

“150 bucks, damn! Uhmm... er....could I get two? Just to try?”


I was bored already. Whenever this game isn't easy it's terribly fucking hard. I could already see this boy would be nothing but hassle, that the heroin here was priced beyond his means but that it wouldn't stop him.

“What about this student grant you have and want to blow?” I asked sarcastically, now onto him. He gave some excuse about it being fed through in dribs and drabs. As he spoke I could see his mind working overtime, calculating, debating as to whether he should score or pull out. It's rare the junkie will pull out when the heroin is so close at hand. Still, just to put the pressure on, I warned him: “You better not have called me out for fuck all!”

“No, man... it's cool. I just didn't figure on it being so goddamn expensive, jeesh! You know if there's an ATM around here?”

“Just across the road,” I said. I saw him looking over, eyeing the surroundings, the distance. I had a feeling that if I let him out my sight that he would sneak off, make an anxious walk around town, deliberating with himself over the cash before either sloping off home or calling me and saying he had gotten lost. I followed close behind. At the ATM machine he withdrew one hundred euros, cautiously guarding his pin details with his popped out little body, looking around nervously as if expecting me to try and rip the cash from out his hands. It meant he'd turned up with only 50bucks. That was really gonna get the heroinhead high. During the ten minute walk to the dealers Trey became noticeably agitated, no doubt imagining all the scenarios whereby I get his money and he gets no smack. It was now obvious: Trey was almost as poor as me.

That was the first meeting. Trey was a nervous wreck until he had the gear in his hands and a shot in his system. I made him inject in front of me. He shot a speedball and instantly changed into another person. He begrudging gave me my cut for scoring and then on the coke wearing off and him coming to his senses he inspected his deal and queried the fairness of the divide. Then he retracted his words and said it didn't matter.

I observed so much to dislike in Trey that night. Sat there watching him I saw something so vile and selfish in him, something undefinable, some kind of pathetic psychosis which manifested itself not in any interesting or dangerous way but as a vile, emotionless, self-centredness. Not even 25 and he had a face that was already influenced by sulking and self-pity.

After that evening I did not see nor hear from Trey for four days. That would be his cycle. It was just another behaviour which gave his real game away. He wasn't interested in friendship, nor the writing: his only interest was self-motivated and that was junk. Every four days he'd text or mail. “Could you call your man?":). Even in the smileys he sent I spied something pathetically false and dishonest. But then, on that second call, Trey was still in the dock house: I had no real feelings towards him one way or another. I called my man and then called Trey.

“An hour? Fuck, bummer, man! Will he be around this evening?”

"No. Why? What's the problem?"

"Man, my money's being wired into my account but it'll not be there until this afternoon when banks open in US. Bummer."

"So you've phoned me asking if my man's on, had me ring and arrange a meet and you knew you had no cash?"

"Yeah man, sorry about that dude. Dint know he'd be there right now. I guess it's a dead duck then?"

"Well if you've no cash, then obviously it is."

"Hang on, man. Not sure if you'll be down with this, if not it's totally cool: could you weigh me in with the cash until my bank opens? I'll leave my phone with you or my wallet with my ID and licence. Is it workable?"

All though we were on the phone I moved my eyes across as if studying him down the line, concentrating on the silence where his words had been. He could be genuine, but it was a big doubt. I weighed him up as I listened. He didn't have a physical addiction and couldn't score without me. The chances were that even if he didn't repay me today he would in the next days, certainly before he had to score again. But make no mistake about it, he'd only pay back because he'd be more fucked if he didn't. I wasn't banking on his honesty but on his greed to reimburse me.

"OK," I said. "But I don't want any guarantee, just your word."

"Oh, man.... that's real fucking appreciated, bro. Just for a few hours, man... promise."

I met Trey three quarters of an hour later. He said "real fucking appreciated" and then "man, I can't wait for your book.... I gotta get that book... never been so fucking hyped for a book"

As we walked along together I gave him a hellishly curious look. Even as I was eyeing his total dishonesty, he repeated, almost punching the air in front of him, “Man, I gotta have that book of yours!” His false admiration was already too much. His first bridge was burnt. I despised that falseness so much. I didn't want him as a reader and if I could, I would have removed my words from out his head.

We scored two grams. By the time we got to Trey's, divided it up and got high four hours had passed. The longer I stayed the more Trey was on edge. When I said I was leaving he sat there silent with a frozen look of panic and fake innocence on his face, hoping I'd not have realised about the time and mention that the money should be in the bank by then. As he walked me out and through the driveway to the electric security gate he did his utmost to deflect any mention of the money, suddenly unleashing a barrage of words and praise about my writing, not letting up for a minute in the hope that any thought of the money would get forgotten it in his hype.

"Oh yeah man, because I just loved that one about … God what was his name (flicking his fingers as if trying desperately to remember), that guy up in the loft? The Black House man. God … What an incredible piece of writing... LITERATURE. I'll never forget that one, man. That was with your mum right? Yeah, man, that was intense. WOW! And all that shit really happened? Fuck, what am I saying "did it really happen!" This is the fucking Heroinhead right here. Man, you kick arse, I gotta tell ya! I can't wait for your book. You gotta get me a copy soon. I swear. Man, in my eyes you're like the greatest livin...... “

“The money, Trey... how you gonna sort that?” I said cutting right through his bullshit.

“The cash? Yeah dude, no probs. As I said the cash will be in tomorrow and I'll give you a bell, man. First thing. I can be around like before ten. But that was sooooo appreciated what you did there today. Straight up. Fuck, there's not many like us about who'd do that."

Us? Another lame junkie play. Whenever they come across anyone half decent or generous they suddenly buddy up, inserting themselves into the other man's honesty. Trey wouldn't lend someone as little as 50 cents if they were dying. And he didn't appreciate it at all. As I left and watched Trey disappear behind the closing electronic gates I already knew he would try to skip out on repaying me. I wasn't too concerned. He had made the mistake of taking me to where he was staying, put up by a wealthy bourgeois woman who took in foreign students each summer. If he did try skipping out on repayment I'd turn up there and make a scene, at least threaten to. Trey would soon find my money or an arrangement. The afternoon was coming down on the city. These were the last days of summer. Feeling drowsy I made my way back towards the metro, drunk on the floral scents and noises of high Lyon.


They never call you first, no matter how much leeway you give them nor how much you pray and hope that for once someone will be genuinely straight up. On the fourth day of receiving no news from Trey I text him three question marks. He replied to that text.

"Man, I got your cash. Just going to college. Will be with you after classes."

Whenever there is an event separating you from the cash it means that event is going to be the reason why you do not get paid. Trey could always be with me immediately when he had to score, but when it was time to give up suddenly his classes were all important. I eyed his text message and wondered what would be his next move. An hour later it came, via Facebook messenger.

"Man, just contacting you here to say I've lost my fucking phone! Still be with you. Gotta go lame internet connection."

It was all set up lovely. He had set up a fake intention of paying me and now was scheming to concoct a reason why he couldn't arrange to get around after class. He had already laid the groundwork for having no phone and now he had set up his later excuse as to why he couldn't mail or message. His story would be one of desperately wanting to pay me back but we were just undone by technology – the same technology which never fails when we need heroin.

As soon as the text came through I knew it was the start of a much longer piece of bullshit. To show Trey that I was onto him I decided that I'd surprise him in his foreign students class. I didn't expect to get the money, but having this little cunt squirming in front of me would be some reward in itself. Not knowing exactly where Trey's classes were I made it down to the university for lunch time and hung about in a strategic place where the percentage of students would have to pass. It was over an hour I was stood there when I turned around and there was Trey coming out the university with a phone in his hands. He saw me and I could see his face lose tone immediately. He could hardly talk through shock.

“See you've found your phone?”

"Huh? No, man, it isn't what it looks like. This is a different phone."I saw the panic in his eyes as he imagined me ringing the number to test him. Suddenly he was mumbling and spluttering, talking absolute nonsense as he played furiously with his phone to knock the volume out.

"So if I ring the phone it won't sound? Well it 's a bit fucking strange you suddenly lose your phone right on the point of having to pay me back. I never believe in coincidences... especially from a junkie."

"Man, I knew you'd think that! Fuck!" He said that quite boldly, obviously having successfully killed his phone.

"That's because it's true"

"No, bro... not this time! I swear to you. I had your cash and was all set to repay you when this fucking class fee came up and had to be settled. If not I can't continue my course and if I'm not enrolled my grant will be stopped and there'll be no heroin for either of us."

"So you haven't paid me back to help me? Trey, you better have the fucking money and I'm not fucking about!"

"Man, I just paid 250 dollars to keep me in the course. I thought I had more grant money in my bank."

"Trey, I'll tell you once more: I want the fucking money!!!"

He saw I was getting angry, maybe on the point of violence.

"Man, calm down. Course I got your money... some of it. I've er... a hundred... a hundred and ten. I'll give you the rest in a couple of days."

I could tell by the coins and crumpled notes that it was his very last beans, that he was absolutely potless in paying me back. For a moment I felt sorry for him. He probably now didn't even have enough left to get a coffee from the canteen with his classmates. I was on the verge of giving him a note or two back and then I saw his face and it disgusted me. A face like it was comprised of every low dirty addict I've ever known, all manifest in this single kid. I put the cash in my pocket.

"Man, if I didn't have the cash or was trying to avoid you I'd have backed away when I saw you from behind."

That was true. Only he couldn't have as it was indeed his deadline to pay for his courses and by pure luck I was lingering around right outside the descent to the basement where course enrolments were taken. That was why he called me. If he could have snuck past he would have. But no matter how much of a little snake Trey was not even he could slither past me from there.

"I thought you had already paid the enrolment?"

"erhm, er.. kinda, bro, yeah. I mean it's in my account and I'll pay it now?"

"So you have all my cash but would rather pay the the enrolment fee?”

“No, it's not like that. Man, I knew you'd think this!”

I left it. There was no point. I had three quarters of my cash and now knew not only where he lived but where he studied too. He was cornered and so did the only thing he could do.

Barely had all this passed, he had almost incurred my wrath, than he started off on his next ploy. Standing with him in the queue to pay for his course he suddenly asked matter-of-factly:

"Do you think your man will be on?"

"It wouldn't matter if he is, you're broke."

"Hmm mm, maybe not. I think there could be cash in my bank. Give him a call."

I could already see what he was up to. He knew that once I had called and arranged a meet that I would have to respect that. He was hoping I'd call before he checked his account, arrange a meeting, only to find he had no cash in his bank and I'd have to re-lend him the money he had just returned so as he could make good on the deal. For him it was a sure fire thing. He gets his gear. I get my cut, get high and am still owed the money. Sounds like a good deal. Only I've been around too long and know when that starts it never ends. By then I knew how Trey's student loan worked and how much he received each week and it was clear that he'd never have enough to repay me and still have money to score after. So each time he had to repay he'd be in the same predicament as now.

"Check your bank first and then I'll phone," I told him.

It was now raining. Trey knew he had no cash but he'd started off on this latest scheme and he could either flop down in the wet and admit it was all a ploy or he could walk us both to the ATM machine in the rain, knowing he hadn't a penny, get us soaking wet and then stare at me like a lost child pleading for me to help when it came to light he hadn't a dime. Junkies never flop down when there's a chance of getting a payout, and anyway, there was more than just one scheme going. Trey, knowing that I was an addict too, was wagering on watering my mouth with all this talk of heroin and scoring. His hope was that regardless of what happened at the ATM machine that I would then want heroin as much as him and out of pure selfishness and greed re-lend him the money regardless. Without umbrella, and Trey with a black hooded top, we braved the rain and headed of down the Rue Marseille.

We walk fast. Junkies always walk fast. I can tell two junkies on the score from the way they speed walk. Trey and I were junkie speed walking through the rain. I was watching this vile little fuck of a thing, could see him 15 years down the line all jaundiced and wasted, a HIV case for sure – the ghost of it was already in him. I didn't despise him at this point, but whenever I look at anyone like I looked at Trey on that walk it does not bode well for any friendship. At the cash point he withdrew his wallet and took a big gulp of air. The imbecile! He knew he was penniless and yet here he was hoping a miracle had occurred and money had miraculously fallen into his account.

He put his card in the ATM, dried his hands (sweat not rain) and punched in his pin code. He half closed his eyes, not wanting to see "INSUFFICIENT FUNDS" flash up on the screen. It didn't. To his shock he was asked how much cash he wanted to withdraw. He almost had a fit, lost between excitement and disbelief. Before drawing his cash he started screaming, “Yes! There's fucking bucks! How? Fuck, my mother must have put more through. YES!!!”Then he turned to me, shaking and confused with excitement. “How much should I draw man? How much?"

"Whatever you want cause it's not gonna pay out. It always makes a whirring noise when there's a possibility of a transaction. That won't pay.”

He wasn't listening. He was high out his mind on surprise.

“One hundred and fifty? You gonna go in with me? I'll take one fifty. Yes!!! Come on.. come on...Please...."

He pressed to withdraw 150 euros. I watched the machine. Trey got his hand ready to snatch the cash just in case the machine realised it had made a mistake and tried to swallow it back up before he got his greedy little hands on it. The machine made no sound. It wasn't gonna pay. Trey stood before it, kinda half stooped, his eyes glaring and his mouth hung open like it had some kind of a hypnotic hold over him. His hand was ready to pounce, and then the screen flicked to red:


Trey's legs almost gave out. He spun around in the street, jumped down hard in the rain through a release of pure adrenalin rage and screamed “FUUUUCK!!!!” Then he grabbed his card and stood there looking at me, lost, all hope gone. He looked as drained as the sky. Where for an instant he had convinced himself the machine would spit out money he didn't have, now he wasn't able to accept the reality of his pitiful condition. I'd seen this before. I'd done this before. Trey needed a slow ride back down to the reality of a drab dopeless day.

"Hang on, man,” he said, after a moment, “that thing was just about set to pay. Let's try one hundred. I'm sure there must be a hundred in there."

Each time Trey tried a smaller and smaller amount and each time it was refused ,but each time he became a little calmer. He needed to be disappointed in stages, gradually let down from his high of thinking a miracle had occurred. By the time he tapped in 10€ I stood staring at him in disgust. Even if it did pay out, what fucking good would ten euros be? He needed one hundred minimum, and even that would be my man doing me a small deal as a favour. When ten euros was refused Trey retrieved his card and calmly said “bummer!”
It was bad, but it wasn't over. In Trey, in the pouring rain, there was still a glimmer of hope: ME.I was standing next to him with my pocket full of the money he had repaid me. His hope now was that he had lured the smack monster out in me and desperate to get fixed up myself I'd start scheming,would lend him back the money so as I could get high. Together we walked back up towards the university. Trey was sullen, like a sulky child, wanting me too take pity on him. He purposely let the rain drench him so as he could sit in a wet heap looking awful.

We took shelter at a tram stop. To keep me there, to keep hope alive,Trey began talking about literature and writing and pretending he had a real interest in that. Whether he did or not wouldn't have mattered as the last thing I ever want to do is stand around in the wet discussing books. And so we waited under the tram stop, me standing and Trey crunched down into himself, hands in his pockets, his hood on, dripping wet and looking sadly out at the world. Surely on another day his ploy would have worked, but on that day I had writing to be done, had just a day left of a deadline and would not score for all the world. That it also meant this fucker would suffer just a little for his ways made it even easier. Trey made a concerted effort to keep me alongside him. I understood. Being his last hope he felt a little less down while I was there and there was still a possibility of junk. He talked continuously but it was obvious they were blank words and secretly he was just waiting for me to propose lending him the cash. Whenever I spoke he would come alive for seconds at a time only to be disappointed and mooch back down into a wet sulk. When I finally said I was going, Trey just nodded and looking sad and estranged from life, said, “Yeah, me too. Fuck university. I'm gonna go home and just go to bed.” It was a way of saying he didn't want to do anything without smack, that right now he didn't want to live and that somehow it was my fault and could I not do something to make him not want to curl up and cry and want to die. There was nothing I could do. I couldn't help him. I could only postpone the hours until he had to eventually spend some straight time alone, but I could not indefinitely put off tomorrow. Back in the rain we walked down towards the Metro. Our pace was slow. We had nowhere quick to go. A wet European city soaking through our lives.

Part 2 - The Bigger Half to follow soon.... X

The Void Ratio

The Void Ratio by Shane Levene (text) and Karolina Urbaniak (photography), with a foreword by Martin Bladh.

To be released December 2014 by Infinity Land Press

"Levene's words are something like when you find a long lost old faithful, a throbber on the shin, aaaaah.....
The Void Ratio left me dreaming again of the fucking nightmare...” 
       Peter Doherty – musician/poet

“In the Void Ratio Karolina Urbaniak collects, isolates, lays out and records the forensics of a 'lifescene' (here being the author's own drug paraphernalia) at times discovering a breathtaking beauty emitted by the objects: a light which is found coming from places we'd expect to find no light at all. Through Urbaniak's lens the otherwise inanimate objects become landscapes, monuments, horizons, etc, some revealing the universal blackness of history and time while others take on the corporeal qualities of the user in the traces of blood and carbon left behind. What may have been obscenely voyeuristic in someone else's hands becomes an intimate portrait in Urbaniak's. Due to the boundaries crossed in friendship and life with Levene, Urbaniak has not only photographed the world her associate frequents but by association has become a part of that world. 
Once again Urbaniak slips through the aperture of her own shutter and finishes with her subject in front of the camera, all borders breached, all truth revealed, the lens no longer a safe/secure filter separating life and art.”

"I've been a huge admirer of Shane Levene's work ever since the day I stumbled upon his writing at Memoires of a Heroinhead. Shane's writing is by turns beautiful, scabrous, funny, heartbreaking and dangerous. In my opinion, Shane is one of the few, actual honest-to-God poets we still have writing today. " 
Tony O'neillDown & Out on Murder Mile; Digging the Vein; Sick City & Black Neon.

THE VOID RATIO an Urbaniak/Levene collaboration 

(Anyone who makes up a part of any drug, literary or art forums and who would like to help push the book's existence, please PM me: Shane. X

Into the Mind...

The wheel spins forward and then it looks like it is spinning back. Crouched down, looking at me through the spokes of an upturned bike, Simon says that not everything is how it appears. I spin the wheel again and try to work out what the hell is going on. Simon just stares through at me, his eyes imploring me to understand. Something unspeakably bad is going on in his life.

Into the Mind... a new season of writing coming to Memoires of a Heroinhead.

Into the Mind...

Into the mind of the addict, the dealers, the whores and the rent-boys, the abuser and the abused. Into the mind of society, the family, the healthcare system, the government, the church, the self-help groups, the substitution clinics, NA. 

Into the Mind...

A season of writing that will focus on the psychological, reveal the reasons why and debunk certain falsehoods of addiction and drug use. Into the mind: the heinous myth of rock bottom. Why the parents, friends and loved ones of addicts are not only urged to isolate and disown their addicted offspring but are also encouraged to hasten their descent to rock bottom in the false belief that by sheer design it's a place where the worm can only turn. Into the mind of chasing the first high, why it's a myth and why so many (even veteran) addicts will spout this horse-shit as the fuel which kept their junk carts going for so many years. Into the mind. Into the cheating, the lying, the selfishness, the self-harm and crime. Into the real influence of popular culture on drug use, libertinism and decadence. Into the mind, the mindset of redemption: recovering addicts force-fed bullshit, brainwashed as to why they are such fuck-ups and then blackmailed to publicly vomit back up all those false failings to a church hall full of teary-eyed hypocritical ex-dope fiends screaming “hallelujah” while flapping their hands together in spastic ecstasy to welcome another lost sheep back into the flock. Into the mind. The myth of the fatal overdose, the self-destruction and the deaths. The one-upmanship: the common stock of junkie mayhem that many addicts feel obliged to have experienced: dumping dead friends out in the street; of being pronounced clinically dead on multiple occasions; of ending on ones knees in a vile public toilet, cooking up ones last ill-gotten bag of smack in diarrhoea water drawn straight from the filthy bowl. Into the mind of heroin porn and what drives the desire for it. The attraction of the needle and how that idea plays out to our internal hero, that vainglorious fool who stoops about inside of us and falsely imagines how we are perceived by the world. Into the mind of the diseased and ill, the amputees and dying, those rotting away in dark doorways and the myriads of statistical successes sat at home, sober, but suffering from the insidious effects of post-junk depression.

Into the mind.... Coming soon...

a new season of writing by Shane Levene.

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So Dog We Were Too

It was a mild summer evening. A cool breeze was bowling lightly through the Rhône valley. I gave up trying to write, showered, changed into light clothes and went out for a stroll. I needed cigarettes and so I climbed the small hill and then descended down towards the back end of town to catch the late night tobacconist.

It is a plain walk, though not unpleasant, culminating at Grange Blanche, the city's largest easternmost transport interchange. Due to the sheer volume of commuters passing through each day the upper station and its surroundings is a magnet for the neighbourhood’s drunks, beggars, miscreants and pick thieves. Coming into that main hub the change is manifest: raised voices, drunken growls, car horns blaring at the insane, the monotonous pleas of beggars, beer cans and wine bottles left under the seats of the tramway stop, human shit dehydrating and turning black in dark corners, piss streaming across the sidewalk, men wandering around holding their trousers up, going through bins, harvesting cigarette ends. In this place that can deliver anyone to any corner of the city, it's ironic just how many others have no place to go.

She was sat in the island in the middle of the road. She had legs only they were bent far back in the wrong direction at the knees and fixed there by some diabolical force of nature so as her back calves were facing the world. Her filthy toes were a tongue's length from her mouth; her face looking out over the soles of her inward twisted feet. To her left was a little straw egg basket containing a cardboard sign asking for money, and alongside that a few coins were scattered about as encouragement to the world. Her arms were also affected: one full length and crippled with the hand frozen in a contortion of fear, and the other, shrivelled away to just a small wing like thing. I was horrified and curious. There was something in the young beggar girl's deformity which repulsed me, and yet the freakiness of such a sight attracted me for the paragraph of literature I could exploit from it. Crossing the road I made my way to the tobacconist and then purposely took the same route back just so as I could pass her by once more.

I walked at a half pace. From behind I studied her form, her clothes, her hair. I could taste the grease, the dried skin and lice in it. Her backbone was surprisingly straight. I made my way past, crossed over the main road, then doubled back around the metro as if I'd gone to take the wrong entrance. From across the road I watched her, balanced on the axle of her arse. It made me cringe, imagining the angle of her lower pelvis bone crumbling away against the hard concrete ground. I crossed the road once more. She eyed me. She was a beggar exploiting her misfortune and was infinitely aware of everything moving on around her, every look of horror or sympathy, every hand going into every pocket and by movement alone knowing which hands would pull out a coin or two and which were going in just to rattle the cash and taunt her. On arriving at the island this time I decided to approach her. I asked if I could take her picture for 5 euros. She wasn't French and didn't understand. She looked at me lost, her eyes wide with fear and panic like I'd pulled chloroform around her mouth and nose. I mimicked taking a photo and then showed her five euros, holding it up like it would make sense of anything. She said something, some tragic noise that belonged to no language

He appeared out of nowhere like he'd been there all the time. A little man in a cheap white panama hat, thick skin the colour of tobacco spittle and hands covered in dark-blue self-inked tattoos. In very poor French he asked what I wanted with the girl.

"Photo," I said, once again mimicking a camera clicking, "five euros."

"No. No foto!" he said, waving his hands like it was completely out the question.

I didn't argue. We had attracted a small crowd of onlookers and I'd have felt like a right scoundrel taking a photo of a severely handicapped beggar girl. I already did feel like a scoundrel. I made to walk away when I heard: "Ten euros."

"Five" I said, stopping and turning back.

"No, not five, TEN!"

I shook my head.

Then he said: "Anglaizi? English?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Me, I live in Dublin for two years,” (holding up two fingers). "So you want foto of my daughter, yes?"

He said that with à bizarre look in his eyes, usually swapped only between males when referring to sex or illegal activity.

"No, it's OK. No photo. Forget it."

At that he lent in, a stub of a cigarettes in his mouth, the smoke curling up into my face. "You want fuck-fuck with my daughter? Foto too! 50 euros. Fuck-fuck clik-clik?" He gave a smile that revealed teeth as rotten as my own, though which repulsed me more. Sensing I was fixed to give a negative response, he said, "Look, she a good one, look", pulling on one of the invalids upturned calves as if to demonstrate how flexible she was. The calf didn't budge, just trembled like a short plank of wood but was otherwise locked in place. It was now apparent that the girl was also slightly mentally retarded. I wondered how many men had fucked her. I couldn't possible know the answer to that, but I did. I knew because I know this world. Too many was the answer. I made quick to get away from this circus, the beggar man's dark tanned and dirty tattooed hand clawing me back as he laughed and said "fuck-fuck clik-clik fuck-fuck clik-clik."

It was gone 9pm when I arrived at the Place Ambroise-Courtois in Monplaisir . The tables from the bars and bistros were still out in the square, occupied by couples and friends. The distant sky was streaked through with bubblegum clouds and a light jovial atmosphere was in the air. In the middle of the square groups of middle aged and old men were playing pétanque. I listened to the metal balls dent and crunch on the pink gravel. I smoked a cigarette and thought of nothing. It was a tranquil moment but on a nostalgic wind blew in a feeling of melancholy which seemed general to the evening and even more general to the smell of beer, coffee and perfume.

I had been aware of music playing from since I had arrived, but it was only now that I took proper notice of it. It was some kind of modern salsa-pop coming from the octagonal pavilion in the middle of the square. Wandering closer I saw couples dancing and an effeminate male instructor going to and from each couple and adjusting body parts, straightening backs, pushing male legs apart with his foot. I stopped and stood watching the evening dance lessons alongside a small crowd of other onlookers. I watched each couple, my eyes leaving one pair for another, observing their movements, their faces, the tenderness or coldness of their embraces. Then in a move that seemed choreographed for me, the couples parted like they were on revolving platforms, and in the opening, right in the middle of the pavilion, was revealed a haggard ragged man, dressed in cheap black, dancing alone though feigning clutching a partner in a classic closed position.

His eyes were gritted shut and a look of tortured pain was creased across his face. Where he'd lost his teeth his lower lip overhung like an ornate ledge. It was the face and movements of a chronic drunk. I watched the man dancing alone, watched him imagining away his loneliness, watched his hands sensually holding his imaginary partner, maybe all the women or men of his life. He wasn't dancing the salsa, but rather a waltz, living a classic romance, being the classic romancer in his drunken world.

It was while I stood fixed on the drunkard's loneliness that I first made out the laughter and the gasps. I wasn't the only one who had been drawn to this man; the better half of the square now watching him. With the laughter came fingers pointing, and following in turn, each table then moved around, the clientele of the bar straining to look his way as if it was an important part of life. Others in the square followed the fingers and eyes, all focused in with mocking at one man's public torment and distress. That's when the cheering, whistling and whoops of encouragement began. I didn't understand. I was still intent on the drunkard's face, the passion and sadness with which he waltzed with his memories. Then, under some strange spell of instinct, my eyes moved down, over the baggy black shirt tucked into trousers held closed by a thin belt, settling on the huge piss patch spread around the man's crotch and soaked down his left leg, urine still couling out his trouser leg as he danced alone in his own piss. And as the world laughed and pointed and whistled, I watched along with a volcano of sadness bubbling away inside of me, reminded of my mother in the school playground that day, or queuing up, jiggling with her legs crossed while buying cigarettes, or crashed out in social services, and I was hit by waves of brutal and tragic emotion, sobbing along to the salsa and the jeers of the world. A man wasted and alone, cradling himself in his own lonely dance. Me or him? Separated and defined by the flimsiest of events.

It was past ten when I passed the Notre-Dame homeless shelter on Rue Sébastien Gryphe. There was a lot of activity in the street, the city's down-and-outs making their way to the shelter before lockdown. One man was being carried like a wounded soldier by two mates either side, each one nearly out on his feet too. A battered woman stomped up past me, holding a can of beer, wobbling around as if walking on a pavement inflated with air, screaming obscenities at a man left behind at the gates of the shelter who was screaming back equally vulgar abuse. The street, now in the dark of evening, reeking of foulness, was full of bums, ex addicts and the mentally ill, all mooching slowly down, converging on the centre. The sidewalk and doorways were littered with the physical history of those who had almost made it but whose bodies had given out at the last. I poked my head in the entrance of the shelter glancing a quick look around for anyone I knew, anyone I'd scored methadone from in the past. From the dark of the grounds I saw someone's raised hand. At first I wasn't at all sure it was for me, but then I heard my name. I peered in more closely but couldn't make out the face in the darkness. The man rose and came across. He seemed happy to see me. Pulling out from his embrace I weaved to escape the current of bad odour he gave out. He smelled of rottenness and sperm, like my bed one winter in London. Standing back I looked at him in the tattered leather jacket he was swamped in, the grubby off-white t-shirt underneath, ripped and soiled by god-knows-what. The face was familiarish, but unplaceable.

"You won't get in tonight," he said, "I was down at 7pm to be sure of a bed."

"I'm not here for a room.. Just passing."

I looked at him trying desperately to recall his name, if he was a user or not. He didn't look like a user but I knew no-one outside of that. That's when I spotted his shoes, large loafish trainers encased in thick mud, the mud caked over his trouser bottoms too.

"you don't remember me, do you?" He asked.

"The face I do... but I'm not sure from where."

"Olivier!" he cried, "It's me from the Town Hall!"

And then I remembered and was shocked at the drastic change which had came over him. It was the same Olivier I had worked with for the City of Lyon, the same Olivier who had studied the Sexual History of Prostitution, who had a degree in Belle Lettres (which is literature), who had all his hair and sanity two years ago and now stood before me with not much left of either. He seemed hyper, but it wasn't drugs. His eyes flitted about, looking over his shoulder back towards something in the darkness. Then he looked at me and gave a weak, watery smile. He gave the impression that if I hugged him he'd break down immediately and sob until he died. I didn't hug him. That wasn't my job. I thought of whose job it was and wondered why they hadn't done something which was so evidently needed.

"And work??? Are you working?" I asked, knowing he wasn't, couldn't possibly be.

He shook his head, then turned around to look into the dark grounds of the shelter again.

"I must go, Olivier," I said.

He turned back with a worried, confused look on his face, like he didn't understand. I held my hand out and he shook it, all the while looking at me like I was to say something, clear some matter up. But I had nothing to say, nothing to clear up. Suddenly his eyes took on a lost look, like he didn't know me, and without a word he turned around and was going, trudging off into the dark of the grounds, in his mud caked shoes, just an odious smell left in receipt of his presence.

By the time I made my way back to the metro station the city had mostly cleared out and was sunk in the full beauty and tragedy of night. The hordes of Romanians who congregate on the pavement outside the supermarket to sell their salvaged wares were all gone, just a few sex workers remaining, their pimps or fathers sitting on the low wall of the tram stop drinking beer and whispering "Monsieur? Monsieur?" to each passing male. Down along the row of kebab shops young Mahgrebian boys raised their eyebrows as I passed. Not responding, and walking slowly by, one left his little group, hastened to catch me up, and on doing so, slowed to my pace, and out the side of his mouth said: Hashish? Goood, gooood hashish, monsieur? When I took no notice of him he kissed his teeth, said something derogatory about America, and rejoining his little possé, shouted: "muvva fukka, bitch!" I smiled to myself and walked on, glad the world was so cowardly and cruel.

In the metro I stood along the platform, staring into the vending machine without the slightest intention of buying anything. The driverless D metro arrived. I wanted to go home, was so tired for home, but my home was far from here and one euro seventy would not get me there. Stepping inside the carriage I was hit by the smell of alcohol and vomit and could sense a tension of violence in the air. It came from a young male at the far end of the carriage to my right. I watched him furtively. Early thirties; trim and lean; hunched over in his seat, spitting out the sodden husks of sunflower seeds. With the sudden torrid heat of the night, and the alcohol in him, he was sweating profusely and his face looked like it had been treated with anti- flame gel. Every now and again he would intentionally burp, letting out a new stench of bilious alcohol fumes, before glaring across my way. Something in him disgusted me. It was as if he had forced me inside his guts, a violation, the opening gambit of his domination over others. I avoided looking blatantly across. The métro pulled into its second stop. The man rose, ignored the doors closest to him, and made his way down the aisle between the seats, passing along the hand rails, swinging with the movements of the train, to exit via the doors opposite me. Letting go of the last handrail, he stood there drunkenly staring at me, swaying forward, a sunflower husk stuck on his bottom lip.

"Pardon, Monsieur!" he growled, meaning that I was in his way. I wasn't. He could not have had any more room had I not been there. Still, I stepped a step back. As he exited he spat a last gob of damp husks out his mouth and then burped.

In the last weeks I'd had my dealer rob me three times, a so-called friend do sleight-of-hand magic with bags of gear, seen one too many people corrupted by smack habits blaming their behaviour on mental illness and unresolved emotional trauma, had people revising history so as to look the victim in it. I had smiled but the insults and corruption in people were becoming stale.

Angry. Upset. Alone. Wounded. Bitter. I watched the metro map despondently as if it held some answers. The stations came into view. Doors shuddered open. Orange lights beeped triple. The doors closed. And it went on. Standing looking out the frontal lobe of the driverless train I watched the track ahead. In the distance I could see the next station as a point of light in the dark: Grange Blanche.

There comes a time when we must all descend into the dark heart of life and unite with and become the enemy, take our frustrations out on the weak and become as ugly in our dominance as we feel under submission. I thought of the disabled deformed beggar girl, wondering if she was still there, if the offer was still open. I imagined her stripped to the skin, towering over her, angry and frothing at the mouth, speaking only with the force of my hands, her crippled legs forced wide apart, to have her be reviled by herself through the sheer greed and repulsion with which I fucked her with. I thought of stooping lower than any other man, eating her pussy and gagging on the filth of Europe's immigration problem.

50 euros! Not even a meal in a half-decent restaurant.

50 euros! Half a pair of half-decent shoes.

50 euros! To possess someone entirely, to fuck and buck away with only my own orgasm to worry about.

I imagined her fear, her lack of desire, the pain that sex would cause her, the perverse light in which she'd view western sexual practices - ungodly acts which even at the height of her understanding she'd never be able to make sense of. I imagined fucking her with the hatred and sadness of an entire life, reimbursing myself of all the money I'd had robbed, really getting down to work, getting my full fifty euros worth out of her, mirroring all the horrors of our world in one brutal selfish barebacked violent fuck, a complete detox of all the rottenness of life.

I stood imagining that, wanting to abuse someone or something for all that I had seen and lived and become, somehow show in real criminal terms the hideous effect that this world does have upon us. I watched the open doors, disputing if I should alight or not. Beep beep Beep... And my chance was gone.

With no movement in the air the summer night was humid and sticky. I stared at my ghostly reflection in the dark window of the metro. I looked ravaged, life-worn. I thought of the father pimping out his handicap daughter, of thé drunk dancing alone and pissing himself, of the hordes of social shrapnel inching their wounded bodies and minds down to the homeless shelter, of the whores outside MacDonald's sucking on straws and swallowing milkshake, of the violence consuming so many people and the bitterness and corruption which reigns. In the vile regurgitated odour of red wine and vomit, in a deserted carriage of the late night metro, I stood alone and thought of all these things.

I was almost home. I had almost made it. I stepped off the tube and made towards the exit. So Dog We Were; so dog we are; So dog I am. Fuck Fuck Clic Clic Beep beep beep, at the end of another beautiful, and foul, smelling night.

- - -

My Thanks as Ever for reading, Shane. X