The Dark Part of the Night

It had been raining, but by then it had stopped. The night was in. Across the sky were vast expanse of cloud, smokey mauve on the deep purple of outer space. Along the damp walls snails slithered away in the dark. It was early summer, and aggravated by the wet, the concentrated scent of leaves and plants was thick in the air. The trees in front gardens were black silhouettes. The sound of dripping water and grit crunching underfoot were all that could be heard. There was noone on the road but me and but for the odd light, in the odd top floor room, the houses sat dead and still and stuffed full of creeping darkness. The road ahead was slick black; the street lights shimmering in the wet ground. Up ahead a traffic light rested on green and there the hightstreet, deserted, ran through. Nothing could possibly be going on now. These were the deathly hours. From over a high wall a pink drooping blossom hung. The garden smelled of rose and the next one along of cat's piss. It was getting on for 3am and I had sneaked out of bed and out the house to score my last three rocks of crack, leaving Mary sound asleep and none-the-wiser that I'd gone.

Turning onto the high street, heading for the old church, I could make out two figures up ahead. One was a man with his right leg locked straight and shot outwards at a 45 degree angle. He walked with a cane and in the effort to avoid his disabled leg his upper body was twisted and bent like John Merrick's. Besides him was a small woman with a ponytail and wearing a cheap matching sport's tracksuit a size too large. Her neck was sunken into her back and her arms swung stiffly, capped by forward facing clenched fists the weight of which seemed to help propel her forward. They crossed the high street, turned left and then disappeared down the side of the church.

I followed fifty metres behind. As I walked I discretely clocked everything on both sides of the road. At a lit up bus-stop, across from the church turning, was a man. There were no night buses on this route; he could be only one of two things: a junkie or a cop. I wandered casually passed him. Junkie - no doubt about it. I did a u-turn. As I repassed him again I checked my phone, letting him know I was on the score too.

"Oi, mate, dya just phone Ace? How longs he saying?"
"Said he's on his way. Sounded like he'd just woke up!"
"He dint say how long?"
"Cunt!" he said, jabbing his face forward and stopping bluntly before it'd even gone an inch, the force expelling the word with a seething violence.
"You shouldn't wait here," I said, "he doesn't like it."
"Fuck what he likes. I'm not his fucking slave. It's less suss here than down that fucking alley." I didn't try to convince him.

Across the road, from the opposite direction I'd arrived, a longhaired junkie known as Steggs was making his way down. He wore cut down military trousers and sandals and walked with a huge lumbering gait as though he was returning from 30 years of headbanging. The rain hadn't only brought the snails and slugs out.

"Ok, I'm off same place as him," I said, to the stranger at the bus-stop. "You staying here?" He nodded, looked annoyed and said, "Lanky black cunt!" I left. He would eventually come to his senses. He's not gonna wait 45 minutes and then fuck his score up by pissing off the dealer.

I didn't like the alley myself. One side was the church wall and the other was the high backwalls of residential gardens. The alley was just wide enough to allow a car to pass down. I entered. It was pitch black.

"Steggs," I whispered. "Steggs?" After a moment I hit an outstretched arm and Steggs pulled me in. That was the deal. The residential backwalls all had long wooden yard doors set a foot back in them and the church wall was pitted along with shallow alcoves. So as the alley appeared empty to any passers-by or cruising police cars everyone sidled into these recesses and stood as still as the Queen's guards. As we waited we whispered. Now and again the screen from a phone would light up as someone checked how long Ace had been or phoned him afresh.

"What you after, mate?" Asked Steggs. It's never a good idea to divulge that, especially concerning crack. A junkie scoring would never dream ask for a pinch of heroin, but crack is a different game and because it's not physically addictive is looked upon in a whole new light. It's seen as a luxury... a privilege.. a something you can score only once your heroin habit is secured. It's an extravagance someone could beg you a small rock of, especially someone with a crack habit as voracious as Stegg's.

"Just a couple of brown," I said. "Would love a white though."
"Me too," said Steggs. The lying cunt. It's 3am. You only ever score crack at 3am. If you've the cash your heroin addiction is taken care of well in advance of such criminal hours. The only users who may honestly be scoring smack at such a time are the prostitutes, returning home from their last punter and clucking. We stood silent for a while. Steggs pulled his hair back and banded it in a ponytail.

"Give him a bell," he said.
"No point, mate. It won't change anything. If we're the last ones he's waiting on he'll be here soon enough. He'll not come out multiple times at this hour. If he's still waiting for others to confirm their presence he'll not arrive until they do. "
"Yeah, but he don't know I'm here yet mate... Phone him and tell him Steggas has arrived!"

I phoned. Before I could tell Ace the quite ridiculous news that 'Steggas' was here he said, "Ten mins, bro," and closed the phone.

"Ten," I said to Steggs.
"Wots' E sayin?" asked a voice out the dark. "Ten," hissed Steggs from his toothless mouth.

A little way down I could see someone smoking. Each time the cigarette seared I could just about make out who it was. It was the woman in the tracksuit and pony tail, moving about in the centre of the alley as if desperate for the toilet. She wasn't desperate for the toilet. If it were the case she'd squat and piss without the slightest hesitation. What she was desperate for was crack cocaine, dancing through her comedown - pacing, fidgeting, turning in circles, keeping up rhythms which passed time and gave the jittery mind something to concentrate on.

"Wouldya look at her!" said John. "She'll av us all shook up carrying on like that."

She could, it was true. But there's always one and they're often a lot worse than that. And, if anyone thought for a second that the residents really didn't know what was going on behind their walls, then more fool them. They all knew. Had probably each phoned the police a half dozen times and learnt nothing gets done - nothing can be done. As long as we made an effort and didn't litter the place with needles and excrement they no longer bothered. Probably took some comfort from the fact that we were carrying out our debauchery directly under the wrathful and vengeful watch of God, delighting in the thought that we'd at least get punished once the drugs had taken their ultimate toll. Fatal OD or death from some blood born virus was neither the end nor an escape: it was merely the beginning: our real torture would begin only after we were dead. Fortunately, not many using addicts believe in such fairytales. For us the church is just the place where we score and the only saviour is a black West Indian yardie who snatches your money and spits bags of drugs at you in disgust. Our Jesus doesn't give a fuck and it's just the way we like it.

I could smell his cheap supermarket sports aftershave even though I couldn't see him. It was Adidas or some crap that he'd splashed on and was surely doing him more damage than the drugs. A new user. Young. Many start out like that. Using their high time to shower and mess about with their hair and skin, keeping up appearances. Slapping on some cheap splash and jumping into freshly pressed clothes just to go to score. That'll all soon stop. In a year he'll be like me, or worse, like Steggs - if he really lets himself go.

The young perfumed addict hung about alone. I could see his form but no more. The alley smelled like the shower gel aisle in a supermarket. Somene told him to get himself put away. New on the scene he apologised and thanked the anonymous junkie for the help and struck up a conversation with him, speaking too loudly and relating outrageous tales of the junkie life, of a thousand things which never happened. A natural born bullshitter - he was in good company here.

When Ace still hadn't arrived 20 minutes later I phoned him.

"I'm fuckin d'ere bro," he said, curtly. If he was here I'd be ale to see him and the only things I could see were Steggs and one or two cigarettes burning away in the distance.

"Steggs, did you see the fella I was with at the bus-stop when you arrived?"
"Glimpsed him. Seen him around a few times. He often gets off T's lot round the flats. Don't know him though."
"I'm gonna go and give him a shout. You know what Ace is like, he'll refuse to serve him for hotting the place up waiting there."

I left Steggs and exited the alley, making sure no-one was happening to be passing as I stole out. Up on the high street the junkie at the bus-stop was now with two other addicts - two middle aged women, one white and the other a golden colour. The fool! He was collaring people and telling them to wait there. I crossed the road and advised them to get in the alley, that Ace would refuse to serve them for waiting there.

"Serious?" Said the white woman. She was chewing gum.
"Serious," I said, "and he's on his way." The two women had no qualms about where to wait and were now with me ready to return. "You coming mate?" I said to the man. He cast his eyes up and gave a disinterested look around at the deserted highstreet. "Fuck it. If the cunts that funny about where we wait I'll come. It's him who'll be nabbed with all the gear when it comes on top." Together, the four of us headed the short distance back to the alley. I rejoined Steggs and the other three backed up church side into one of the alcoves. There were now at least 8 addicts waiting on Ace, at least, because I'd seen glowing cigarettes in the distance too which were from others who must have arrived before us.

"What the fucks that?" Steggs suddenly said, looking down the alley. I followed his gaze. At the top end a car had turned in, the headlights glaring in the distance.

"On top!" A voice cried. No-one budged.
"Is it moving?" Steggs asked.
"Can't tell," I said.
"If anyone's holding get rid of it," another unseen person said to everyone. A couple of sniggers broke out at that suggestion. I'm not sure if they found it humourous that anyone would drop their gear amongst an alley full of addicts, or funny the idea that any of us had any gear to offload. The best thing to do in any case would be for anyone holding to leave the alley and lurk about at a safe distance until sure if the car was friend or foe. No-one dumped anything and no-one left. The reason why no-one left was because it could very well be Ace in the car, the car which was clearly moving now, slowly so as not to scrape along either wall, the headlights getting bigger and brighter as it crawled its way down.

We were all tense. For most of us the police would be nothing but an inconvenience but there would be some amongst us who would have had warrants or been caught out on curfew. My biggest concern was that if it were the police then our meeting with Ace was buggered and there'd be no gear of any kind or colour for anyone. I was also thinking of what time I'd then finally make it home, and after the delay of a police stop Mary would surely have roused at some time in the night, figured I was not there and be sat, crying at my shooting table by the window when I returned. She was possibly already there. It was over an hour I'd been gone and I'd estimated on leaving that I'd have been back and sorted within forty five minutes. We stood as thin as we could in our recesses. All talking had stopped as the car now approached close enough to illuminate our world.

Good God! There must have been 20 plus addicts in the alley. As the car inched further along more junkies were lit up and picked out on either side, mostly in couples, men and women of varying unhealthy hues, stood like grotesque statues in their carrels, breath held and mouths closed as if in ready preparation to say nothing to the police. What the driver must have thought as his headlights picked out this secret life of vice, the dead and dying with widestruck eyes and missing limbs, scooped out junkie features, human sized praying mantis' dressed in an array of bizarre and mismatched clothes, each person a sight in their own right but looking twice as debauched and desperate alongside their scoring cohort. I watched the line of junkie faces. Steggs and I were in the last recess, nearest the entrance, but far enough down to be out of sight from the street.

"Fuck me, would ya take a look at the state of us lot!" Steggs said, laughing. "Talk about not wanting to meet us down a dark alley. Fuck." And that's when I saw her, stood there in her large black coat over her pyjama bottoms, cheap comfy trainers with Velcro straps across the fronts. I was startled and did a double take, the light reflecting off her large pale face, her lips devoured by her mouth where she didn't have her false teeth in, the huge granny gut and the slop of loose hung breasts. Her hair was brushed back and down and she wore a screwed up expression of annoyance as if pissed off the car had lit her up.

"MUM?" I cried, astonished, looking across at her in surprise. She turned and saw me and just shook her head obviously in a mood. Whoever was in the car had seen us now regardless. I rushed across its lights, over to my mother.

"What the fuck you doing here?" I asked. "Thought you had no cash?"
"Yeah, I thought you didnt!" She said, throwing the suggestion back at me in the petty way she had done all her life when caught out. "It's why ya left earlier innit?"
"That and to get home... You know how Mary is."
"Yeah, ya seem to care a lot about that Shane!" Then she looked over at the car. "Who the fuck is this in this car?" She said. We both looked down at the vehicle. It had come to a stop and Steggs was lit up blinded in the headlights. Whoever was inside was fixing to get out.

"Oi Oi... Eyes down for a full house!" someone shouted out the dark. But the car was not the police, it was a mini cab. The back door opened, crashed into the wall and Chelsea John got out.

"Fuck me, what do you lot fucking look like standing there doing ya best fucking impressions of death. They've buried healthier life in the fucking church graveyard!"

A concerted groan took up around the alley. A groan born out of everyone having held their breath, anti-climax but relief it wasn't the police and commiserations that of all the people it could have been it was Chelsea John who had stepped out. He was a well known addict on the scene, had robbed or cheated just about all of us at one time or another but was a generous enough fella when he had a touch.

"Alright Les," he said to my mum.
"Yeah, alright, John, " she replied not with the same warmth.
"John, tell that cunt to kill the lights!" Steggs said.
"Chill out, matey... We're only scoring. No-one gives a fuck. Anyway, we're straight off... Ace is on his way, passed the fucka as he peddled like a cunt along the high street. Gave him a blast of the horn... almost sent him into a fucking storefront window!"

A little buzz went through the junkies followed by a hive of activity as everyone got their money out and ready. At the near end of the alley a bike flashed by and stopped just out of distance. I could hear the peddles still spinning. Ace, well over 6ft, turned into the entrance backlit by the jaundiced lighting of the street behind him. He wore a summer sports top with the hood over his head. Chelsea John, last to arrive, was the first to push his way to him.

"Four W, Ace mate," he said.
"Bro, don't ever fucking whistle an beep me in the street, ya'ere, " Ace said, rifling through the notes John had handed him. Satisfied the cash wasn't short he pulled a clear bag from his tracksuit pocket and turned his back as he sorted out four rocks of crack for John. He gave John the rocks and came to his senses at the same time, banging on the windscreen of the car with the flat palm of his hand.
"Turn your fucking lights off!" he said.
"It's cool, boss .. It's cool," said Chelsea John, we're leaving." He slipped back into the back of the mini-cab and the car turned its engine over and gradually inched forward and away, the beautiful sound of gravel crunching under its tyres as it went.

"One and one," Steggs said, giving Ace his cash. He left without acknowledging me or saying goodbye. Lumbered out the alley with his head slightly stooped, shapeshifting into a socially moral member of the community as he hit the street and plodded docilely away into the night, looking like a man who liked a certain kind of music but no more.

Ace was now besieged by the waiting addicts. There were numbers and letters being thrown at him from all around and hands pushing cash his way. It was like watching a bookie at the racetrack taking last second bets just before the off. Every few seconds a new person or couple exited the alley and turned off to either direction. I stood with my mum, waiting for our opening to step in and get served.

"What you getting," she asked as we stood there. Ha! That again. Well, we know it's never a good thing to divulge such information but this was my mother asking... An even less incentive to do so.
"Three white," I said, "and you?"
"Can only afford one... And for that the poor cats have to go with no litter." I could feel her looking at me, hoping... Waiting. When I didn't respond, she said: "Give us one of ya rocks, Shane... We'll have two each then."
"Fuck off!"
"Oh, go on!"
"No! If he's holding extra I'll buy you one. With so many people he's sure to have surplus. He's a capitalist... It's how it works."

Ace was holding extra. I was almost the last to be served. With our rocks of white clenched in our fists I walked my mother down the length of the alley and out into the dark quiet of the night at the other end. Out in the street she cast a look down the deserted road, the town all locked up and still and shadowy.
"Hope I get home alright," she said. She had just spent an hour lingering about in a dark out-of-the-way alley with supposedly some of the boroughs most depraved souls and now she was worried about walking home along the sleeping residential streets. Of course, she was right. People who are out to cause harm don't hang about down dark uninhabited places. They linger around familiar and well lit routes. If you want to get home safely you should travel the darkest route. I looked down into the ghosttown of the walk home she had. An empty tin can rattled about in the gutter. "I'll walk you back," I said, "but if Mary's awake when I return you're getting the blame." She pulled a face but didn't say a thing.

With rocks of crack burning a hole in our palms, and on the wind of energy that the thought of the first pipe of a new rock gave us, our pace was at good speed, walking down the shiny wet road home. We made it to my mother's in no time. I followed her up the stairs, took a good lick of rock on her crack pipe, and prickling with existence and nervous energy I gathered myself up and left, leaving my mother alone with her rocks and pipe, hers the last light on in her street.

My journey home was now a good half hour trot at fair pace. I listened to my own footsteps and played counting games until I lost count. Oh, the loneliness of the city is a beautiful one. I couldn't get over thoughts of all the lives that were taking peace in sleep all around. Great trees reminded me of mysteries from childhood and the moon was a lonesome figure of light in the sky. My thoughts turned to Mary. She had recently blown up about my addiction and had forced me to lie to her about cutting down and weaning myself clean. I purposely told her it would be easy and I'd be drug-free in three weeks. The deal since then was she held my heroin and portioned it out to me three times a day. It allowed her some involvement in my addiction and gave her a modicum of active control in our life. She didn't have the slightest idea that I was also in the midst of a huge crack addiction -- that news would have cooked her clean off the bone.To have woken and found me missing would have meant one thing to her: heroin. And that betrayal, that crack in her dream of getting me clean, would have had her up and sobbing rivers by the window as she waited for me to appear out the dark.

"Don't let the light be on... Please, please, please!" I repeated over to myself turning onto my road. I kept my head down and on the count of five I looked up. Blackness... Beautiful-lucky-sleepytown-dreamy blackness. The light was off and the window looked like nothing could be living beyond it at all. It was gone 4am and the first birdcalls were ringing out through the fresh morning. I sucked in a last gulp of the fragrant night air, opened the front-door and crept up the unlit stairs. Outside the bedroom I undressed. I didn't want to risk all that good fortune only to wake Mary falling over while trying to pull a sock off. I removed all my clothes and naked, but for three rocks of crack, I entered the room.

Poor girl. Asleep to the world, her eyes closed over ever so gently, completely oblivious to the nightmare which was raging through her life as she slept. I felt terribly sad and guilty and kissed her and said sorry. I slipped in the bed besides her. She made a little noise of sleepy acknowledgement and turned and put her arm around me. I waited still for a moment. On her first snore I relaxed and felt under my side of the mattress for my crack pipe. In the dark I loaded it up and on my elbow, leaning off over the side of the bed, I lit my lighter, held the flame to the pipe and sucked. The room sparked and crackled and then died down. I inhaled and held and then blew out. The world and my mind came alive in the dark, my eyes pricked wide open and every hair on my body sensitive to life. I took Mary's hand and lowered it down on my cock. She gripped me lightly and I moved gently. And like that, dark and light, happy sad, wanted lonely, white brown, limp hard, soft erect, breathing in and blowing out, l lived through another turbulent night of life. I was there and if she woke and opened her eyes she would see me, a trick straight out the illusionist's handbook, for really, on this dark night into morning, I hadn't made it home at all. <\span><\div> <\div>

The Pain of Painkilling

It didn't hurt at all at first; or I just enjoyed the pain. Whatever, the mythical damage supposedly caused by the needle was so disappointing in those early days that during my first two years of intravenous drug use I took to jabbing myself with empty needles so as I had at least some bruises and track marks to show for my suffering. That's something that is never quite dealt with in any drug therapy, something most users would keep to themselves. But regardless of what anyone says, the marks left behind and the beauty of the damage done is an important part of the allure of the needle. It was for me. I'd never felt so sexual. 

15 years on, 60,000 plus intravenous injections later, things have changed. Those early years of easy to harpoon surface veins, being done in minutes, often not even a pin-prick of blood to show for the injection, are a thing of the past. It's the body: it falls to fucking pieces. Veins collapse and disappear. They get burnt out from the citric acid used to cook the heroin up with. They cower and flatten out when constantly pierced and prodded by sharp points. It happens to the prominent surface veins at first, those in the arms and hands and then the legs and feet. Soon there are no big veins left at all and you are obliged to go in the body blind and deep. That's frightening to begin with. Different gauge needles come into play, some two inches long and as thick as valve adapters used to pump up footballs. These things hurt and leave holes in the body that are big enough to become sorely infected. It becomes easier and more frequent that shots miss the vein. The citric acid seeps into the muscle or sits under the skin for months, severely damaging the surrounding tissue. With the main veins all gone the blood circulation must take a different route around the body. It now uses the smaller vessels, which as a consequence stretch and inflate. Veins which were never visible before suddenly appear at the surface and so the IV drug user thanks his lucky stars and then proceeds to blow them out too. Once all the main veins are burnt out and collapsed the junkie next attacks the small capillary veins in the wrist, hands, fingers and feet. The capillary veins are the small dark purple and blue thread like ones. It's often painful shooting into such small veins but not as dangerous as going into the deep blind veins alongside the main arterial system where fatal blood clots and infections and ulcers so easily occur. If the junkie decides on arterial shooting he will probably get enough years use out of them to ensure he dies before ever needing to shoot into his capillary system. But many, like me, will not take to the femoral vein or jugular before having exhausted every other single possibility, before seeking out every working vein and capillary in the body. Injections for such veteran addicts can take anywhere up to four hours and are always sufficiently bloody. 

- - -

Today I'll be using a standard 1ml orange capped insulin needle. Whereas before I'd have had no qualms about drawing up a diluted 0.7ml shot, now I cook the same amount of smack down to 0.4ml to allow me more control over the needle and have more room to thin the shot down and possibly save it from congealing in the event that I draw too much blood and cannot make the injection. For now my needle is up on the side of the sink with the cap removed. It's a needle I've used at least a half a dozen times before. It's blunt but not jagged. A vein will be a little harder to spike but not impossible. Before attempting to stick myself I remove my trousers and socks and sling my foot up on the edge of the sink. I start by fingering all over my leg, thigh and calf, searching out any soft springy areas in the flesh which could mean a vein lying deep below. I go from my left leg to my right, marking out any possible injection sites with a biro pen. I inspect both feet, along the instep, the inner heel and the arch. The outer ankle I no longer check as I know I've not a working vein remaining that side. In my inner foot I spot a couple of prospective injection sites and jab myself a few times with the needle. I don't mark these sites as they're tiny capillary veins which I can see and I will either get them or damage them. It pains sliding the needle in this part of the foot. I try four times before giving up. I don't draw a single drop of blood. Not drawing blood can get insanely frustrating after some time as it means one is not even close to getting a vein, but it's better drawing no blood than to keep drawing only to not make the shot. There are two good reasons to avoid any unnecessary blood in the syringe: 

1: blood congeals and congealed blood in the barrel of the syringe equals a ruined fix. 
2: blood darkens. One is left with a black shot which makes it  difficult to see if a small vein is giving blood or not. 

For the moment there is nothing working in my legs or feet. With my foot still up on the sink I strip off my jumper and shirt and twist my body taut in various directions so as to spot any veins which are showing up in my sides or belly or chest. I have a few jabs in my flanks, at veins which resemble flat linguine spaghetti. These flank veins always appear very promising but are notoriously difficult to spike. As soon as I hit one it bursts and leaves a spreading bruise up that side. It's a no go, but I did draw blood. I remove the needle and holding it up I draw the plunger back a little. I shake the blood into the shot so as the aperture of the syringe doesn't become blocked at a crucial moment. For the sake of at least trying I take a few pot shots in my chest, inserting the needle almost flat before slightly withdrawing it and re-inserting it at different angles. I don't tap any blood. I place the needle back down on the side and recommence with the visual inspection of my body. I examine my face in the mirror. I check around and under the eye, along the temple. Injecting in the face is a real last-chance-saloon shot. The only three times I've shot in my face was to save a fix on the point of congealing. I'm no where near that stage just now, but I know that if I find a face vein that I'd at least have a banker to go in if I'm really up against it. I find no vein in my face. I check my shoulders, my armpits and finger all over my biceps. I twist my arms around and crane my head trying to spot any veins running up the backside of my arms. I spot a couple and mark lines along either side of them. Veins in the backs of arms are only possible to get with the use of a mirror, yet in the mirror it's difficult to see the vein and so the penned guides help, knowing that if you cast the needle between the guides then you are fishing where the vein is. It's awkward positioning to get these back arm veins. The risk is that even if I hit the vein I won't have sufficient control over the needle to manage the fix without the syringe slipping back out. This is where having cooked up a 0.4ml shot could pay dividends. Looking in the mirror, with my right arm bent flat back and raised, I insert the needle and pull back on the plunger. Nothing. I let the plunger suck back down, twist the needle around and try again. Zilch. On maybe the 8th attempt I draw blood, not a lot but enough to know I'm in a small but good vein. I try to manoeuvre my body so as I can keep the needle steady and inject. As soon as I unload some of the heroin a small lump begins rising under the skin. It stings. I pull back on the plunger to see if I'm still in the vein. There is no blood. As I feared the needle has slipped out the vein and now I have damaged and bruised the surrounding area and the vein will not be hittable again. 

With the blood I've taken my shot is now up to 0.5ml. That's half the maximum volume of liquid the needle can hold. I shake the new blood into the fix. It makes the shot darker and will make it that much more difficult to get. I go back downstairs, to my legs. I take a few pops in my inner thigh where sometimes I get lucky on old veins which have risen for one last hurrah. Nothing doing. I badly bruise the inside of my thigh. At one of the attempted injection sites, dark blood, almost black, streams out and will not stop. I wipe the blood away, over my leg and then lick my hand clean. The injecting addict gets used to tasting his own blood. There's rarely tissue at hand and so the blood gets wiped and sucked and licked clean. Next I check to see if my left foot is still swollen from a failed injection three days ago. If it's not still swollen there is a deep thick vein that is hittable right at the top of the foot, a vein which seems to disappear somewhere deep, up along the shin bone. It's a big vein, only accessible from that sole point, but is extremely difficult to hit as it is not bedded on anything and moves and pushes away when the needle tries to puncture it. My foot is still very slightly swollen but I can feel the vein. It squidges and moves out the way even as I finger it. Due to the bluntness of the syringe I have to force it in, almost screw it in through the skin down there. It hurts like hell. I twist the needle a little more and a terrible pain shoots up my shin and makes me tear the needle out and scream. I have hit the bone or gone into tendon or something. The crux of my foot swells up like a pensioner's with water retention. The skin and flesh is so tough there now that I couldn't get a needle through it if I wanted to. If I'd had been using a new, sharp, clean needle I'd have made that shot. I curse my blunt needle and want to dash it into the wall. I won't do it with a blunt works today. I need new spikes. 

 I interrupt my injection to run to the pharmacy. I quickly dress, wash the blood off my hands and fingers and rush out. I buy three steriboxes which contain two needles a piece. As soon as I get back I transfer the contents of the blunt syringe into a new one. Normally I'd remove the plunger from the new needle and squirt the liquid from the older one straight into the barrel. But today, because my hit has taken blood, I want to dilute it a little and so I squeeze the mixture back into my spoon. I add 0.2ml of fresh water to thin it down with, give it a quick stir with the cap from a syringe and then filter it back up into the new needle. With a fresh spike I am feeling optimistic. Tiny veins I could not even contemplate trying earlier are now possibilities. I strip back naked, get my right foot back up on the sink and inspect the inside of my heel. I find a cluster of weak spidery veins but nothing remotely bold enough to withstand a full shot. They're strange those filo-veins. Often they'll continue to draw blood even when damaged, even when the syringe is obviously no longer inside. Sometimes it'll take the shot at the site of injection only to blow out somewhere else along its course. Whenever injecting into such delicate veins it's necessary to release the shot real slowly, sometimes as slowly as a degree every ten seconds or so. The problem with slow release drip-shots is that the heroin reaches the brain just as gradually, and although you get the full effect eventually you do not get the initial shock of the hit. Ignoring the cluster veins I inspect the back of my foot; the heel. There is one vein, small but not a capillary, running across the back of my achilles heel. In my entire 15 years of shooting junk I've only ever hit this vein once. Every other attempt, just the mere fact of inserting the needle there, had left me literally weeping in pain, whipping the needle out and furiously rubbing warmth into the site to alleviate the soreness. I eye the vein suspiciously, run my finger over it to judge its worth. The room is cold and the vein is flat. I couldn't hit it without sticking my achilles tendon and bone. I decide against inserting the needle there just now but make a mental note of it as a possibility if I get desperate. 

Desperate? If the needle takes too much blood and is risking to congeal. When that happens it's surprising what veins suddenly become an option and how little regard one has for pain or injury. In fact, at that point, one rebels against the pain, screaming at it and telling it to fuck off while driving the needle in again and cursing and hollering. I give up on my legs once more and instead search all over my hands. I find a possible hit in the far side of my left hand. It's a small, delicate vein and so I change the needle again before trying. I load the new syringe, push out the air, and slide it into the side of my hand. It is extremely sore inserting the syringe, but once in the pain subsides. I pull back gently on the plunger. Nothing doing. I withdraw the needle a couple of millimetres, pull for blood again and draw nothing again. I slightly withdraw the needle a final time, so as now it is no more than a few millimetres under the skin. I pull. Home! Blood pulls back into the needle and not just a trickle. Before pressing the shot home I must steady my hand so as the needle does not flap about and fall out. I reposition my hand and manage to support the needle with my thumb while getting to the the plunger with my middle finger. It's an awkward and tentative hold as the needle is now up to 0.7ml. I put pressure on the plunger. I can feel resistance due to the thickness of the liquid and the plunger doesn't budge. I increase slightly the pressure and one of my fears when going into such a delicate vein is realized: the blockage suddenly clears making the pressure on the plunger all too much. Before I can stop, the plunger shudders down a full step and unloads a good point of the thick liquid into the site. Where I panic I push the syringe deep into the flesh. Instantly my hand burns up and becomes lumpy and white and numb. I'm through the vein, I know it. I'm so sure I don't even try drawing blood. I withdraw the needle and now I do have trouble as I took too much blood. Once again I shake the blood into the fix and push the air out. I huff and brace myself to try some more. 

The shot is now black and thick and the clock is against me. I have no longer than 15 minutes to get the shot. Now my search for veins intensifies. I look over my body and have a pop with the needle at any and every possible injection site I can find. I figure that at least if I'm sticking the needle into myself then I am actively doing something. 

On the index finger of my left hand is a small intestinal coloured vein. It's the last blatantly visible vein I have left in either of my hands. It's still there because it seems to be attached, or extremely close, to a nerve. The twice I've managed to hit it in the past, the moment I squeezed even the weeniest drop of liquid into it, it had sent a burning shock of what felt like fire shooting all throughout my hand and up my arm to my neck. I don't try the vein but add it to my emergency ten-second-countdown list. I turn my hands over and stretch my fingers so as my palms turn white. I hold my hand up to the light but the only veins I can see are too small and too deep into the palm. A needle in the underside of the palm is excruciatingly painful, and the deeper one must go the more painful it is. You can sense you could do an awful lot of damage prodding about inside that part of your body. Through experience you know it is a hotbed of nerves that deep down. The only place which is more painful than the palm is the underside of the foot. Even my successful injections there had left me limping for a week. 

The fix in the needle is now dark black and as thick as syrup. It's hard to even pull the plunger back to allow blood in. To get the shot I'll need a half decent vein as I'll never be able to see if a small vein is giving blood or not. At the base of my belly, descending into the groin area, there are two long veins each side. They're the same kind of long flat veins which run up my flanks. I carefully insert the needle into my lower belly. It stings but the pain is just a nuisance now. I try in all four veins. One I think gives blood but as soon as I push a small blue lump rises at the point of injection. I remove the needle and the site bleeds profusely. Blood streams down my body, runs down my legs, and collects in a small pool on the tiled floor. I decide to change needle again. I will also dilute the fix some more in an effort to try and buy some more time. I squirt the thick, partly congealed liquid back into the spoon and dilute it with 0.5ml of water. I now have more liquid than can be sucked up in the syringe. I will have to take the shot over two injections. I suck up half the fix. It's still thick and almost just as dark. With a fresh needle and now almost out of time I begin poking recklessly about in my calf, the front and back. It doesn't hurt so much here and so I can be quite brutal with the needle. Each time I give up and remove the syringe dark blood now flows. I smear it away and continue. I'm getting annoyed and cursing, making growling frustrated noises every time I fail. And then, just like that, it happens. It's so easy that even I'm surprised. The needle is pushed deep into the inner side of the calf and takes instant blood. I'm so taken aback that I pull the plunger back twice to make sure it's real. Each time I pull back blood begins filling the syringe. Without further hesitation I unload the shot at good pace. I feel the heroin travelling, itching up my leg, my sides, my shoulder: and then the taste of it in my mouth and sinuses. I begin feeling good, like a cloud has uncovered the sun. I let the empty needle dangle in my leg. It's a deep hidden vein, a good vein and I must mark it. I mark lines either side of the dangling jack and draw an arrow at the bottom to indicate the exact angle to insert the second needle. I've been lucky. The vein is well up to taking multiple shots. If I thought it couldn't take even the second fix I would piggyback the next shot: leave the original syringe in the vein but remove the plunger. With the needle acting as an in-line I'd fill the barrel with the contents of another needle. It's a hazardous practice due to the amount of air you can accidentally inject, but once you've piggybacked a few times you learn quite proficiently how not to kill yourself in the process. But there is no piggybacking today. I remove the needle, suck up the remaining half of my fix and with the vein already marked out the second shot takes less than ten seconds to administer. Now the cloud moves back across the sun, and in this low hum-drum afternoon, marinated in my own blood, I sit down to write, and I'm full of incredible words, but not a single one will get written.

The Oedipus Fix

When my mother quit drinking and became a crack and heroin addict those were the start of the good times. Finally we had some common ground, a common plight, something which drew us together in a shared effort to feed the beast of addiction, adapt with what we had and survive. Through heroin and crack cocaine we were to suck and shoot and chase out the ghosts of the past, come full circle in our relationship and return to each other what had been lost through a bizarre and tragic event in our lives. In the midst of those days of addiction, what was gone or had happened in the past became unimportant. All we cared about was the present and maybe tomorrow. But yesterdays were out. Yesterdays were redundant. Nothing will ever happen yesterday.

A family tragedy can have one of two effects: it can blown a family wide apart or it can bind one together for life. Our family tragedy resulted in the former, in my mother going off the rails and becoming a chronic alcoholic and suicidalist. We lost her at that point. And although it was a family tragedy – it affected my brother and two sisters and stepfather – a small matter of biology, that which had not been so significant before, suddenly took on grave proportions and sent my mother and I careering off on converging orbits around twenty years of time.

It was the disappearance of my father which started it. He left one night after an argument with my mother when she refused to lend him money for heroin and never returned. And although this was not the first time he had disappeared, it was the first time he had done so without soon making some kind of contact – even if just to say he was once again in prison. After weeks and then months of receiving no news, my mother conceded to the inevitable that something tragic must have happened to him. She would later say that she imagined he had quietly overdosed and died somewhere, been marked down as one of the many unidentified young deaths in the capital each year.

It was some months after my father's disappearance, in the first half of the new year, that news started breaking across the country of a “House of Horrors” in north London. A man had been arrested after human remains were found clogging up the drains outside the house in which he resided. It transpired that over a five year period, between two houses, 16 young, mostly homosexual men, had been murdered, dismembered, and disposed of in various ways. As with the entire country my mother was gripped by this story and followed in shocked interest as the gruesome tale unfolded. The news broke, went from the front pages to the second, from the second to the third, and then faded away completely awaiting the big trial. It was one afternoon during this quiet period that my mother opened the door to two uniformed police officers and two detectives. Her life would never be the same again. On that humdrum day, with nothing going on but what was on the stove, my mother was informed that my father's skull had been discovered in the flat of Dennis Nilsen: The House of Horrors. My mother's world went silent. She did not hear her own screaming. I heard it, and it did not stop.

My mother changed after that; life changed. Post-murder she would lock herself away in her room, sobbing, drinking and threatening suicide. She became sexually promiscuous, taking lovers of the lowest order, of both sexes and all colours, shapes and sizes. The murder also had a great impact on my life: it greatly magnified my significance of being. I was no longer just my father's son (the only child of four born of him) but I was now the only physical thing left of him. As a consequence, I became my mother's favourite child, the one she would call on for everything and keep always by her side. 

“You have your father's chest,” she would say, crying while fingering the indent below my sternum. Then she would lay her head on me and her tears would collect in the little well of my pectus excavatum. I would stare at the top of her head, at the dark roots which she no longer bothered to bleach. Her hair smelled of vomit. I was terrified to touch her.

My mother's slobbering and drunken affection was one thing, but there was something else going on below, something altogether darker and contradictory and all the more difficult to understand. As often as she would hold and bathe me in tears and alcohol fumes, she just as often rejected me – seemed to despise me. It was as if I were being punished for something. She would constantly call on me, only for me to find her sitting on the floor holding a carving knife and sporting cut and slashed wrists. On other occasions she would screech my name and sobbing, tell me she had cancer and was dying. Through evenings of drunken sex with multiple lovers she would have me remain in her room. At night I would be beckoned to sleep with her. Through the blackest hours, the dystopian hollow of late night radio crackling through the dark, she'd sit naked and sobbing on the edge of the bed, hurting herself and saying she wanted to die and that this life is a rotten life. I'd listen to the top being unscrewed from her bottle of vodka, the chink of glass against glass and the gulping sound of neat alcohol pouring free. Far from being a treasured remnant of my father it seemed that I was a constant reminder of him, never allowing my mother to forget him, or the murder, for a second. And so, with a special kind of hatred reserved in her face, my mother would tell me that she loved me, all the while glaring at me as if I were the murderer himself,

* * *
The feeling of love and hate was mutual: my mother was two different people. Her spectre after the murder attracted and repelled me; beguiled and haunted me. From behind – mid-length blonde hair, slim punkish figure – she held all the promise of the love, comfort and protection that I craved, only for her to turn around to be wearing the hideous made-up mask of chronic alcoholism. It hung lopsided over her real self, covering all my dreams and yearnings. It was in trying to prise away that mask, to get to the woman underneath, that I first began down the road in life I did.

Between that mental longing for my mother, being saddened by the carnage of her sexual life and yet conscious of the types of wild men she admired, a certain path of history was marked out for me. By the age of ten I was going to school with a mock tourniquet tied around my bicep. I'd sit at the back of class acting like I was drugged. My role models became the kind of men who could fuck my own mother, and more than just fuck her: keep her. I realised in that time that we are not only ourselves in life, that we have an historical destiny of being other people as well. I began head-butting brick walls and cast iron doors, cutting words into myself, emulating the psychotic behaviour of the Alan Bleasedale character Yosser Hughes who was so in vogue at the time and my mother's latest hero. I studied these people, incorporated them into my character. They were all leading to one person, a man I was destined to rival and replace: my father.

In the years that followed, as I grew and matured, I became ever more rebellious. I romanced my mother with a progressive descent into wild reckless living, passionate behaviours and self-harm. By the age of 12 I was smoking and from 14 I was a regular drug user – using in front of my mother as she filled her glass with vodka. She would condemn my behaviour, but in the way she spoke of me to friends and neighbours -  or in the way she looked at me as I chopped up lines of speed - I could tell that in some ways it secretly thrilled her, reminded her of someone she had lost. For my part I guess I wanted to impress and hurt her. I was duelling for her heart but also pushing into her face the damage I felt she had caused. I was young and had not yet learnt that adulthood does not make one responsible, and even if it did, there are certain events which occur in life which make your own survival a matter of the greatest importance. And sometimes, to survive, it is necessary not to exist for a while, to block out the trauma and subdue the body to the point of being anaesthetized. In time I would learn that for myself. It would be the point where I understood my mother and where all blame and hatred began to disappear.

Soft, class C and B drugs were one thing, but the real spectre that had forever been in my life, romancing me, was that of heroin. It came from my father, from all the stories which existed of him:, from the memory of having found him after an overdose,  waiting with my mother in the dark street while looking to the distance for the swirling lights of the ambulance to appear. It was a route I was someday sure to take, maybe even a route I needed to take. From the age of 15 on I began seriously enquiring about heroin amongst friends and other drug users I knew. But heroin was not part of their vocabulary and they all, without exception, damned the drug and told me to never touch that shit. It was finally, and quite surreptitiously, that a heroin-like opiate first entered our lives. It came via my mother's latest partner, Geoff, who she had met while he was serving a fifteen year prison sentence for firearms charges and hostage taking. He was up for parole and my mother had agreed that he could be bound over to our abode. He arrived one Friday with a single black Adidas sports bag, pin-prick pupils and strips of small white prescription pills called Temgesic. He said that they were morphine based, an active drug called buprenorphine. He crushed these pills, snorted them and would then sleep. Not long after his arrival my mother began sleeping inordinate amounts as well.

“Geoff, give us a couple of them pills,“ I asked him one afternoon. He gave a cautious look around  and, satisfied that my mother wasn't coming down the hallway,  popped two little pills free from the strip and gave them to me. “Half at a time,” he said. “And for Christ's sake don't tell ya 
fucking  mother!” I did as Geoff had said. Within an hour I felt like a hero, like my body and soul were finally united. Instantaneously, all other drugs became irrelevant and obsolete. 

Within months of Geoff's arrival we were all psychologically hooked on these pills. As our usage increased, so our immunity built up and we needed ever more for the same ends. We were soon in the position where we could no longer score enough to last us even a week. Each time we had to wait to the end of the month for our contact's prescription to be renewed. We would pass those dry weeks using amphetamines. As the speed dealer was my contact so I began not only scoring for myself but for my mother too. In a joint effort to subdue the opiate cravings we were starting to come together, use together and pass the days high together. It was the beginning of us transgressing the mother/son relationship. From there it was only a matter of time that I would one day arrive home with heroin and use it in front of my mother. And that's what was soon to happen... almost.

* * *

Buprenorphine was a dead duck. Our contact's mother finally died from the cancer which had been eating her alive during the past 18 months. In a single flat we now had three people with psychological opiate addictions and no opiates. For a while Geoff and I hit the streets and homeless shelters looking for a new contact. Buprenorphine was a very rare drug in them days, not yet used to treat heroin addiction. Our search was always fruitless. On occasion we managed to score methadone and a wide range of tranquillizers and anti-psychotics, but they either did nothing, or not enough, or just were not the same. Our collective attention now turned to heroin. We enquired about scoring at every opportunity. Geoff and I would take evening walk-throughs of what we thought were likely places we could score. Heroin is rampant in London, but it is a hidden, secretive world and not at all easy to find that first swing-door in. As complete novices to the scene we looked for it in all the wrong places, asked all the wrong people. We had no idea of the few obvious signs which cut heroin users out. Finding ones way into the world of smack is akin to one of those magic eye puzzles. You stare at the confusion of pattern and see nothing, but once you've cracked the code, revealed the image lying beneath, you can thereafter see nothing else. The world of heroin is like that. It is invisible until you are a part of it, and then it is everywhere and inescapable. It hangs about on every street corner; sits inauspiciously along the bench in the park. It stands waiting at bus-stops and takes no bus, is found pushed up, two at a time, in public telephone booths. It is the man with the army jacket and the limp and the swollen hands, is in the couple down the road who you think are mentally ill. It is the neighbour who begs to borrow five pounds, repays it and borrows it once more. It runs rampant through the old toothless woman who has nothing but a stinking husband with a missing leg. It is in the young man who walks hurriedly past your window six times a day, yabbering into his phone while quickening his pace some more. It is in the emaciated woman in cheap shapeless denim jeans with bloodstains down the inner thigh. It is the beggar who sits alongside the cash machine with two blankets, a bag and a dog, in the transvestite who waits outside the fruit market on warm summer nights like he's touting for last business. It is in 30 year old men with walking canes and crumbling bones and something grey and lost in the face and eyes. It comes hunched and snivelling out of the local hostels at 8am, hobbling off to methadone clinic in a commotion of disputes and disorder and stale smells. It is in the skeletal woman with pink shades and flip-flops, pulled down the high-street by five mongrel dogs off a single leash. It is everywhere and all around. And that is only the start, the illusion that comes forth out the puzzle. For the epidemic is worse than that. Heroin is in that man who just passed you by, in those who have nothing of which to be described. It is in the desk sergeant who books you in and in the lawyer who takes your case. It's in the good Samaritan's other life, the one where he is going under fast himself. It's in the shopkeeper and the taxi-driver and the sober television presenter. It is in the secretary and dental assistant and in the gynaecologist peering between your legs. It's in mansions and terraced houses and the family home, well fed and stable and without the slightest sign of malnutrition or disease. Domesticated and camouflaged, peeping out from behind white nets like any other dying neighbour on civvy street. It passed from the father to the son and now was in the mother too. The holy trinity of the nuclear family. Silver spoons and citric acid and 1ml insulin syringes. Filtering life and shooting away the ghosts of the past, heads bowed between the knees, supple spines and dribble hanging from the mouth. And just like that she came, Our Lady of the Flowers, heroin – brought home to exaltation: the cure to modern life.
It was Geoff who found the first dealer. His name was Mark,  a white guy  who served up across the other side of town. What began as a weekend thing soon progressed to us having a mid-week break out too. Three months further on and we were using every other evening. The fishy scent of smoked heroin gradually replaced the smell of the evening dinner, my mother and I anxiously awaiting Geoff's return home and then all of us rattling around squares of tin foil before slowly retracting into ourselves. It remained like that for some time and then one day, for no reason I can explain, it felt right to smoke what I had left from the previous evening on waking. And my crinkling foil and sparking lighter were soon not the only ones piercing the quiet of the still dark morning. Geoff and my mother were now doing the same. Once that started heroin then became a daily thing. And if for any reason we did not have our waking fix then we would take the morning off work, score, get ourselves mended and turn in for a half day with some fantastic excuse as to why we were so late. Then, one evening, after less than five months into the heroin scene, the first bizarre tragedy occurred: the police knocked us up and took Geoff away for questioning after the dealer Mark had been shot dead 25 minutes after serving him. Nothing came off it, but we had lost our main dealer and now the onus fell on me to supply the household.

By now my mother had not drank for the best part of  a year. It was the longest she had been sober in almost 20 years. Alcohol had been replaced by heroin. Yet heroin was different. Under its influence my mother was not a nasty person, nor did it make her want to harm herself. She was as stable and caring as when she was sober. Finally, 
without her drunken binges blowing up and destroying any headway we had made during drink-free days, we were spending proper time together. But still, even with heroin as common denominator between us, we had not bonded. We soon would. Something would happen which would heighten the stakes, ensure that from then on we prioritized heroin and worked together to ensure that we were never without it.

It was sickness. It came creeping in like a poisoned, dying rat and shook us all to the core. Until then neither of us had understood what addiction really was. We thought that like the buprenorphine, when the drugs or cash ran out, we could just leave it until whenever and try in whatever way we could to pass the days. But heroin was  different beast; one we hadn't encountered before. By the evening of the first day we were all bedridden and my mother was vomiting and crying and saying she couldn't take it. For three days we lay on our backs, sick through to the marrow of our bones, with all the poisons of the world breaking out through the pores in our skin. The clock ticked by in hour length seconds. We groaned and swore at invisible pains and cursed the day we were born and the world we born into. We damned the rich and the fortunate and we bellyached about not having a pittance between us. We cursed our employers and bemoaned the banking system that makes one wait four days for a cheque to either clear or bounce. We cursed almost everything, but we never cursed heroin: we prayed for that - each of us sending out silent messages to a God that none of us believed in. On the fourth day I managed to get hold of a friend who had been out of town. She bailed us out and sat and watched with tears in her eyes as a whole family recovered from heroin sickness within 2 minutes of ripping open our bags. From that day forward heroin changed and our relationships changed. For the first time in our lives my mother and I had the same agenda and were living an extreme life experience together - both in need of heroin to survive. Our relationship tightened. With debilitating junk sickness we found empathy with one another. From a single event years ago, for our own distinct reasons, we now suffered the same consequences and were fighting life together. And the bond would tighten further still. Firstly due to crack cocaine, and then grace to the syringe and finally from the departure of Geoff.

A year into our drug addictions and many things had changed. Geoff was taking on extra private work and I had landed myself a top paying job with a huge annual budget which could only get me into trouble. By now we were not only doing heroin but crack cocaine and my habit had evolved to the needle. I really had become my father, could feel his presence in myself as I lived his life. I took a strange delight in stabbing those first few weeks of injections into myself in front of my mother. She watched and it made her think of the man she had lost, and now here was his son, the same age as the father was when murdered, continuing on with exactly the same thing. With Geoff and I out working to earn the cash to supply our habits,  my mother's job each day was to score the heroin and crack so as it would be waiting for us when we arrived home. My mother also had the added chores of picking me up fresh syringes and dropping my old ones off at the exchange, along with ensuring I always had Vit C and fresh filters.

As our drug use mounted Geoff, 
 single-handedly trying to supply his and my mother's habit, ran into financial problems. I, on the other hand, for the most part, had only my own habit to supply and could cope quite well. This led to tensions within the house. On the nights where Geoff could not afford any crack (which was more and more often) I'd secretly supply my mother with rocks. Not that it was much of a secret. It's quite obvious when someone is bug-eyed and cracked up, and so Geoff was often left alone in the adjacent room, knowing what was going on, craving crack himself and becoming frustrated and angry. My mother had become a kind of drug whore, rushing between the two of us with her crack pipe and getting what she could from each. When Geoff's financial problems escalated further, and then after he fell 75ft from a roof and broke both ankles, his time besides my mother was coming to an end. Laid up in hospital following his operation, Geoff caught a superbug infection which eventually led to him having both legs amputated at the knee. Two months after the amputation he returned home, but in his absence things had changed and so had he. With no legs he used  mum as a housemaid and nurse, and began shouted orders for crack cocaine at me from the bedroom, threatening to chuck me out the house if I didn't comply. Finally, we had all had enough... Geoff too. My mother was in no position to look after a disabled and demanding crack-head, and after months of incessant arguing and fighting, Geoff left. I carried him downstairs and wheeled him to the Social Security offices. I rolled him to the reception desk and left, putting two rocks of heroin and 100 pounds in his top pocket. With no handshake and no goodbye I left - though in all honesty I expected to see him later, hear some half-arsed story as to why he couldn't be re-housed and was back. But he never did come back. I, nor my mother would ever see him again. 

Now it was just my mother and I. Our crack problem was enormous and getting worse and I had began pilfering money from the work budget to support our habits. Now we spent all our evenings together. We scored together, used together, rattled through the jitters and sickness together. When funds got low we concocted schemes together and pawned our belongings. It all made for a life of the intimacy that only drug fiends ever know, a total honesty of the condition amongst one another. We would get cracked up and speak of the past and of my father and growing up. But without alcohol violating her emotions my mother now seemed a victim and not the victimiser. I had by then experienced a tragic love-split myself and understood the great trauma that losing someone so important can bring. I understood my mother and I loved her. I expressed that love in rocks of crack and in ensuring that she didn't get ill. When she thought we were all out of gear for the night I'd call her and surprise her with bags I had bought and hidden just for that very moment. For her part she loved me through her total acceptance of my habit. She would not only ensure I always had clean needles and a safe place to use, but would extract dangling needles from my body as I nodded out and help with tricky injections when my venal system began fucking up. She almost certainly kept me alive and healthy. Even when she quit heroin herself she still allowed me to use in the house, in front of her, and still scored for me so as I could get to work. Not once did she bemoan my continued addiction and not once did she relapse herself. By living together through over 5 years of chronic heroin and crack addiction we gradually found ourselves in that oblivion of smack and smoke and dream states, helped one another through it and made the hardest times as least wearing on our bodies as possible. I've no doubt some will see it as perverse, will condemn and immoralize both our behaviours, but for me they were the greatest days of our lives and I look back on those desperate times with a fondness that rips my heart in two by the sheer fact that they are over now.

In 2014, having left London for France ten years earlier, my mother finally made the travel over. It was the first time I had seen her in nine years. By then she was 65, clean of all substances and doing remarkably well for the life she had led. On the second day I took her along with me as I scored and introduced her to my dealer. Back home I said to her:

“One for old times sake, mum?”

She looked at me, screweed her face up and shook her head: “I'm done with all that, Shane... I don't wanna start down that road again.”

I nodded and then excused myself and went in the bathroom and cried. It wasn't that she was done with it, nor that there was any real chance of her falling back into addiction. The truth was that she had gotten old and soon she would not be here at all. It was the cruelness of time, the terrible fate of ageing. Our joint heroin and crack days were over, lost to another time and gone forever. My mother was just my mother now, a little less wild, a lot less young but as beautiful as ever. I composed myself, dried my eyes and returned to the room. I cooked a fix and took an injection and lay down besides her. From behind me I could feel her breath and the heaving of her chest as she watched television. I watched the images too and after only moments felt a calmness descend upon me that I had not felt for many years. Soon  my cigarette was being lightly lifted from my fingers.

"Shane, you're fucking burning yourself,” she said, chiding me. But before I could reply I was off again, my eyelids closing over on another evening of life, drifting off heavy now and dreaming of nothing in my graceless heroin state.


It was the night that they set the river on fire that Jesus Maria died and came back back to life. He had spent the better part  of that evening wandering around town, thinking dark thoughts, and wondering why the world had in turns been  so good and then so bad and then so good and bad again...

And so starts my novel SICK JESUS...

Follow the writing of the novel LIVE


The death, life and sickness of the heroin junkie Jesus Maria...


On Millennium Eve Jesus Maria injects a hotshot of heroin and dies. After an unsuccessful attempt  to revive him, his body is stripped of everything of any use or value and dumped in the street. Three hours later Jesus comes around. He is confused and ill, suffering from Lazarus syndrome, after having touched death. Though unaware of who he is or what has happened, Jesus retains some kind of cognitive awareness of home and an instinct to get there. He staggers off, feet bleeding and bare-chested, through the last of the millennium crowds. The revellers he passes thinks he has had an ultra good night of it. They blow party hooters in his face and slap him on the back. When Jesus finally arrives home he climbs into bed  and falls unconscious. When he wakes up he is ill - in the initial throes of junk sickness and getting worse. The book relates seven days of  chronic heroin withdrawal in which a bed-ridden  Jesus, through a series of memories, dreams and hallucinations, relives his life and times...

A new Memoires post to follow soon...

a Philosophy of Vengeance : the sadistic heart of the drug-care system

A Syllabus of Deceit: Part2 - The Bigger Half

The Bigger Half

I stood behind, just off over his left shoulder, my eyes on his stubby, nail-bitten fingers and those surprisingly deft, sleight-of-hand, hands. The only time I took my watch off his ever deceitful ready paws was when studying the side of his face, that babyish but bloated looking head he had, the hair which looked like it was wearing bald but wasn't . There he was, hunched over the gear like a dark force, his body evolved to cloak what he was doing, using his long-dead bank card to crush and chop and flatten the heroin and divide it into two even lines. I studied him. I had the distinct feeling that his predatory little junkie eyes were watching me, cast down at the toes of my shoes or my lower leg, looking out for any sign of a slip in concentration so as he could shuffle off and squirrel away one of the uncrushed rocks of gear. Oh, how I despised him. He looked like a weasel or a shrew, something you'd find hiding out in a dripping wet hole along the river, like the heroin had such a pull on him that it had sucked his face into a pointed snout-like feature which contained all his sensory organs and twitched and wriggled before it.

“Come on, man!” I said, increasingly incensed at his deliberation over the two halves. His eyes slid across and down to me.
“Not as fucking easy as it looks,” he said. “You do it if you want, bro.”
“After what happened last time? No chance. You divide and I'll choose... That way there's no fucking arguments.”

I remained watching as he continuously moved tiny slivers of heroin from one pile across to the other, absolutely terrified that one half would end bigger than the other. In fact, that was part of his dilemma: he wanted one half to be bigger: his half. He wanted to somehow find a way to make the bigger half appear smaller so as I'd choose the optically larger looking deal and he'd gain. So he fucked around dividing up the gram, arranging the halves into various different shapes, playing out a thousand cuts in his mind, until he must have decided that it was best just to halve it fairly and be done with it. When he thought he was done he pulled one last sceptical face and then stepped back, presenting me with the choice. Looking over the halves I could sense him besides me, still scrutinizing the divide, barely able to contain himself from jumping in and meddling some more.

“Now, you're sure you're happy with the cut?” I asked, pausing, my eyes on him. He gave a shrug,
“Well, you sure or not?”
“I guess so,” he replied with a kind of pained expression on his face, like he was not sure at all.
“OK, I'll take the left,” I said, with absolutely no deliberation and wearing the slightest of smiles. As I knew it would, the haste of my choice startled him. His body jerked to attention and he lurched forward, over the two halves, with a quizzical look on his face like he had missed a trick. The blacks of his eyes widened and in them I could see his half shrinking in size. To allow his brain time to process what it thought it was thinking, and to also leave himself with a hand of control over events, he reached across for his bank card and began siding my half out the way, over towards me. Normally I'd have paid no mind, but there was something awkward in the way he was separating my half: holding his bank card low down at a flat angle so as much of its surface area as possible touched my heroin.

“Hey hey hey... fucking stop that!" I said. "Slide yours to you, not mine to me!”
“Huh? Why? What does it matter?” he said, innocently.
“Give me the fucking card, here....”

I carefully extracted the card from him. When it was safely out his possession I tapped it down lightly on the CD case we had divided the heroin on. A fine line of smack and a little showering of dust fell down: a small fix worth.
“That's why,” I said, sweeping it back into my half. As I prepared to scoop my deal into a wrap he suddenly stopped me.

“Hang on hang on...,” he said, “... it doesn't look right. Your half's twice as big as mine, LOOK!”
“Fuck off! It's just yours is piled and mines now dislodged. Now get yours covered before it gets knocked over... or gets any smaller! ” He looked like he as going to cry, like he was caught reverberating between the adult pressure of behaving honourably and with a semblance of pride and his illogical junkie instinct of believing he was always being hard done by.

“Man, come on...” he said.
“Trey, You divided it.”
“I know I divided it... but it looked even until it was moved. Come on, man, even you must admit yours is much bigger?”

I shook my head. His distraught self-pitying junkie face made me hate him. I wanted to punch him, and not just once.
“It's OK,” he then said, in a low voice like his entire world had crumbled to pieces, “it's my own stupid fault. I split it. I did.” I didn't look at him. I didn't need to to know what kind of a miserable hard-done-by sulk his face was collapsed into.

“Fucking divide it again!” I said, tossing the bank card at him. He collected the card and his pitiful little expression left him. Immediately he returned to normal, hope alight in his eyes, like a man who has gotten an unexpected reprieve. He was hyper with it.

“I swear it looked even but it was the way I had piled it. And the end of my half was tapered and not built up... just wasn't paying attention, dude.”
“It's in your fucking head, Trey. There was nothing wrong with the cut. It's psychological. Every fucking junkie imagines the same fucking thing: that they're getting the smaller half. You watch, you'll cut it again and still be convinced that somehow I've tricked you, that somehow you're not getting as much. I've seen it a million times over!”

“Nah, it's not like that. You'll see.”

Trey swept the gear back together. This time he sorted it into a finger, squared off both ends and then used the bank card to level the top down. When it was a perfect oblong he laid a piece of paper besides it, marked on the paper how long it was, tore the paper off to that length, folded it in half and then laid it back down alongside the finger of heroin so as the crease in the middle showed up its exact centre. At that point he put the thin edge of the bank card through it and dissected the gear in half. He looked at me and gave a subtle nod.

“Now you're sure it's evenly split this time? You're positive?” He said he was. I looked over the halves. Once again I showed absolutely no hesitation.
“I'll still take the left;” I said. As had happened before Trey leant forward with a ruffled look on his brow. He looked at the two halves like they were fucking with him. Then he leaned back in with the card, about to disturb them once more.

“Fucking leave it!” I cried. “You said you was happy with the split, now fucking leave it.... they're even!” They were even. Trey just couldn't accept it. He tossed his bank card into the wall and flopped down into a pitiful childish blob on his bed, sat sulking and staring off somewhere out across the floor.

“What? You think yours is smaller again? Jesus! I fucking told you this would happen... I fucking knew it. I'll tell ya what: take the fucking left half if you think it's bigger... you can have it!” Trey remained where he was on his bed. He shook his head in stubborn refusal but I could tell my offer had piqued his interest, that his eyes were no longer lost in a world of woe but pricked and primed like dogs' ears.
“Your last fucking chance, Trey... I won't offer again: do you want the left half or not?”
Trey looked at me apologetically and then slowly rose and went over to inspect the two halves. I could feel his shame, his embarrassment for the childish way he had earned this second reprieve; for the way he had wangled having first choice.

“OK,” he said, “I'll take the left.”

I reached over, turned around the CD case and pulled what was the right half over my way. I saw Trey looking, then saw him straighten himself up and that questioning look come to him once more. His brow lowered heavy over his eyes as he watched what I was sliding across my way and what was left for him. I knew what he was thinking... he was caught in that vicious circle, but even he was too embarrassed to remonstrate a third time. Instead his whole demeanour deflated and a lost, woeful expression hijacked his face. He sunk down into himself like his whole body had given up and was silently weeping. To tease it out of him, to further provoke his suffering, I looked at his deal and said:

“Is it just me or does my half seem so much bigger?” He looked at me, his regard a melange of envy and hate.
“Hmmm... that's what I was thinking too,” he said in a half sulk, like he didn't want to be heard but needed to say the words.

I stared at him and shook my head and told him there he had lost his fucking soul.

What Happened The Last Time

Now, this was a story of thirds. He had spent so much time shooting a speedball and then trying to figure out where the hell he was that we were being pushed out the dealer's house as his wife was pissed off at our presence.

“We gotta go,” I said.
“Hmmm. Yeah bro I hear ya,” he said, sitting there jittering away and rolling a cigarette in a way only crack fiends can do.
“Like now, Trey!”
“Yeah, yeah... just getting my shit together, dude. Rolling this cigarette. I'm good.”
“OK, well I'm gonna divide the gear as there's no time to go to yours.”
“Cool, man. Go for it.”

I opened the two grams. The dealer thought I was about to measure out another fix and told me no more, that his wife was about to blow. I assured him I was just dividing it. I quickly arranged the two grams into a straight even line, split it in three and asked Trey to OK it was a fair divide. He gave a jittery look at the gear, his mind skittish and his face twitching like it was full of spiders. He was in that silent world of hyper alert crack prickles – nothing being able to hold his concentration long before his mind was off on something else. He nodded while looking at the gear, his mind completely wired. I could feel the static electricity in his hair. The split was two to one in his favour. Once he had given the nod I scooped my third up and wrapped it in an oblong of aluminium foil. Trey's deal was left on the table. I told him to wrap as we had to get the hell out of there.

I saw the soberness come over him like a changeling. Any man who sobers up that quickly has either had a huge shock or has just died.

“Is that mine or yours?” Trey asked, staring ghostly at what was on the table. He damn well knew it was his. It was his sly way of saying it looked more like a third.
“It's yours. Now get it wrapped, we gotta go.”
“Man, that's two thirds?”
“It's two thirds of what we got, yes. Minus what we've used.”

Trey pulled an ugly face. I knew then that he had slipped into his real guise, that that was the skeleton expression on which his skin was hung and would always revert to in moments of instinctive honesty. Not wanting to lose me as his contact, just as he quickly as he had found me, Trey swallowed the doubt he felt over the fairness of the divide and said: “It's cool, man. Just don't look two thirds, that's all. Not used to grams an shit.”
“Well it is two thirds. Though, even if it were slightly light, you've nothing to grumble over. You've had a speedball and a shot of brown on the fuckin' house.”
“Yeah man, no... that was appreciated, bro. Fuck! I'm in France and I got high! Fuuuck!!!”

In the lift down to ground Trey purposely took out his little wrap of heroin and observed it again. He didn't say anything but made a point of letting me see him deliberating over it in his mind.

“Fucking put that away! You wanna get us arrested? It's hot here doing that shit. Fucking serious business here in France.”
“For real, man? For a gram?”
“Yes, now put it away.” Trey closed his fingers over the wrap and then put his clenched fist inside his front pocket of his hooded top. Walking down towards the metro, the night settled in good and this stretch of city all closed up and deserted, I could feel Trey still playing around with the wrap of heroin in his pocket, feeling out the size and thinking that he'd been half-robbed and that the thief was there walking besides him. I could sense his squinted eyes, bejewelled with a special kind of hatred that only junkies reliant upon each other can feel. Trey needed me, and even supposing that I had robbed him, he was obliged to smile, speak to me graciously, even thank me for it. It was evident he wanted to say something, there was that feeling in the air in the way he was walking and thinking, not saying a word and subtly dragging his feet so as I wasn't gone too quickly. As we approached the metro station where I'd leave Trey for the evening I said my goodbye.
“OK, Bro, laters,” he said. I looked at him. He had said goodbye but was still standing there in front of me as if the night wasn't over.
“Man, you sure that's two thirds what I got? This is expensive shit and it just don't look like it's two thirds of what we got.”
“Trey, don't do it, mate... I'm warning ya... Don't.”

He knew I was serious and he also understood that I would not suggest finding a place where he could inspect my cut against his. It was the end of the night and it was ending like this regardless of anything he thought.

“OK, man,” he said, “no biggie.” And with that he kinda wriggled more comfortably into the rucksack that was on his back, pulled his jeans up a notch, and going on, alone, he held up a hand. I watched him from behind as he gradually trudged on and I didn't like what I was seeing. This young man, an American, disappearing into the dark of a continental night with tragedy stamped all over him. I felt a cold, timeless wind on my face and for just a moment I felt terribly sad. Not for him; not for me. Just something in this world which is indescribable. As I descended the stairs to the metro a warm air came up to meet me. It carried the familiar smell of carbon dust and electricity, something musty and deep and damp. Standing alone on the deserted platform I stared down the tracks, deep into the dark of the tunnel, waiting for two lights to appear from nowhere and come and take me home.

The Scales of Justice

By now I despised the very shape of his body, his stocky pumped up torso, those rounded shoulders ready-made to sink in despair and swallow his neck, legs a little too short; thighs all too muscular, and that arse, God, the way it popped out an inch too far, self-publicizing the fact that it would be all accommodating for the almighty dollar and yet was closed for any kind of business in his private life.
Over months I scrutinized him, a weird kind of hatred having built up in me from witnessing all his little scams, his superficial facial expressions, how he'd pat down his pockets as he said he'd lost money, the way he had of balancing his phone up on the side when taking a shot, a depressing, grungy, American rock song drifting out of it as he dug for a vein, how when he'd struck home he'd close his eyes over and stand there swaying to the dirge filtering around the room; then the immediate retreat he'd make into himself and that utter coldness he showed towards anything living when he finally had what he wanted/needed. He was still romancing this life. He worshipped the needle. I didn't hate him for that, maybe I even envied him for it. My romance was gone. It went with my lungs and my lover. Nothing left of it at all.

But as Trey annoyed me, so the anger and dislike I showed towards him must have been reciprocated. I never hid my contempt of him or his schemes. I shouted him down in the street and made him look a fool in front of my dealer. I subconsciously abused the power I had over him, knowing he would have to accept anything I said if he wanted me to continue scoring for him. As a consequence to that power Trey must have had a natural and festering dislike for me too, his building up in trying to restrain himself from blowing or biting back. And not only that, after everything he was also required to bow to me and keep me cool and also give me a share of his smack every time he scored. So as he annoyed me so I and his own fashion of living, the reliance he had on others, annoyed him. His life style was too far out of his own control to not be embittered by it. He often cursed heroin, but just as often as he cursed it he embraced it and sung jubilantly of its qualities of sedation and psychological pain relief. It's a love hate romance most debutante addicts go through before either dying, quitting or learning how to control and supply ones habit on the way to long term and chronic drug addiction. At what stop Trey would eventually alight is anyone's guess. Personally, I think he will continue to live a parasitic life of addiction until he can suffer it no more, go on to prostitution to gain financial independence, learn he caught HIV in his younger more desperate days of addiction, and having an existence so bleak at that point will look back to these days in Europe, as dire and as frustrating as they were, and see them as some of the better days of his life. Its a tragedy and one is allowed to feel sorry for him at this point... at least until the end of the sentence.

Sympathy over! The little shit. A quarter split this time. Three for him; one for me. We were in the dealer's apartment, sat staring at the floor awaiting him to return with his main stash of smack. As soon as the dealer's key turned in the lock Trey straightened up in his wooden chair at the dining table, his chest poking out like a bimbos and his biceps ripping out through his t-shirt.

The dealer – who now also disliked Trey – made a point of fingering him up out the chair he was in so as he could sit down in his place. It wasn't the dealer's chair or his usual cutting up spot: it was a power thing – a way to let Trey know it was his house and his rules, that he had the heroin and thus he had the power. Trey got up but didn't take another seat. He lingered around the dealer, his nose poking right into the his affairs. Even as the dealer was measuring and weighing up the four grams Trey was there with his bank card asking if he could take a small measure to cook up. The dealer looked at him like he was a retard, not being able to restrain himself for even a minute. He warned him off from touching anything until it was weighed and bagged and told him to stay away. Trey paced around the room. As he passed me he said: “What the fucks his problem, man!”

The dealer looked up from weighing out the smack. He didn't speak English but he understood tonality and he understood the word FUCK.

“What did he say?” he asked me in French.
“He's just desperate for a fix,” I replied, “never mind him.”

The dealer nodded and pulled a face like he was tonguing a loose tooth.

“You want, er... shoot shoot?” he said to Trey, mimicking the act of injecting.
Trey nodded enthusiastically... too enthusiastically. “Yes, a shot... yes, please! I need a shoot shoot of your beautiful heroin, Monsieur!”

Trey was unaware that the dealer was being sarcastic and he also didn't seem to realise that his utterly false comment about “beautiful gear” meant nothing in French. Trey seemed to think that his manufactured charm was so sweet and endearing that it transcended language itself.

The dealer, just nodded. He was hatching something. This was his house. He called Trey over to see the heroin on the scales. I joined them. Three grams to the point. That was Trey's deal. The dealer pointed to the weight on the digital screen. “Threeeee,” he said. Trey gave a thumbs up, literally. The dealer lifted the little square of plastic with Trey's three grams on it up from off the scales and put it down to one side. Next he took another little cut of plastic, placed it on the scales and measured out my gram. He asked us to OK the weight. I nodded. Trey kinda deliberated and then took out his bank card and mimicked scooping a little corner of the gram and putting it to the three grams. He saw the dealer wasn't quite sure what he meant and so he made a tiny size with his thumb and forefinger and said “just a pinch, man.. uh puhti puhti pew.”

I asked Trey what the hell he was on about. He said that the weights were fine but that my deal was a bit larger than one third of his and he wanted the dealer to take a tiny scoop from mine and add it to his three grams.

“Are you for fucking real? I asked him, “they're weighed! Mine is exactly a third of yours.”

“Oh man, come on. There's no way I've three times your worth. Serious, Man! And them scales.... those little electronic ones, they can weigh up a point or two either way. And DID you see what he did? He weighed the gear on the plastic... probably another point lost there.”

The dealer asked me what Trey's problem was, if he was disputing the accuracy of his scales. When I explained Trey's gripe the dealer closed his bag of unweighed heroin, put it in his inside jacket pocket and then got up from the table leaving both our deals and the scales there for us to sort out between ourselves.

The way Trey hot-footed into the dealer's seat was like a game of musical chairs when the music stops. I had no intention of taking the chair myself but by the way Trey bundled past me and slammed himself down at the table I felt I had lost. Trey lifted my gram off the scales and put it on the table. He cast a quick glance to the dealer who was now sat over on the sofa flicking through foreign TV stations. On seeing that the dealer wasn't taking any notice of us Trey started going through the options on the little scales. He didn't say what he was doing but it was obvious he was checking that the dealer had them calibrated to 0 and hadn't weighed us up short. After a moment Trey's face changed, he looked pissed off and began pushing and holding buttons until it was clear he had entered some parameter he couldn't get out of. The dealer noticed. Trey was then hitting the buttons in such a way with his stubby fingers that he could damage them.

“Man, what-the-fuck!” he said. “These things have got the fucking time and everything on them!”

The dealer came over and snatched the scales out of Trey's hands. He stared at Trey and Trey said “Sorry, Dude... was just checking them out.” The dealer told me to tell Trey not to touch any of the buttons. When he gave the scales back to Trey they were set to 0.

“Man, do you mind if we put the four grams together, re-weigh them and then split from a whole?” Trey asked me.
“Do what you want... just be fucking quick about it.”

Trey placed his three grams on the scale. It weighed to 3.2. His deal wasn't under it was over. Then he added my gram to it. 4.2.

“What did I tell ya, man.... these scales are never accurate.”
“Maybe they're not accurate now? Maybe the first reading was correct and this one is false?”

Trey didn't answer. He didn't hear. His brain had stuck on pause the moment he had convinced himself that his guile had made him a petty gain. Objective truth held no importance to him: he wanted fuck all to do with it. Trey was all about subjective truth and subjective reality. In that way there were no lies, no theft, no games or dishonesty. And whenever justice was served, it was always – in his mind – completely unjust, life kicking him in the ribs again.

Trey, now in the dealer's chair, with the dealer's scales, with four measly grams of heroin, did the job of dividing the cut himself. He lifted the four grams off the scale, put my empty wrap on the platform, and then weighed up my gram. As the dealer had done he asked me to check the reading. I didn't check but said it was fine. He gave me the gram and alongside him I bagged it and tied it secure. As I was doing that Trey reweighed what was left.

“3 point 1 this time, dude,” he said. “You need to tell your dealer to get some new fucking weights.”

I wasn't watching Trey. I had seen his face too often lit up from the glow of sitting in front of his heroin, knowing that the next few days would be peaceful no matter what atrocities were to happen in the world. But then, suddenly, I was watching him: his face frozen in terror and his mouth caught in the word “NOOOoooooo.....”, a high-pitched beeping noise coming out the scales in front of him.

…ooooo!!!! What-the-fuuuck!!! DUDE... HELP!!” Trey, startled by the beeping, had somehow managed to spill his heroin. It must have been an involuntary reflex while lifting his deal off the scales. He hadn't spilled it all. The actual square of plastic was tilted off the edge of the scales with a good gram still on it. The rest was strewn across the table, to the edge and over. Trey was sat there frozen, his hands raised like he was being held at gun point. His eyes were strained down, passed his air-filled chest, down to where his lap was and where the heroin would have fallen. When he was sure everything had settled down he ever so carefully inched backwards, away from the table, his eyes strained down all the while.

“Quick, there's some on my jeans... bud, help get it up.”

Over at Trey I used an old metro ticket to collect what powder I could from off his thigh. I salvaged a good bit but some had dispersed into the fabric of his jeans and more had cascaded over his thigh and sprinkled down the outside of his calf and onto the floor.

“How much on the floor?” he asked, panicked.
“Not a lot, but it's hard to see.” When I had salvaged all I could Trey stood up, stepped back and knelt to inspect the ground himself. He kept saying: “Man!! Man! I can't fucking believe it! What the fuck, dude!” When Trey rose he was red and flustered and angry. In silence he scraped together what was on the table and collected it back on his wrap. During all that activity we hadn't noticed that the beeping had stopped. The dealer was stood there with his little black electronic scales.

“What the fuck was that,” I asked.
“The alarm! Your friend somehow set the fucking countdown timer!”

When Trey weighed the heroin he had left there remained not even two grams. An entire gram was somewhere within his jeans, on the floor and between the joint of the table. He sat there just staring at what was left, utterly distraught but lost for anything he could say. Slowly he went into his rucksack and took out a needle and a little aluminium cooking cup. Usually the dealer would turn you on to a free fix for business but today there was no chance of that, not for Trey anyhow. Trey sat at the table with his empty cup, reluctant to put a measure of his own stuff in before knowing if the dealer would give him a freebie. When the dealer didn't look over Trey made deliberate noises and fidgeted looking around the table for something until he had the dealers attention. The dealer looked over, saw what Trey was doing and then seemed to come over irate.

“No no no...” he said, wagging a finger. “Tell him he's not shooting here!”
Trey understood but thought it was a joke. He continued on. The dealer walked over to the table and with his index finger flicked the metal cup off the table and against the wall.
“No shoot here!”
“Huh?” went Trey, shocked.
“You tell him he must ask before doing that in my house... In front of my wife... His blood on my table! He fucking asks in future!”
He was right. You always ask a non-injecting user permission to bang up in their presence and certainly in their apartment. I had known the dealer for over five years and I still asked before pulling out a spike. Trey seemed to have no concept of the horror of the syringe or what it was associated with. He had barely known the dealer a month and here he was blatantly taking out his old syringes and getting ready to cook up without even the good grace to ask. I told Trey that he wasn't allowed to shoot in the apartment today, that he must ask before doing. I can't explain Trey's reaction, but I understood it... I understood that drained, grief-stricken appearance, the sudden welling up of pain in his eyes and his total desperation to get out of their and relieve himself of the horror he had lived in the past half an hour. I felt sorry for him. After any shock the junkie needs a fix. Not five or ten or thirty minutes later but immediately.

“Get your works. Go to the toilet. Get your shot but be fucking quick about it!”

Trey gave a cast across to the dealer wondering if he should follow my advice, what could be the potential consequences if the dealer cottoned on to him in there shooting. Whatever he concluded he must have thought it was worth it. He gathered up his kit, put it in his bag, made every appearance like getting ready to leave and then excused himself for the toilet. As I waited for him the dealer gave me half a gram for what Trey had spilled. I put it in my pocket for myself. That's when we heard the music. Floating out the toilet and down the hallway and into the living room. Trey, so into his habit, so utterly selfish in his needs, could not manage even a single shot without his choice music on and swaying away to the dirge of some gruff singer growling on about the horror of addiction and the sweetness of death. Of course, I knew what the music signified but the dealer didn't.

“What the fuck?” he asked. “Does your friend shit to music?”

I thought over the words, thought of Trey, swaying there like having a cosmic orgasm, the syringe embedded in the fat of his arm, the pastures of heaven across his face for a while.

“Yes, that's exactly what he does,” I said, “he shits to fucking music.”

The dealer grunted, shook his head, then holding the remote control, pointed it at the TV and began flicking through the channels, not staying on one for a second, the blur of a continent all hissed and merged together, nothing of interest anywhere to be found. After a moment his eyes closed over and the TV settled to a stop. Trey flushed the toilet; all business was done. One and a half grams, the price for such a life.