As frequent readers of this blog will have noticed a disturbing pattern has slowly formed itself and probably says as much about my life as anything else. That pattern is this: Post - Apology - Post - Apology - Post -
This is a place where promises are broken and advertised "next posts" never materialise. But in my defense I have a bellyful of good excuses... unfortunately I've used most of them up now and so this is probably the last "Apology Between Posts" that will have any grain of truth or justification behind it whatsoever.
And so wthout further a-do here is this weeks excuse:
Yes, in absence of any friends or family to blame I lay the full responsibility for my dismal lack of output on my (new) SmackTop. She is 14 months old and has the following credentials to her name:
8 missing keys
3 additional keys that do not work
A touch pad that seems to have suffered a stroke and is paralysed down it's right side
22 Cigarette burns (2 more than my shirt)
Ash, debris and dog-ends littered over the keyboard
DVD player retarded
26 start-up programs blocked
1 broken speaker
1345 viruses (35 of which I am informed are deadly!)
With all that in mind maybe you can understand and forgive me for being a little slow in posting... maybe you'll be astonished that I ever posted at all? Sometimes to get the letter 'e' to work, I have to enable the Voice Recognition System and do it that way.
The greatest shame of this whole event is that my SmackTop has just exceeded it's 12 month guarrantee and so I am no longer able to exchange it for a new one... though I'm not sure that the warrantee covers the abuse that this poor thing has endured. If it was a dog I'd certainly be in prison.
Anyway, there's my latest apology (God knows what I'll use next time) and a new Memoires of a HH post will follow shortly, I promise... la di da di da
Best Wishes All & take care through this Suicide Season...
During the weekend I got involved in an email exchange with one of the ghost readers that frequent this Blog. That exchange almost turned into a question and answer session and became so relevant to the Blog that it has earned it's place as a post in its own right. It concerns my ideas of Memoires, why I write the posts I do, and what thinking if any goes into the tales I relate. I thank you all for the wonderful comments you left to the last post (we nearly reached 100!!!) and of course I thank Madam X who contributed her time and questions in order to make this post possible.
If the post misses a bit of tragedy and despair, well I apologize for that and promise that I will make ûp for it in the next entry... even if it means jumping off a building with no rope...
I hope you All enjoy.
Email from: MadameX
I’ve been reading your blog silently for months now and it seems (at least to me) that there is something much more going on than just tales of addiction or drug use. It seems that the posts are a part of a puzzle...that together they say more than the initial story. Can you tell me more about that?
Also it seems a reoccurring theme, friendships and what became of these people after your ways parted and each went down a different road to ruin?!
Love and thanks
PS: The idea for a new post you mentioned to Y seems it would suit your blog.
Email from: Myheroinhead@gmail.com
Email to: MadameX
Hiya Madame X,
Thanks for you mail.
Everything in my life would suit the blog... I suppose that's why it makes some sense... why it is even believable.
It's not just the ‘Road to Ruin’, that is only the destination. It is the reason for that journey, the tragedy (if it is a tragedy) of it. It seems to me that in this life there are many broken and lost souls, and just as we find companionship life seems to conspire to part us for good.
So, you are right, the blog is not just about addiction.. that is just a common linking theme. I have lived around heroin or drugs and alcohol for so long now that many things which have passed bare some relation to that. So as a theme it works well for me. But the Blog, that is not really about addiction... or it is, but it is equally concerned with many other things. It's also about poverty, but not just poverty of money, more the poverty of hope*... having nothing but yourself to enjoy or destroy, because where I am from, self-destruction is a form of expression. Not in an artistic way (though it can be) but in a rebellious way. Very few have the education or the contacts to express themselves in an accepted fashion and so it is done through vandalism, violence, drugs or self-destruction. People are rebelling but they do not know what that are rebelling against... they are expressing a social problem but are ignorant of what that problem is. So they express themselves, their inner frustrations and angers. They leave their blood on the wall.. spray insults in huge letters at unknown enemies. They self-destruct because they cannot bloom... there is no space to do it.
That is really what the posts try to show. These people are not monsters or mentally ill, they are the manifestation of the problems of where they are from. That is how we must see it. If I was born in Chelsea to a middle or upper income family, the chances are I would never have come into contact with the likes of Simon, or Alan or Lloyd or Wardog. My friends wouldn't have taken the Road to Ruin... they wouldn't have needed to. So it is a statement of certain conditions... and hopefully I am the person from there who kept enough sense and was aware and observant enough to express it in other ways. I can, because for years I expressed it in the same way as them... I used myself to show what society was invisibly doing to me. In a sense I still do. But through art (writing and painting and music), I have found another valid way to express that.
Thanks once again for your mail...
My Thoughts & Wishes, Shane. x
*A title for a future post: The Poverty of Hope. ;)
Email from: Madame X
Email to: Myheroinhead@gmail.com
Yes... I think that "outlawdom" or self-destruction do also have a psychological background or a personal, biographical one. On a more general level it probably only takes different forms depending on the environment you grow up in. Speaking in stereotypes, if you grow up in a Californian mansion with an alcoholic father who regularly beats on you or your mother, your form of escape and self-destruction might be partyhopping, sedatives and anorexia. I think it all might depend on what we see, what we know and what we learn from others.But of course, also from what or what not our money can buy. There might be different forms of expressing a hurt or a hopelessness, and according to that different causes that led to a trauma or a perspectivelessness... I just believe that the feeling of loss and having no vision (be that career, love or whatever) is universal and not restricted to a certain class.
Again, what is different between "the classes" is the way you express that, and also who you express that to. The Californian girl might tell her stories to her psychiatrist, the London kids write in on the walls . But there are similarities?!
I still like the image of the "road", a road on the fastlane, roadkills, a ruined road that starts as one and then splits... into different roads to ruin?
Email from: Myheroinhead@gmail.com
Email to: MadameX
But the Road to Ruin is an old rock n' roll cliché, and I don't necessarily believe it is the road to ruin. I don't believe that becoming a drug addict and dying early is a road to ruin. Maybe it’s just a road... maybe they're all 'roads to ruin' because they all lead to the same place. What does it matter if one dies at 35, 50 or 90???
No, loss and having no vision are not universal. Of course that exists in all classes and races, but it is not epidemic. These things come from a lack of opportunity, options, possibility. It has a lot to do with economic situations. There is a reason why kids with nothing enjoy destroying property. There is a reason why so many drunks will lay out in public, dirty and humiliated, advertising themselves to the world. They just don't realise why.
And I'm not talking about a hurt or a trauma... we all have them. I am talking about when LIFE is the trauma... when it is so big you cannot even see it; you can only express it.
When I talk of lack of opportunity, I often use my schooling as an example:
My school was St.Marks. In my class were 30 children. Of those 30 no-one amounted to anything. The best someone became was a school teacher. Only 20% even went into further education.
Down the road was London Oratory. But most kids left there and went on to university and became Lawyers, doctors, or politicians. 80% went into further education.
We were born with the same brains, the same scope of memory... so what happened? Why did one set degenerate into violence, drugs and vandalism, whilst the others ended up treating, defending or arresting them! Why did one set start voting at 18 and the others became apolitical (though without even knowing what the word means).
There is a poverty and a frustration behind what I write about. Yes, it does exist elsewhere, but it is not epidemic. I've met addicts from all backgrounds, from all social classes and of all creeds and colours. But the majority, the same as the majority of kids that wear balaclavas and head out at night to vandalise property, they come from a place of hopelessness and nothing. They are hitting back at the world... they just don't know why.
Also, if you grow up in that Californian mansion you mentioned, you're escape might be the attic... the piano room... the library... the credit card! Something else that makes the situation less hopeless. If you grow up in a small flat on a rundown council estate, where is the escape? where is
another hope? There's not a library to lose yourself in... there's not a credit card that can compensate for absent or fighting parents. All there is is nothing. How can you escape a room when it is the only room.? Well, you escape it psychologically. And how do you express all this frustration? When you've never read a book in your life... never learnt how to write... have no access or money to painting materials... and didn't even leave school with the vocabulary needed to express it. Well, then it's expressed in different ways... anti-social ways, self-destructive ways. It's a huge scream for attention, but nobody is listening.
That's a little of what I think... when I'm writing a post for Memoires of a Heroinhead these thoughts go through my head. I do not explain that on the blog (though often in the comment section I do) as that gets very dull to read. I prefer to show the people and explain where they are from and what they do and how they live or die. People can then dwell on that, or just enjoy the post as a story and forget about it. But I believe that if you word things correctly, and give memorable sentences of expression, then that is the biggest protection against your words being forgotten or dismissed. But yes, there is something more than just tales in what I write... there has to be something more because stories are so very boring.
I think that ends it... don’t you? ;)
Autumn has always been a very special time for me. I remember London in October: The city full of burnt wood and magic; the cold creeping in off pink skies; the warm evening traffic crawling slowly into nowhere. There is something so sedated and calming in this time. I breathe it in. And with each intake of burnt air a memory drifts into my head.
As a young boy I remember walks along the mansions near the river. It would be just as the light fell, as the parks and public spaces were chained and locked, and mellow winds chased the scents of the freshly dead summer around. Overhead the last flocks of migrating birds would twist and dive by. The final distant calls of nature would sound out and then fade with no reply. So many such evenings I would wander mesmerised down shadowy west London avenues, staring in amazement at the illuminated stained glass doors, the homely hallways behind them, and through large Victorian windows, family get togethers in the living room. I would watch young girls play piano, or peer through huge open plan rooms as families sat and ate supper in the distance. I loved those little walks. The tranquility as the light gave way, as the street lamps rescued the city from darkness, and as life and nature and all things living and dying settled down for the night. For a few brief moments I felt as though I was a part of it all, that I was watching a lost film roll of my own family life. It was with a longing sadness that I dragged myself home, my young footsteps echoing a loneliness that only I could understand.
Later on in autumn, as the evenings darkened ever earlier and cool winds cut chill and whistled through stairwells and lift shafts, I remember being sent on errands to the Fish & Chip Shop. In fear of strange shadows and pursuing footsteps, I would run back home, holding the bag of hot food against my stomach. But in my house a fish & chip supper did not signal a weekly treat whereby the day's food budget had been abandoned in favour of succulent golden battered cod, spiced Jamaican patties, pickled eggs and chips soaked in onion vinegar. No, they were sad events: suppers which signified that my stepfather was absent and my mother, due to the intake of several litres of cheap vodka, was incapable of cooking. Often my mother would use my short absence as an opportunity to gather up all the tranquilizers and sharp knives in the house. I would return home to find her sitting on the side of her bed, wearing a sagged and evil clown face, and either chewing on mouthfuls of pink and green capsules or running a sharp potato knife menacingly up and down her wrist. More often than not the fish would end up splattered against the wall and the chips tramped into the carpet or vomited up into the toilet. On very special nights I’d be hit in the head with the hot bag of food, and then sent off to call for an ambulance on another false suicide attempt. In the early hours of the morning my stepfather would return twelve pints of beer heavier, and finding the house empty, he’d stagger back out knocking up the neighbours until he found the one who had taken us in and saved us from police cells, or worse, the Social Services. I’d hear his deep dangerous voice asking of details and then he’d lead us home, a small rabble of sleepy heads, blankets and teddy bears. But that’s not a autumn memory, not really... that’s just a memory, a timeless reminiscence of days long gone.
Autumn is also the build up to winter, to crystal brittle skies and a silver sun whose distance fails to penetrate the cold. It’s a mid-time, a halfway house between two extremes, a time of beauty and romance and reflection. So I reflect. I send myself to sleep with past images and memories. As the leaves start to bruise and prepare to fall, and as goalposts replace cricket boundaries, so once again I get lost in memory and return to lands that no longer exist. This post was brought out by the season. It is born from changing times and lost and forgotten loves. On the winds of this new autumn, under fading October light, I deliver another piece of myself: The first 31 predominant memories of my life.
I do not remember being born; not many of us do. But I do remember being fed. That is my 1st memory, being held to my mother's breast as she lay on a blanketed bed feeding me. My 2nd memory is of being scolded for knocking over a glass full of Martini... my mother pushing me off my tricycle and onto the floor as she sponged up the wet. My 3rd is the year 1980. I had returned home after my first day at school with that nugget of knowledge: “It’s 1980. Mum, the year is 1980!” My 4th memory is watching my father open up his veins with a small meat cleaver after a violent argument with my mother. I watched from behind a long pleated skirt as my stepfather fought and wrestled him out the house. My 5th memory is a camel ride in London Zoo. Red top, Wellington boots, and beige Rupert the Bear trousers. My 6th recollection is my mother's scream, an unbearable sound that pierced my life and brought me fully into existence. My 7th is learning that my father had been murdered, dismembered, boiled, diced and flushed down a toilet. My 8th is finding my mother choking to death on the froth of an overdose, pills and broken glass littering her room. My 9th memory is of the hospital ward where she laid for a week - bruised, unconscious and full of tubes. My 10th memory is taking a beating from my stepfather and then having my head shaved. My 11th is a dark room, nighttime radio, the glurping of neat alcohol being poured from bottle to glass, burning cigarettes, LED’s and tears. I remember the touch of pubic hair as my mother rubbed herself against my little legs. My 12th memory is realising that my brother and sister had rejected and distanced themselves from me after it was properly understood that I shared a different father. My 13th memory is my mother turning up drunk on my birthday and smashing all my new toys. My 14th is falling off my bike and losing consciousness. I remember pulling a wheelie, a pair of spinning handlebars, approaching concrete ground and then nothing. I came around grazed and bloodied on a public bench with a pair of watery grey eyes peering into mine. “You ‘ad a bit ov a fall young man... you’re Ok though!” My 15th memory is the Black House*. My 16th is my mother spraying perfume in my stepfather's eyes and then his hands, tattooed with ‘Love’ & ‘hate’, smashing into her jaw. My 17th is breaking my collarbone and laying in unbearable pain for 3 days before being taken to hospital. My 18th memory is being hit by the sperm of one of my mother's lovers. My 19th feeling the force of adult fists and kicks. My 20th is my stepfather doing the ironing in a dress. My 21st recollection is being arrested and detained in Hammersmith police station after throwing a grapefruit through Mr Brownhead's window. My 22rd & 23rd are of my mothers repeated suicide attempts. My 24th is being summoned to my mother's room and her declaring that she was dying of cancer. My 25th memory is being hit in the side of the head by a large bunch of keys. My 26th is fleeing the family home with my mother, brother & sister. A secret car ride across London and hiding from my stepfather. My 27th is the window ledge of Hobb's Hotel in Victoria, my paralytic mother swaying on it 70ft above the ground. My 28th is Christmas 1988, my mother's lesbian lover trying to strangle my sister to death. My 29th is White City Estate. No furniture, gas or electricity. It was cigarettes, stolen cars and my mother's final, yet unsuccessful, suicide attempt. My 30th memory is throwing a world globe out off the geography room window and being permanently excluded from school. My 31st memory is starting off on my first days building work at the age of 15. I realised on that day, as i returned home absolutely exhausted after 8 hours of soul destroying work, that I was no longer a child, that the burst-balloon-sponge-cake party was over. I also realised that hell was not an obligatory place of stay and I was not there on her Majesty’s service. There were roads which led to hell and if I was ever to return there again it would at least be in consequence of my own footsteps. In a sense that sums it up. From the fall of my innocence rose my independence, a passionate and dangerous independence that flirts with hell without quite descending into it. But maybe that’s not really a choice? Maybe I am just a blessed and lucky sod?
Anyway, that’s my month of memories... as many reminiscences of my dead youth as there are days in October. But contrary to what it may appear, I have never thought of my young years as a broken or traumatic time. Far from it, my overriding recollections of those years are the memories that do not exist but those which litter and fill in the gaps. The childhood I remember was one of joy and escape... of exhilarating bike rides, hard schoolyard walls and dusty football marathons. I recall late evenings, staying out playing as one by one the other children were called home and finally I was left kicking my ball down dark streets alone. So, in tune with the new season, that is how I see my youth: it was a bruised but not a battered time. It was an autumn and not a winter. And as the new season imposes itself proper and mornings and afternoons sweep cold, my eyes can only blink heavy through golden tones and I can only ride high as once again the scent of burnt wood wafts through another European city. In a way, the combined beauty of 33 autumns is the answer to my unknown equation. The present can never be more wonderful or less hellish than it is right now, because after everything, and before anything else, this is all that there ever really is.
Take care Readers and thanks for sitting out the drought...
My Thoughts and Wishes as Always and Ever, Shane.x
*Read relevant blog entry
I’d jump from a building
From the 91st floor
Just to be certain
Just to be sure
A fictitious poem to a fictitious lover
Sometimes I wish I didn’t love, I didn’t feel and I didn’t hurt.. sometimes I wish I didn’t live in such extremes, enjoying freezing winters just to take pleasure from hurrying into the warmth. That is what I do, I hang around in the cold and then seek refuge in a warm room, shuddering with pleasure as the first waves of heat hit me. Sometimes I wish my muscles didn’t contract and that my heart would stop beating excessive amounts of blood around my body. Sometimes I wish I lived in a securely mortgaged house and drove a Grey Ford Fiesta. Sometimes I wish I had a dog and two dustbins. Sometimes I wish my name was Chris.
Chris is 47 years old. Of those 47 years he has been married for 29. He has never strayed, nor cheated nor done an around turn and followed the echoes of a strangers high-heeled shoes. He neither loves nor hates, cries or laughs, lives or dies. He is in the middle of all that, living a life of unbroken and regular habit. But not dangerous habits... not habits that gamble with the fate of ones day, no... safe habits... routines. Practices that secure the fate of one’s day. In a life of mystery and surprise, of low blows and axe chops, Chris wanders through oblivious to all and everyday brings the same, and the same comes everyday.
At 6.30am one can find Chris walking his dog around the block and down the old brewery alley. On his way back home he will pass the the newsagents and pick up the paper. Dog lead hung on the coat stand he’ll sit down to an already made up and perfumed wife. He will slurp his way through two cups of tea, butter some toast and smoke a cigarette. At 7.am he rolls up his newspaper and puts it in his back pocket. He winks goodbye to the wife, kisses the dog and leaves for work.. For 8 hours everyday Chris unloads lorries and then makes sure people like me don’t steal the stock.He has done this since leaving school at 17. His evenings are homecooked meals, quick stop family visits and cable TV. At 10.30 he badly dries the dishes that his wife has washed and together they climb the wooden hills to Bedfordshire. Chris removes his shirt and slips out of his trousers and into the bed before anyone has time to even see his kneecaps. He turns his head so as his wife can change in peace. 30 years of marriage divides the kingsize bed in two. The sheets are clean and freshly pressed and never smell of sex. At 11 o’clock they turn back to back, each pointing in the direction of their half of the room. They sleep without dreaming, although the wife occasionally dreams she is living a nightmare. At 5.45am, the alarm rings and it all starts again.
For a while I was one of the many co-conspirators in Chris’s life. I became a little part of his routine, another little event that added to the surety of his day. There I’d be, every morning outside Allied Carpets, waiting to be collected and driven in to work. There he’d come, pulling into the bus lane whilst simultaneously stretching across the passenger seat and pushing open the door. Car still in a slow roll, I’d hop in and he’d accelerate away as the door swung shut. “Time?” He’d ask nodding towards the cheap unstealable radio “7.23,” I’d say “You’re bang on time.” And he was bang on time... always. In two years of early morning meets not once did that clock read any other minute past seven. I came to thinking that he must arrive early, park up down a side road and pull out at the exact minute. Sadly, I am probably wrong about that. He probably is the only man in the world who can manoeuvre through London’s traffic to the exact second. In fact, I do not doubt it. But if it was easy for Chris to pull up at the exact second I was the polar opposite of that. I’m not sure if he ever realised the hell I had to assault through to get there.. to be standing there calmly in a freshly pressed shirt. Whilst his life was a monotonous journey through tried and tested avenues mine was a life of mayhem and last minute fixes... always chasing that which had already left. If Chris knew what would happen next, I was still in shock at what had happened before... and it was with a certain envy that I strapped myself in and looked across at Chris in his one and only state of being: not quite happy, but almost.
Chris became a fascination to me. I would feel good just to be in his company... just to have his calmness rub off on me and know that besides this man the perverse was not going to happen. Life did not bluster unannounced into this man’s life... it gave him a smooth flat stoneless ride. I would catch myself observing him, admiring all his little mannerisms and laughing along as he whispered a clean obscene joke into the ear of the young female receptionist. I’d watch him preparing his sandwiches, devouring them in delightful measured mouthfuls, then wiping and patting his lips free from any sauce or grease. I observed as he took a million tiny pleasures from a world I had no excitement for and didn’t really want to be a part of. He even seemed to enjoy paying his taxes... filling out the forms and posting them off to the Revenue. Chris had found his slot in life. And no matter how awful his routines seem, or what a waste I knew it was to live like that, I could not help envying him... At one time, I could not help myself from desperately wishing for what he had.
Sometimes I would sit in the car beside him on the drive home and stare at him as he damned without swearing, as he looked up and around at the new buildings that were being put up. He’d be tapping away to some old rock beat or another, nothing intense, bland love songs of coming home. Once we had a little bump in the car and he seemed to take a sick pleasure in reckoning up the insurance costs. There he was, counting out on thick fingers garage repairs and labour costs. Nodding away knowingly at just how costly a little bump could be. When his mum died, he cried for a lunch break in his car and that was it... That was the nearest he ever got to tragedy. He returned after an hour his same old consistent self, just one parent less. He celebrated her but never grieved. One night I met him and his wife for drinks. He wore a denim jacket and a thick shapeless bright pink top. I think it was the first time he had been out since the early 80’s and that was his old pulling shirt.They both left after one drink as the dog needed it’s nighttime walk and the bins needed emptying. I was completely shitfaced and had only been there for an hour. They had to drive me to my door and walk me up the garden path. But they enjoyed that... it was a little story for hem, just as it is for me.
Once I asked Chris if he loved his wife. His reply talked of the kids, the mortgage and the joint possessions. “But do you love her Chris?” I repeated “Do you love her?”
“Well,” he replied “we’re thinking of starting up a little market stall on Saturdays so as we can spend a little more time together... there’s not many couples who after twenty odd years want to spend MORE time together. That said, we could also do with the extra cash as the roof needs fixing and we had the plumber in last week.”
“Yeah, that sounds like love.” I said, thinking of sex in parks, golden showers and planes out the country. And he winked at me as if he held all the secrets to the world.
One evening whilst stuck in traffic I told Chris of my heroin addiction. He sat there staring ahead in silence, a thinking middle finger drumming out a rhythm on the side of the steering wheel. I waited in gritted discomfort as my words hung thick with the smoke in the car, but nothing came – not a squeak, not a sidewards glance, nothing... Chris just inched forward in the traffic and never mentioned it at all . It was like telling someone you love them and not getting so much as a blink of acknowledgement back in return. Seven eigth’s of my existence was left two feet back in London’s rush hour traffic... under the wheels of a vibrating diesel powered double-decker bus.
And what else should I have expected? What other response could I have possibly received from a man welded so securely into a life of routine? He could hardly have pulled over and took me off for an unplanned talk and drink... Oh no, the wind from the wings of that little butterfly would have had far too many repercussions in his own life to be a possibility. No, Chris done exactly as I would have expected of him: he saved my revelation for the dinner table... a five minute conversation with the missus spat out through mouthfuls of chewed up sausage, cabbage and potato’s.
The remainder of the ride to my drop off point was a sombre one. I sat there with my head turned staring dismally out as West London passed by the smeared and rain speckled window. I had given up hope of receiving any kind of response from Chris and it was with relief that he finally swung in and slowed to a stop at my bus stop. As I clambered from the car that evening, Chris leaned across , and with his chin almost on the passenger seat and peering up at me under the door, he said: “Hey Shane, why don’t you come over to ours for dinner one evening? My wife knocks up a great steak and chips.” And with that comment, and the way in which it was delivered, London collapsed... it was the saddest thing I had ever heard, from anybody’s lips. That Chris imagined that the answers to the unanswerable could come through a hearty home cooked meal, carving up cheap meat whilst laughing away to evening sitcoms was sad. It was sad because I wished it were true... it was sad because I wished I had that to go home to. I gave Chris a light smile and a pair of tragic eyes “That’d be nice,” I said quietly “I’d like that.”
In a way I was touched that someone, anyone could think so simply about life and her problems. That someone was so stable and so secure that they imagined a good family dinner could heal all woes. And I desired that... I envied that in him. That stability, the knowing... the surety. He knew when he arrived home his wife would be there. OK, there was no passion but there was a bizarre kind of historic love and dependence. I would settle for that... I wanted that. In this mans head there were no dreams... no wants or desires. “I wish I was like that.” I’d think. He enjoyed simple things, things that I cannot even understand. Walking the dog at nine o’clock in the evening... greeting a neighbour or two and swapping the days gossip. I dream of that, of that kind of a life.Everything in Chris was stable and secure and I wanted it, and I envied him for that. But at the same time I knew it was not for me... it was not possible. One cannot learn to be like Chris... that kind of regimented and ordered life cannot come through discipline. One has to be born like that... or as good as. I was not... I was born dodging cricket bats and bouncing to the blows of life... all i’ve ever known is extremes. To live without question and to enjoy all the little hardships of life, one must be a very certain person. Of course, I would never want to be that... my head tells me that. But somewhere in me, somewhere buried below all the fancy thoughts, I do want it... to be less complex, to be just an average Joe.
Wouldn’t it be heaven to be guided and led by social norms, to have one’s ethics and morals laid out already dressed on the plate? To know what is right and what is wrong... what is clean and what is dirty? Wouldn’t it be good to have a built in sensor that stopped you going too far in either direction, that stopped you from falling madly in love or making suicide pacts? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to feel the cold and the warmth for what they are and not for what you will escape. To watch film for entertainment and not in search of yourself. Wouldn’t it be good to put your money in a fruit machine, not for the gamble but because that’s what you do.And whether you win or lose, well, so what! Nothing is going to change. Wouldn’t it be good to never be tempted, to be imprisoned by invisible and weightless chains... wouldn’t that be heaven? At one time in my life I wanted all of this... I needed it, and I went to bed dreaming of it. But even having that behaviour, that desire for something else told me I could never have it. No, my envy of Chris and his position was just a healthy response to my own life which had spiralled out of control and had left me on the edge trying to claw my way back in. And it helped... it helped because looking at all these things and thinking them over I decided that no, I do not want to be Chris... and I would not choose to be him even if I had the choice. I would much rather be me... I would much rather have obsessions and violently passionate relationships than calm waters and sexless sheet. I would much rather be able to write this than read it and not understand it. But for a while... Oh, for a while, I wanted nothing more than to just be someone else. Someone stable.
My relationship with Chris, like so many others, petered out and died. Rides home in his car became tense affairs after I had revealed myself. I’d unburdened my condition upon him and now I didn’t hold back. I sat in the passenger seat with my head almost slumped in my lap... coming to every now and again to see how much further we had crept through the traffic. As we arrived at my drop off point Chris would now lean over me, open the door and bundle me out into the street. I would scramble to my feet and before having the chance to turn around he would be gone. He stopped acting like a father towards me, probably realising and thanking his lucky stars that no son of his was anything like me. He stopped sharing his sandwiches with me in the canteen and would look grumpy as I came from the toilet with my bag and rubbing my arm. Eventually he stopped giving me a lift home, petrified that I had drugs in my bag and that my passenger seat antic would bring the police to us. I didn’t mind... he wasn’t a friend, just someone I once aspired to be... just someone I needed to see and be with for a short time in my life.
It’s now nearly ten years that I haven’t had word from Chris, but whenever things aren’t going great in my life or whenever I am riding high, I still think of him. I think of his life of routine and his measured, calculated way of doing everything. I wonder can anyone really be like that? Is anyone really able to be that stable and satisfied with their lot? Is the leaking roof really an enjoyable cost? Then I start to wonder what goes on behind closed doors... what happens when the family has left and the light goes out in the bedroom. Is it all as cosy and as clean cut as he’d have me believe? Does he really never dream? Is it only the occasional nightmare his wife has, or are they recurring and omnipresent? Does his sexless frustration never turn into something a little more sinister?I don’t know... that’s just me thinking and maybe more a reflection of me than of him. But then I remember something... a snippet of a conversation we once had. We were discussing films and Chris told me that his favourite film was A ClockWork Orange and his favourite scene was the gang rape one... and for some reason those words hang heavy in my ears and disturbs me. Butit’snot the fantasy that disturbs me, it’sthe repression of the fantasy, the denial of it... and when i think of that my envy turns to fear. Fear of what such a person is capable of. Far from being attracted to or in awe of such a person, the Chris’s of this world scare me... They scare me more than my shadow scares myself.
Take care Readers... and keep the fires burning, Shane. x
A huge thanks to all of you who sent me mails this past week enquiring after my wellbeing and asking if everything is OK. Well, things are better than just OK... I'm still six feet over and the life has never seemed so wonderful and full of hope. Rather than revisiting memoirs from my past, I have been living what will certainly become a memoir of the future. My absence in this time is a positive thing... a cause for celebrtion but not concern.
Anyway, my mysteries must remain that for now... some moths I must keep to myself. Thanks for bearing with me in this time and keep peeled as a new post will appear here within the next few hours.
Until then, my hopes, thoughts and wishes to you All, Shane. x
She's been reading and commenting here since day one and deserves this little payback.
It all unfolded one early afternoon on my first day off on a week break from work. I cannot remember the exact month or date, but I know it was in the autumn, maybe early October or November of 2002. I know it was between 12 and 1pm as the children from the nearby school were screaming and hurling to whistles and play. It was one of those low sedated afternoons when sound and smells merge into a sweet tranquility and eyelids drift heavy on lazy days. I was sitting in the living room, needle in mouth and feeling for veins... my mother was bent double on the edge of her bed - daytime TV invading her brain. At first I heard a door, and then a bang and then the commotion of voices. I pulled back the yellowed net curtains and watched as a delivery van moved off down the street.I took it they had just dropped something off for Mr Tullock and had banged the wall whilst manoeuvering it into his flat. I left the curtain slide back across the window and returned to my business in hand. But once again I heard it, only this time it was a scuffling and rapping on the wall.
“Mum... did you hear the noises? I think someone’s in the hallway.”
My mum wandered half dazed from the bedroom and peered down the stairs at the little square of glass that topped the door. “Nah, there’s no-one there, Shane... You can see a shadow if anyone’s in the hallway.” But then it happened again, and this time we both heard it. We looked at each other worriedly but before we had time to speak a heavy rap ran down the door.
“Fuck, it’s the police that is...” my mother whispered “That sounds right like the fucking police!” My needles and heroin were laying on the table and foil and pipes were in the bedroom. For one horrible moment I thought she was right. I had visions of chucking the lot... the gear at least, but then reality hit.
“It can’t be the police... no, it can’t be. What reason would they have to be here? Who would be calling the police to us?” And then the door knocked again, only this time lighter and with a chesty groan. That was it, someing was not right, I was opening the door.
I tried to unlock the door but it wouldn’t release. Something was jamming the deadbolt in the catch... I could barely even turn the knob to release it. When I finally succeeded the door burst open.. Mr Tullock falling in on his side and flapping about like a fish on the floor. His eyes were bulged and going northeast and west and he lay there like that flapping and heaving and looking terrified. I tried to speak to him, but from his mouth the most horrendous smell was being released... it was as if a bag of crabs had been left to rot in his stomach. It was a nauseating smell, and one that was almost unbearable... it was the smell of his death.
My mother came hurtling down the stairs, “JAMES... can you hear me? CAN YOU HEAR ME?” And he seemed to, there was something in his eyes that still moved to attention... that still recognized human voice and his own need for help. And then the smell hit my mother, and she gagged and holding her mouth run back up stairs.
It’s strange that in a panic nobody knows what to do... we run from place to place not even sure if we should phone an ambulance or comfort the dead. I had to shout instructions up at my mother, step by step, guiding her to the phone and explaining what to say. At least twice she returned to the top of the stairs with some irrelevant question or concern.... looking down in the hope that Mr Tullock had made a miraculous tap-dancing recovery. Finally she did call the emergency services, and while she did I comforted James, touching his head and holding his hand. He had stopped flapping and seemed to be calmed by my words and presence, but his eyes were still all askew and all of hells rottenness still poured out from his mouth. I listened to my mothers hysterical voice on the phone... her tears that somehow didn’t seem genuine, and at the same time I felt James relax and calm further, his eyes now settled on me.
“MUM... I think he’s going!” I yelled out “He’s stopped moving... tell the emergency services he’s not breathing... he’s unconscious!” I heard my mother repeat what I had said and then hang up. She came back to the stairs and looked down. “Mum, take over here for a while... just hold his hand, I’ve got to clear the table” . Actually, the table wasn’t my concern, I needed some time... the eye’s of James and the smells had hit me hard, and I needed to be free of my mothers eyes to release my emotions. Since being 8 years old and begging her not to leave home, I’ve never allowed my mother the privilege of seeing me cry. In many ways I’d feel a pathetic weakness weeping in front of her... or maybe more than that I am petrified that she may try to comfort me. Maybe I am scared she may throw caring arms around me, for in an instance like that I would be completely and utterly lost.
My mother held the fort and I rushed upstairs and sitting in the living room I cried. I tried not to, I tried to keep my tears behind my lids, but they just came... like spasms of orgasm there was no holding back, no plugging the dam, and in silent streams my emotions ran their course.
That I even cried surprised me... I was not extremely close to Mr Tullock and only really saw him on the weekends. The closest we came to friendship was him giving me bottles of West Indian muscle rub after seeing me hobbling off to work in the mornings, sore and swollen from missed injections. Apart from that I had nothing much to do with him. I think the tears were because of death... because of the closeness of it and my inability to help a man with eyes shock wide with terror. I imagined all the things his paralysed mouth wanted to say, all the fears that rushed through his short-circuiting brain... I remembered his light grip on my hand and his crusty lips as they breathed out vile and rancid body fluids. And then I remembered his legs and his undressed lower... it was the first time I realised he was laying there half naked, and that brought tears again. The terror that someone must be in to flee their house in that state must be horrendous... to stagger naked and gasping out into public, well... what else but death could chase a man that far... especially a man who cooked fish every Friday?
I never went back downstairs, instead I tidied away the needles and cleared the room of any paraphernalia. About 10 minutes after our call an ambulance and three paramedics arrived. My mother left the scene and came running up with eyes full of water... but not tears, they were burning from the stench that James had released her way and which were now a drifting presence throughout the flat. After about 15 minutes a paramedic joined us and said that James was dead and that it appeared as if he had suffered an enormous stroke. He said that even if they had been able to resuscitate him he would surely have been brain dead and was probably that even by the time he fell through the door. He asked for the name and address of any of Mr Tullock's relatives and we gave him that of his sister. James was taken away, and once again I was left stunned and sitting in shocked silence at a world that only half an hour ago had wafted by like a hypnotic scent. I watched as the ambulance pulled off and then reached in the draw for my needle and the fix that I hadn’t earlier had the time to take. My mother returned from the bedroom with a square of aluminium foil and a tube in her mouth, and as I calmed myself with a prick and and a push, so she did the same with a crackle and a suck.... both of us escaping the sights and scents that this day had brought.
As happened after the passing of Ewan, death doesn’t hold us reflective for long, and there is always one junkie who is distanced enough and cold enough to profit from tragedy. When Geoff, my stepfather, returned home and was told the news, he suggested that we use the spare keys James had given to my mother and search his flat for prescription drugs and money. yes, unbelievably Geoff wanted to rob him!!! Of course, we never done that but it was close. All it would have taken, from either my mother or I, would have been a slight nod or a moments hesitation and Mr Tullocks door would have been opened and the possessions of a dead man ransacked and stolen. Rather, in light of our shock, Geoff pretended it was a joke and talked endlessly throughout the evening of how he wouldn’t do something like that but that he knew many a scoundrel that would. Two days later he was kicking himself, because it was revealed that under James mattress £12,000 had been found along with another £5,000 hidden in a shoebox in the loft . I later overheard a furious Geoff say to my mum: “We could’ve fucking had that!! It shuld’ve been ours!” And he’s right we could have had it, we could have robbed the dead... who would have ever known? And then this question came to me and it is one which I am embarrassed to answer here: “If I had have been aware about the money, would I have opened the door, sneaked in with Geoff and took it? And the answer is yes... yes I probably would have.
Take care readers & keep hope, Shane. x
Two months before my 17th birthday my stepfather was released from prison and moved into the family home alongside my mother, brother and I. Along with an electric safety razor, his prison shoes and tattoo's, he brought with him a backpack full of opiates. Geoffrey Smith would be my 1st drug dealer, my second stepfather and the stepping stone that took me from recreational drugs to hardcore opiates. 7 years later, with the exception of my brother, the household will have descended into full-scale heroin and crack addiction... my mother, stepfather and I rolling about sick on the floor, lying cheating and stealing from each other. It would end with Geoff having both his legs amputated, my mother booking herself into rehab, and me fleeing London with 500ml of methadone, a bloodstained shirt and a french lover. This post details the bizarre descent of my family into drug addiction, how we managed through that and the past and present consequences of those years.
* * * *
In 1983, the year of my fathers murder, Geoff Smith held a barful of people hostage with a sawn-off shotgun after he discovered his wife was having an affair with the proprietors 18 year old son. After a 5 hours siege and coming down from a tab of LSD, Geoff exchanged four shots with the police and then surrendered himself and his freedom to the British Penal System. He was arrested and sentenced to 15 years in Wakefield High Security Prison. Of the 15 years he served 9, during which time he met my mother and married her inside. At the end of his jail term, released 6 years early on account of good behaviour, he boarded a train to London. As he had kept his release date a secret no-one knew he was on his way. One dull Friday afternoon I answered the door to a small, squat, grey haired man with pin prick pupils and an Adidas sports holdall. He shook my hand, introduced himself as my new stepfather and said he had come to stay. In disbelief I called my mum and watched in absolute amazement as she jumped into his arms and then dragged him off into the bedroom. It would be 12 years before he left.
The first thing I noticed about Geoff was that he slept a lot. During the first month I only saw him on a handful of occasions. Rather, he and my mother spent their days and nights couped up in their bedroom with a small television set... my mother occasionally staggering down the hallway and into the kitchen to knock up a peanut butter sandwich. I reasoned that Geoff's heavy and long sleeping was a prison habit he had yet to shake off, and to a certain extent I was correct. It was a prison habit alright... a prison drug habit. He had entered the system a drinker and dope smoker and had left an opiate addict, crushing down and snorting up tiny white pills boxed under the name of Temgesi... a strong painkiller doled out to the terminally ill. Geoff bought them by the box load from a friends mother who was dying of liver cancer. The active drug in Temegesic is buprenorphine, the same drug that Subutex, the heroin substitute, is comprised of. But at this time Subutex did not exist, buprenorphine was not yet being used as a heroin substitute.
From the moment I discovered what these little pills were I was intent on trying them. This wasn't the first time I had thought about opiates, I had had them on my mind a long time before Geoff rolled onto the scene... I had been half-heartedly trying to acquire heroin since I was 15, but didn’t know where or how to get it. It was not long before I approached Geoff and asked him for a couple of his Temgesic's. In order to befriend me he slipped me a few outside of my mums knowledge and warned me to not take more than one at a time.... and that’s what I did, and then I floated off to heaven. Within a month I was crushing down and snorting up the pills almost daily... using the same tube as my mother.
This went on for about a year, then our immunity increased and we were on 3 or 4 pills a time... from here on we had problems. Temgesic were very hard to get... They were almost impossible to buy on the street. When our supply was finished we put our lives on hold until the end of the month, until the next repeat prescription was ready. We would live in stretches of two weeks... and when the drugs were gone we’d all sit in miserable silence, staring at a blank TV that anyone was too bored to get up and turn on. Sometimes we’d buy a few grams of amphetamine and try to pass the time that way, but as the come down hit us we yearned for opiates more than ever. I learnt very quickly that you either use opiates all the time or not at all.... there is no comfortable middle ground.
This behaviour with buprenorphine continued for a little more than three years, until the day we received news that the mother of Geoff's friend had succumbed to the cancer that had gradually been monopolising her - our supply was cut dead (though not quite immediately). We convinced Geoff’s friend not to declare the death of his mother to her doctor and collect a final prescription. He done this and we payed him triple the price as agreed, but that was really the finish of it. With our last two weeks worth of Temgesic we schemed and planned our future supply. I convinced/paid my supervisor at work to go to a private doctor for a slipped disc he had suffered. I told him to say the hospital had once given them to him and they were the only things that eased the pain. Geoff’s method was a little more radical. He had a friend hit him in the chest with a huge mallet. Due to the blow he sustained three broken ribs and managed to convince his doctor to prescribe him Temgesic for that. Between the two of us we managed. We didn’t have as much as we needed, though at least we had some. But doctors are very wary about prescribing such strong opiates, especially for back and rib pain, and within two years both had lost their scripts and we were left in the lurch again. It was at this time that I started scouring the streets for Temgesic... approaching homeless people, new-age travellers, and alcoholics. But all avenues were fruitless, until I met Gerald, a new work colleague and someone who showed an active interest in hard drugs.
Gerald was the first person outside my household to even know what these drugs were. He told me he knew of someone that could reconnect the supply line. I met Gerald one evening after work and we travelled to a ground floor flat on The West Ken Estate. Of course, it turned into a Witch hunt, no-one showing up and no pills to be had. That’s when Gerald played his true hand and suggested that I buy heroin instead. “It’s exactly the same.. only stronger.” he said. “I can get that for you right now.” Without even having to think I gave Gerald the money and watched as he disappeared down an alley with a small hooded black boy. He returned a few minutes later, spat 3 small bags into his hand, wiped them clean and handed them to me. I gave one back to him and we parted.
I arrived home excited and proud. I felt like the breadwinner returning with the weeks pay... the food that would end everyone’s godless hunger and revitalize them back into the world of the living. I rolled the two bags on the table in the same way one throws gambling dice: “It’s heroin...” I said “A bag each.” Geoff was very happy, but my mother looked nervously at the bags. She didn’t say anything, but I could read her thoughts. She had lived with a junkie, my father, and she had never joined him in addiction, now, some 10 years later and at the age of 48 she was confronted with her son giving her heroin... heroin she knew she would take. And she did take it... we all did, and Gerald was right, it was exactly the same as buprenorphine only much stronger and much more readily available. After that first bag of heroin I knew I was/would become an addict. The fact is , I was a heroin addict long before I had ever even touched it. As for my mother and stepfather, well they enjoyed it just as much... and soon we were all regularly scoring and spending the evenings together.
Heroin addiction is not like it is portrayed in film or book. One does not take it once and turn into a hopeless and desperate addict. Addiction is a slow process and progresses from gradual to constant use. It always takes a few months and in our case it took almost a whole year before we even became aware that addiction was looming. What started out as a weekend thing soon covered Friday and Monday. Wednesdays also crept in to the mix and before long we were using every evening. The start of the evening became earlier and earlier, until finally we were using on waking... the real sign of proper physical and psychological addiction. It is no coincidence that on entering treatment centres one of the first questions is : “Do you use on waking? How long have you been using on waking?”
The progression from Temgesic to heroin happened over many years, during which time many things changed. I had grown up and left the family home, and Geoff and my mother had given up the flat on White City Estate and moved to a small maisonette in Shepherds Bush. As I was spending most my time there, scoring or using, I decided it would be cheaper and easier if I gave up my apartment and move back in with my mother. We were all using daily by this time and when funds allowed crack also. But the exertions and the expense of drug life was fast catching up on us, and in a bid to keep ahead of the game Geoff and I were constantly borrowing or advancing money . We were living on our next months pay rather than our last. It was a precarious game and one that would soon fail us. We were building pyramids of cards in the wind... We were heading for disaster.
Our first bout of junk sickness did arrive... just as we knew it would. I was out of cash and my friend who would lend me money was not in London that weekend. Geoff had been refused cash at work and instead had been given a cheque... he had a long 4 day wait for it to clear. During the first morning we all sat together in the living room twiddling our thumbs and asking the other: “You’re sure you’ve got nothing? Not even £5???” We emptied out our bags and pockets again and searched under the sofa and down the sides of the cushions... but we were all out, there was not a penny in the house.. It was the first time in our addiction that we had awoken with not even the heroin to give us a morning boot. We were not ill, but we were psychologically uncomfortable. By evening we were all on our backs, snivelling and retching and sweating. Our yawns were so wide and so deep that we almost dislocated our jaws trying to get them out... and when we opened our scrunched up eyes, burning hot tears would stream down our faces. By nighttime body smells and fluids filled the room.... we were so sick we barely had the strength or inclination to go to the toilet. It pained to move and it pained even more to keep still. Buckets of vomit sat unemptied in the room and crusty mucus clung to the blankets and pillows. The muscles in our bodies had had enough... they rejected the brains signals to move, and would spasm now and again completely of their own accord. We each lay in our own little hell groaning and crying and cursing a world that could not float £10 through the window... Not EVEN £10 measly pound. We were in one of the main financial cities of the world, in our street alone there was ten’s of millions of pounds worth of property and possessions, yet if you need money right HERE right NOW you cannot get it... what the fuck is that!?
After 48hrs, real debilitating junk illness had arrived. We were sick through to the marrow of our bones, bed ridden with all poisons of the world breaking out through the pores in our skin. And there is no respite or escape. Sleep is impossible when you are ill – you must suffer hell with wide open eyes. We lay there like this for three long and miserable days, the clock ticking by in hour length seconds. We groaned and swore at invisible pains, cursing 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 Geoff's employer 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 just prayed for that. Each of us sending out silent messages to a God that none of us believed in.
After three days I made an emergency call to my absent friend. She must have heard my discomfort for although she had just drove back to London that morning she said she’d cross the city and bring me some money. I told my mum and Geoff and we sat waiting the three hours for her to arrive. She did arrive, on time as ever, and there ended our first bout of family junk illness.
We lived together like this for the first year of addiction, during which time we sold anything and everything we had. My guitars and music equipment. The video... the DVD player. My brothers fishing rods, golf clubs and stereo. My mother decided that her little collection of jewellery was worthless and so one afternoon we sorted through it and took it along to the pawn shop. Her and Geoff adding their wedding rings to the kitty. We flogged the two antique lamps I had stolen from work and finally we sold the television. We ended up spending our evenings consuming heroin and crack and staring at the square dust patch on the wall where the TV used to be. To raise more money Geoff & I started doing private building work on the weekends... me knocking up cement and him constructing walls that we could crouch behind and smoke crack. Once an elderly client caught us on the pipe and asked what we were doing. We said it was a special substance that is blown into the wall and which hardens the cement quicker. At the end of the day we were paid and told not to ever come back.
But these times, by no means wonderful, did have their worth. Through the joint use of heroin and addiction I bonded with my mother. We had the same concerns and the same priorities and when we got high we spent the time talking and going over the past. She started taking some care of me, scoring for me and making sure I had heroin to get to work. In the daytime she’d pick me up clean needles and return my used ones. She done all she could to keep my injecting clean and free from disease. For my part I helped keep her in dope... leaving her money for a rock of choice each day. As we fell into sickness together love would be shown by the other managing to raise some money and then sharing their heroin with the other. I have memories of hanging around street corners, both of us scanning the street for a sight of our dealer.... rushing home with a pocketful of heroin and crack and smoking or shooting away our illness. Ok, it’s not the usual thing that brings a mother and son close together but it worked for us. Through the ordeal of heroin addiction we managed to understand the others suffering. Her past problems and behaviour suddenly made sense, and in that moment I forgave her all.
The first year and a half was rough trek, but then the good times came. I had been provoking trouble at work due to the conditions and the treatment of some of my colleagues. One Thursday morning I was called into the directors office, fired and handed a cheque written out to the tune of £10,000 on the agreement I took no action. I accepted the offer it in a flash. Two weeks later I landed a top job managing an accountancy company and for the moment our financial worries were over. But as one problem goes, so another fills it’s place, and with my recent payout and my newly acquired directors wage I started scoring crack every evening. And not just for me... for my mother and Geoff too. Soon the household waited desperately for my return from work... knowing that I would arrive with my hands full of crack and smack. It was the crack addiction that finally blew the biscuits out the tin.
Crack is a much more desperate addiction than heroin.... it’s effects don’t last as long and the come down leaves the user wired and willing to do the most daring things to raise money for the next rock. Because I was buying the crack and all were reliant upon my return from work, there was a certain amount of animosity which began to develop towards me. It wasn’t long before money disappeared from my wallet or rocks of crack and heroin started going AWOL. Geoff would go out to score and return with nothing saying he had been robbed or lost the money. Then the bedroom door would close and from inside I’d hear the unmistakable blabbering of crackheads.During the evening the door would open and smoke would pour out like opening a freezer on a hot day. “Oh, it’s just the cigarettes.” Geoff would say “They’ve changed the gauge of the papers!” I didn't care, I was in the living room piping by myself... it was the theft and lies that annoyed me. I suppose they just wanted some power and control over their own addiction... I understand that. It’s very difficult holding a habit and relying on someone else to fund it. My mother was in the middle, and like any half-decent junkie used her position to best advantage. She wandered between living room and bedroom, taking the benefits of both. When Geoff thought she was coming in to collect my dirty plates and cups, she was actually sneaking crack outside of his knowledge... collecting it in rolled up tissue and smoking it on her own later or when we were at work. All these lies and sneaking made for an angry and explosive house. It was not long before Geoff smashed an ashtray into my head and I knocked out two of his teeth with my elbow. We never recovered from that fight or from me pitifully flicking him rocks of crack on my return home.from work.
During the next two years crack and heroin took all our money. I was still living within my means, but Geoff had borrowed, stole and sold all he could to fund his addiction. His latest idea to raise funds was taking on private and undeclared building work... work he neither had the qualifications nor the tools required in order to carry it out. What he did have was an almighty drug problem that pushed him to insane lengths to get money. 50Ft up, fixing the tiles of someones roof for £100, he slipped and slid. He held onto the guttering for as long as he could and then strength robbed him of his grip. He let go and dropped feet first to the ground, breaking both ankles and shattering both shin bones. He was in hospital for 5 months and two weeks after his release he was hit by an infection and both feet bloated up and turned brown. This infection would eventually rob him off his legs and leave him wheelchair bound with a crackpipe hidden under the blanket that covered the stumps of his legs.
With Geoff out of action and all the fuss and expense of hospital visits, my mother decided it was time to quit drugs. She applied for a detox programme, and after waiting 4 weeks she started out on a Methadone Maintenance program. Since that day she has never taken heroin again... though her crack problem still lingers on. After giving up smack she still continued to allow me to live and use in the house, and she still continued to score for me in the daytime whilst I worked. In turn, I continued to keep her supplied her with a healthy amount of crack each evening.
Two months after the amputation of his legs Geoff returned to the house, but in his absence things had changed and so had he. With no legs he used my mum as a servant and shouted orders for crack cocaine at me from the bedroom... threatening to chuck me out the house and phone the police if I didn’t comply. Finally we all had had enough, Geoff too. My mother was in no position to look after a disabled and demanding crackhead, and after months of incessant arguing 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 in his top pocket With no handshake and no goodbye I was gone... though in truth I was expecting to see him later and hear some half-arsed story as to why he was back. But the strange thing is, I, nor my mother have ever seen him again... he disappeared without word or trace or legs. Maybe he was more fed up with drugs than I realised... maybe sitting at the reception, at yet another person’s mercy, he had looked down at himself, at the place where his legs used to be and realised that this was not a good place to be at his or any age in life. Maybe he regretted ever coming into contact with my mother or me. Maybe he chucked the heroin away and used the money to help get himself back on an even keel. On the other hand, and more probable, maybe he fiddled as much money as he could from the social services, wheeled himself back d own the Uxbridge Road and spent it all on crack and smack. If I had to hazard a guess I’d say he done just that.
I continued living with my mother, working, scoring and smoking white together. But I was becoming bored of that life and the crack was beginning to affect me badly. I was turning into work dishevelled without having slept and with a bag full of needles and heroin. I would spend the first hour with my office door closed whilst I searched in desperation for a vein. One employee found a needle in my office and another popped his head over the toilet cubicle one morning and saw me digging for veins and with needles scattered over the floor and a crackpîpe sitting on the cistern. He tried to blackmail me and then left in a rage after his complaint was received as lies and nonsense by my directors... No-one else believed him either. Though I never considered quitting heroin, I was constantly cursing and promising to stop smoking crack. I started going out in the evenings or staying late at work so as not to be around dealers. My mum would score my heroin and her crack in the daytime and by the time I arrived home all that would be left were my bags of brown and my clucking mother. It was in this period that I met a french girl, fell desperately in love and began a romance that would finish with me getting onto a MMT program and then exiting London for Lyon and a heroin addiction on alien soil.
On informing my mother of my plans to leave she had mixed feelings. She was happy for me but her mind showed off other fears. What would she do without me? Who would fund her crack addiction? I felt terrible for this... I felt guilty. I had kept her in crack for the past three years and now I was leaving her with nothing. But my life had taken an unexpected turn, and it was a turn that I had to take. It was a fresh break, away from London and away from crack and heroin. But more than that I had fallen in love.... there was someone other than myself to think of, and I couldn’t keep my partner living in the hell she had experienced in London. The decision had to be a selfish one... I had to leave London and those left behind would have to fends for themselves. If my mother would be without crack, well so would I... we’d have to live that together.
My mother was strangely quiet in the week leading up to my departure. We sneaked crack in the house past my girlfriend, and we took turns occupying her whilst the other hit the pipe. The quiet was only broken by half arguments... my mother throwing bitter and sarcastic comments towards me, yet not having the stomach to finish them. Well she did finally get it out.... on the morning of my departure she could hold her anger nor hurt in any longer. She broke down and started crying and asked what would happen to her? To me? What started off as quite healthy despair and fears ended in her accusing me of abandoning her to the dogs... of getting her hopelessly hooked on crack cocaine and then deserting her. She was also jealous that I had found and chosen another women to spend my life with over her. It all came out and as I descended the stairs with my suitcase of clothes ready to join my girlfriend in the waiting taxi, my mother came running down the stairs crying and threw a bag full of my old needles at me:
“They’re yours!!! Fucking take them to France.... don’t leave your shit here for me to tidy up!!!”
The needles hit me in the side of the head and scattered everywhere.... over 300 of them. Two lodged in the side of my neck.and dangled there until I pulled them out and threw them on the floor. Silent with anger I turned around and climbed in the taxi.
“Stanstead Airport, is it?” asked the driver.
“That’s it, mate.... Stanstead. Get me out of this fucking shit hole!” And with that he moved out and slowly pulled away. And as the blood rolled down my neck and soaked through the breast and collar of my shirt I turned my head and peered out the back window. There was my mother, on her knees in the street, sobbing hysterically amongst a pile of old needles as she gathered them together and put them back into the bag. She never looked up, never looked back, and I didn’t expect her to either. In a lifetime of alcohol, violence, sexual and physical abuse, she had never given me so much as a sorry or a pair of regretful eyes. And as the taxi moved and my mother became smaller, I once again surrendered, “I Love You, MUM!” I shouted “I LOVE YOU!” And as the last word slipped out my mouth and the first tears slipped out my eyes so my mother slipped into the distance... Smaller, smaller, and smaller until finally she was gone.
Thanks for sticking with me everyone... my very Best Wishes to All, Shane. x
Heroinhead to his fictitious drug counsellor
* * * * *
It is 4.21am. Outside it is black... the new day has no dawn just yet. I sit on the edge of my bed smoking. On the table there are spoons, needles and lemon juice... but there is no heroin – it’s all gone. My phone is on silent and I am up to 85 missed calls and 27 text messages. My Inbox stands at 117 unread mails. On the floor there are endless wrappers from chocolate bars and cans of soft drinks. A pizza crust smiles at me. I can barely walk... my feet and legs are swollen due to all the injections of the past five days. Scars and bruises trail from my groin down to my ankle and the room smells like stale sex and overflowing ashtrays. I think about doing my filters once again... boiling up the cotton balls I draw my heroin through and straining them through a 5ml syringe. But I don’t do that, it would be the third time and would only result in a pale yellow water. Instead, I unscrew the caps from 3 bottles of 40ml methadone and down the lot. Within an hour the effect will kick in... just in time for the early birds and the sun. I know I will not do much... just nurse my wounds, curse my throat and stomach and groan about how awful I feel. I think about watching a film but the DVD player seems so far way and so low down. Anyhow, in such times nothing can occupy me better than sleep... and sleep will come, I know that. But she will come with heavy smells, age old fears and hyper-realistic nightmares... tormenting me into wishing I was awake. I will be paralysed between two hells and myself, sweating out a weeks worth of junk in Kafka's castle. This is me, Shane X, 12,291 days into my death, waiting for the sun...
Take care All & Best Wishes, Shane. x
The heroin life can often be a rollercoaster ride. When it is hard it is hell, though when it is easy, it’s very VERY easy. But in between the highs and the lows there are the ‘loop the loops’ - the often comic and shambolic mishaps and adventures that arrive with the junkie life. In a series of broken posts titled Heroin Hiccups I will detail the bizarre events that have littered my own addiction. They range from the near tragic to the unbelievable, and from runs of bad luck to acts of breathtaking stupidity. Along with one far from fatal overdose, two apartment fires, and an elderly neighbour falling through my door dead, I’ve also had a deer escape from me in central London, a 3am police visit whilst outside trying to recapture my fly away Cockatoos, & an emergency visit to the vets after my dog swallowed a 16th of an ounce of heroin. I’ve had junkies try to sell me everything from monkey meat to kingsize duvets, and have witnessed one exploding kitchen. If one puts that little lot together, chucks in a few close scrapes and seasons with shotgun wielding crackheads, then you’ve got yourself a wonderful book. But this is not a book, it’s a blog post and so for now we will concentrate on the sparks: the fires and explosions.
I suppose setting one’s bed alight must be a very common Heroin Hiccup. Due to the drugs sedative qualities addicts are forever dropping lit cigarettes onto the floor, the sofa, the bed, and themselves. The large burn holes in a junkies clothes are often the sign of a nighttime panic to put oneself out. Along with the obvious scars from shooting, the addict is often littered with neck and chest burns and blisters... another little clue for an eagle eyed observer.
My first bedtime fire was a very mild affair. A dropped cigarette, a light sheet and a fan on low power... Just the right mix of ingredients to further heat up an already warm summer night - me awoken from slumber by my cover burning my back. A well directed cup of cold tea later and it was all over... not much smoke and save having to reverse the mattress and buy a new sheet, an undamaged bed. My next fire however would be a completely different affair.
In very similar circumstances, but this time in France, I awoke to flames and pluming black smoke. My first thought was that I had died and had been sentenced, but unfortunately it was not so... just another dropped cigarette, from another junkie onto another bed on another night. This time, however, it wasn’t so minor... it was way past the stage where a cold cup of Tetleys could get me out of jail free. And as the fumes, smoke and particles found their way up my nose and down my throat it suddenly hit me: I NEED WATER!!! I leapt out off bed, but due to smoke and fume inhalation whilst sleeping I found I was completely dizzyheaded and unstable. In my comical fumble to pull on my trousers I ended up doing the potato sack dance before falling and bashing my head on the dresser and ripping open my leg... but my mind was so intent on getting the fire out that in the moment I felt neither. I scrambled to my feet and staggered to the bathroom. On returning with a mop bucket full of water the disaster had escalated and now the entire bed was burning and smoking intensely... so much so that I had to retreat. I searched frantically for my painting mask, but running consistently with the mess that I am, it was nowhere to been found. My last memory was taking it off, chucking it over my shoulder and muttering “Fucking thing!” With time at a minimum and no mask in sight, I wrapped a cravat around my mouth and nose, retook my red bucket and for the second time that morning I went firefighting.
Of course, one bucket of water was useless... I chucked it on and with barely a sizzle the fire blazed on. If anything, the breeze made whilst chucking the water seemed to have worsened it. I started to panic... I grabbed anything at hand: saucepans, bowls, buckets and started filling them simultaneously. In the meantime I ripped the end of the shower unit and stretching it as far as it would go, I turned the water up full hilt and stood shooting water into the bedroom. After a few minutes of this and so many buckets and pans of water later the flames had beat a retreat, though the bed was still smouldering and smoke was pouring furiously from the mattress. As I could no longer breathe in any room of the apartment I rushed around opening all the windows.
As the bed was still smouldering furiously I continued with my water operation. Just as I was heading back to the bedroom with my latest bucket of water, the door rang. It was my upstairs neighbour who having seen and smelt the smoke had come down to see what was happening. I told her that all was fine and under control, but the popping of the mattress as it once again burst into flames and the thick black smog that bellowed from the bedroom sent her into complete hysteria. “You need the Fire Brigade!” She screamed.. “...the whole building will go up!”
“No, no.. it’s all under control... it’s all in hand. It just looks much worse than it is, that’s all.”
“But the smoke!?! Look, look... it’s too much... it’s TOO much!”
“No... That’s a good sign... It’s the flames you’ve got to worry about...” I wanted to add that when you see the smoke through the flames it’s serious, but when you see the flames through the smoke it’s under control... But I never got the chance. She was gone, hurrying back upstairs. I slammed the door and dashed back to the bedroom, throwing another couple of buckets of water across the re-ignited bed.
I heard the sirens from a distance.... I was hung out the kitchen window sucking fiercely on a cigarette. “Fuck! She’s only gone and called the Fire Brigade!” It was a fuck situation as my kitchen table was littered with needles, small aluminium cups and filters... my gear was poured out on a tea saucer and sitting innocently in the kitchen cupboard. I made a frantic rush to clear the paraphernalia away, sweeping all into a large grey bin bag and chucking alongside the other rubbish that was waiting for disposal. As the sirens came to a stop I went and looked out the living room window to see what was taking place outside. Down below, were two fire trucks and behind them on the opposing side of the street had gathered a small crowd. They were gawping up and pointing and counting windows and shaking their heads... I’m sure it came as no surprise to themthat it was my heroinhead that finally emerged from the smoke filled apartment window on the 3rd floor, smiling and with a cigarette dangling from the corner of my mouth. I gave them a little wave, smile and shrug and then held the cigarette up and gave it a little shake as if to say: “I’m Innocent... it was this little fella’s fault.” As I looked down, my upstairs neighbour emerged from the building holding a sack of belongings and followed by her two children and dog. As they were leaving the firemen were rushing in. I made my way to open the apartment door, but not before seeing an ambulance roll onto the scene... “Shit... that means the police will also be on their way!”
I opened my door and stepped calmly outside. “It’s fine, it’s fine. Just.....” They didn’t listen nor let me finish. Pushed me aside and barged in like some specially trained crack team... small fire extinguishers in hand. I chased in behind them. In the bedroom there was still masses of smoke but no smouldering or flames... that didn’t stop them though. They proceeded to systematically soak the ENTIRE room: my clothes, shoes, walls and ceiling... Only satisfied when water was dripping from the lightbulb. As I turned around in disgust and annoyance, my mouthful of classic British obscenities bounced off the chest of the first of two policemen. I just pushed past ignoring their, “Monsieur... Monsieur!” and went and sat in the living.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I was questioned by the police and fire brigade (a neighbour and friend helped as at that time my french was very poor). Once they were satisfied that the fire was out and that it had been an accident they left me to the clean up, but not before giving me a lecture about the perils of smoking in bed and flogging me a smoke alarm!. My neighbour asked if I needed help and breaking the habit of a lifetime I conceded and said “Yes, I do... BIG TIME. I explained that my wife would be home at 6.00pm and that I needed to clean the bedroom and buy a new mattress and shower unit before she returned. My idea was to cover up everything and not breathe a word. OK, the bedroom would be dripping wet, but I’d explain that away by saying I had awoken with the cleaning bug and so scrubbed the floor, walls and ceiling... No problem, she’d swallow that. The reason for the cover up was one of self-pride.... She’d always said that one day I would do this, and I hate proving people right.... especially her!
After a 20 minute bathroom break and just as I was pulling on my jeans, I heard the key turn in the door... that dreaded sound that arrives when in someway you are shitting on your own doorstep. With that key turn the gates of hell swept open and she was there... I’d been rumbled, caught with my trousers down (again!). It transpired that the Property agency had phoned her enquiring about details of the fire and wanting to arrange an immediate visit to survey the damage. I could only pull a ridiculous grin, and then grimace and then get angry. I think I shouted something about it being her fault “for buying cheap sheets!”... Yes, I blamed it on her. But she was having none of it... instead she just calmly poked her head around the bedroom door and then went and sat down at the kitchen table and cried. And then I felt bad... and then I asked my neighbour to leave.
The outcome of it all was, we were given a 3 months notice of eviction, lost our first month deposit and in addition had to pay €1000 in damages and repair costs. I never bothered to contest this, even though it was only an estimate. I paid and we made arrangements to leave. It had been an expensive cigarette and a very narrow escape. I did make some half-hearted apologies to my wife and promised to quit smoking in bed... but she knows me too well and just nodded and scoffed. We didn’t wait the three months, we searched another apartment immediately and within the month we had moved out and into our new and current apartment.
But as with all Heroinhead's, mishap is never far away and it wasn’t long before an exploding oven blew my poor wife halfway across the kitchen and straight into a bed in Accident & Emergency. Once again she was to blame... it was her fault that I had cut the gas at the mains before killing the flames! The result was that when she went to cook supper later that evening, she was using the hob blissfully unaware that the oven was leaking into the open at gas mark 8. After 20 minutes the gas had filled the oven and had began escaping up the back of the cooker. Just as she was adjusting the pan on the hob the inevitable happened...
Whilst nodding in the living room I was brought around by an almighty bang from the kitchen. I leapt into action only to find my wife staggering dazed and drunkenly down the hallway... the oven door was strewn across the kitchen floor along with a medium sized saucepan and half a packet of bow shaped pasta (not quite al dente.) When she had come down from the shock she explained what had happened. She rolled up her trousers and said that when the oven door was blown from it’s hinges it had smashed into her leg... though she was adamant that all was fine. As the hours passed her leg reddened and started swelling and burning intensely. Finally, at gone midnight, and in quite a bit of pain, we left for the hospital. It turned out that her kneecap was severely bruised and that the heat had hit her with such force that it had penetrated the skin and had burnt the muscle and flesh underneath. She was put through to the Special Burns Unit where they creamed and wrapped her and kept her in for monitoring. I stayed overnight to keep her company.
As we went over what had happened, our first thoughts were that the cooker was at fault... that it was old and had sprung a leak. It was only during he 150th re-analysis of the evenings events, when she asked: “But when you finished cooking earlier tonight did you turn the gas off by the mains without cutting the oven?” that it all finally clicked and we realised conclusively that she was at fault again:
“But you’ve got to check these things!” I screamed... “YOU KNOW WHAT I’M LIKE!” And not for the first time, she gave a forlorn look down towards the ground, and with eyes as cold and as sterile as the stainless steel hospital units she muttered, “That’s just the problem.”
This post is dedicated to Kat Skratch... A loyal and dedicated member of the Shredded Heart Club. x
Take care readers & if you can only be one thing... be careful!
My very Best Wishes, Shane. x
In 1999 I fell in love, married and died for the first time. The girl was Buket, the marriage lasted three days and my death 3 years. After all the events in my life it was finally an arrow from a familiar bow that got me... left me strung out on the edge of nowhere staring over bridges into dark waters and looking for heavy stones that would permanently weigh my body down. London transformed from a place of beauty into a prison of smells, scents and memories. It was the only time I’ve ever felt abandoned to the wolves, the only time my flesh was up for grabs... I was so alone I was nowhere, so suicidal I was already dead. This post is of love, obsession, loss and hopelessness. This post is straight from the belly of The Black House
I first met Buket in a dark bar on the Fulham Palace Road. I was returning from the funeral of my Grandad and had dashed in to escape the torrential rains and the devils lightening that crackled overhead as South London turned pewter and erupted into storm. She had sought me out in the darkest, loneliest corner of the bar and had awoken me with a light shake and two large brown eyes
"Have you smoked too much?” she asked in foreign English. I smiled, shook my head and tapped my nose. “No, something else.” I said. I fell back to sleep, but when I woke again she had pulled a chair up to the table and was sitting there smoking and waiting. She told me she was from Istanbul and was working in London as an au pair. We remained there like that until last orders, our chairs inching closer together until our knees were touching . We swapped cigarettes in order to touch each others hands and I lent across the table and whispered things to her just to feel her dark hair on my face. Sometimes I would start sinking into sleep and when I'd awaken I’d catch her looking at me. I done the same... stealing hidden glances when she wasn’t looking... blinking her beauty into my head... a beauty that was so immense it made me sad.
By the time we left the bar the storm had calmed. We stood outside waiting for some advance from the other... the silence of the ‘what now?’ Finally I asked her where she lived and she explained it was on a street at the back of Putney Heath. The Heath is a large expanse of wasteland, parkland & open space. It was there that in the late 80’s a series of brutal rapes had occurred. I told Buket this and then I offered to walk her home
As I accompanied Buket over Putney Bridge the lashing winds and rains whipped up again. I pulled her in close, removed my jacket and chucked it over our heads. We hurried along like this, past the swirling river and off into the mist. When we finally arrived at the house where she was staying we stood once again in awkward silence. I tried to move but couldn’t... for some reason I didn’t want to leave. Beneath the wet and the cold there was a warmth... a warmth that neither of us wanted to detach ourselves from. It wasn’t touch or contact, it was something so much more... an excitement that glowed within us like lava from the core of all existence. I eventually moved off into the rain, but a few metres down the road I turned around and shouted “Would you like to walk a little more?” And without a word she gave her answer and came running.
We finally came to a stop at the bottom of a long shadowy tree lined avenue... an open paint flecked bench offered us rest but not shelter. We sat there, huddled tightly together... cheek to cheek as the rain plummeted and fell like dead birds around us. There was no kissing, no fondling, no words... just two strangers with the same eyes, the same hopes and the same loneliness staring out into a raging storm. And as the trees swayed and bent, and the rains and the gales lashed cars and buildings, we peered out from under my jacket and watched the beauty as nature battered the world and the city... taking revenge on all the cruelties that had been inflicted upon us. This was the beginning of the end of all our past tragedies, the start of the healing process, the beginning of stark truth. But as we know, despair and suffering are never more than a shadows length behind in this life, and as this night beckoned the end of many hurts and traumas so it welcomed the beginning of a new disease... a disease so deadly that it takes more lives per year than any other... on the wings of the storm we fell in love
After that night we swapped numbers and waited in desperation for our phones to ring. We met up and I took Buket on tours of London.... clubs, pubs & parks. Being from the Bosphorus she adored the sea, but as there is no sea in London we gave our hearts to the river. I introduced her to parks and secret gardens, and by late summer she had fallen in love with London's public spaces... she had swapped blue for green. For me London had also transformed... from a place of shadows and mirth into cherry blossom and floral scents. Parks and gardens came alive, and the brown sludge of the river suddenly flowed clear and led to unknown and fantastic places
Buket moved in with me, sharing the house in Fulham with my friend and I. Bed covers were changed, the thick blankets I used as permanent curtains were removed from the windows, and the floor was no longer allowed to be used as an ashtray. It was fresh clothes and a shower once a day... proper dinners and sanitary living. But it felt good and it felt right and as the spring crept off the back of winter, the layers of dirt were slowly washed away.
But it was a rocky romance. It was so intense and desperate that a wrong word from either lip would send the other reeling into fathoms of insecurity and jealousy. And as the intensity grew and suicide pacts beckoned, I realised that this was not a healthy love... it was a draining, exhausting black love... an obsession that had only one logical conclusion: death. I watched each day as this love warped into something new, something bent and twisted... as eyes released tears of history and orgasms become desperate cries of help. We couldn’t get close enough to one other... we wanted to become one, but we were separated by our pasts and an eternity of wants and needs. And it was this that ate away at us like cancer.
During the courtship my drug use was open and honest (well almost). Because though Buket was aware that I was crushing up Subutex and snorting them every few hours, she was unaware that I was in the backroom piping heroin and crack.... meeting dealers in restaurant toilets and that the man who she thought was my manager at work was in fact a drug dealer. Of course, she had promised me that my drug use was my business and that she would not be like the others and ask me to quit, but barely a month into the relationship she blew up and demanded that I stop and abandon myself wholey to her. Unfortunately I was incapable of this... love was one thing, safety was another, and this wasn’t a safe love; it was a dangerous messy affair and one in which I needed drugs to get through the exhausting emotions of each day. Still, I had no choice but to go along with her wishes and feign desire to get clean. We came to the arrangement that she would hold my supply of subutex and anytime I needed or felt like it I would phone her and she’d meet me with 5 little white pills. Gradually it would descend to 4, 3, 2,1 until the time I would no longer need them.
I phoned Buket almost daily after this... she became my dealer, doctor & drug counsellor. Sadly by the time I arrived to meet her my mind was intent on getting opiates into my blood, and with barely a kiss or a “hello” I’d snatch the subutex from her, rush into the nearest bar or McDonald's toilet and crush them down and suck them up. I’d then slide down the wall in relief, waiting the 15mins it took for them to get into my system and attack my brain. I would then return zombie eyed and full of shame, apologizing for my weakness and pledging undying love. But she understood I was there for the drugs and not for her, and it was just another of a million problems that plagued us.
Another problem was her mental illness. She had a split personality and this had been accentuated after the trauma of being repeatedly raped by her schizophrenic younger brother just before coming to London. Actually this was the real reason she was even here, her father banished her from Istanbul & the family house on account of her outrageous tales of incest. Through every pore in our skins seeped darkness... black tales and black experiences. Our nights became a time of stories and dark reminiscences... our wide eyes glowering to candle light as we took it in turn to relate our histories of horror. We told our tales and then lost ourselves in music and love. But now in our glances there was a sadness and a fear... an understanding that we were probably the worst possible thing we could offer each other. Summer was coming to an end, and although love still existed enemy forces were encroaching slowly from all sides.
Buket had planned her return to Istanbul for mid November and we both lived in dread of this date. We made hurried plans so as not to separate... not then.. not forever. Our talks and discussions brought this game plan: We would marry in London, she would head off to Istanbul two days later and I would join her in December for the wedding reception which would be held there. But this trip was not just for the reception, I wouldn’t be coming back... we were setting up life in Turkey, an apartment overlooking the Bosphorus Straits.
We married in November, her in a black wedding dress and me in my funeral suit... the same one I had been wearing when we first met. It was a bizarre affair. I was working on that day and in a large van at lunch time all the firm travelled down to the wedding.... colleagues in work overalls and with black hands celebrating and throwing confetti as we left the registry office. Neither of us believed in marriage, we went through with it because her family were muslim and it was the only way we could openly share the same bed together.
As we sat for drinks in the bar afterwards, just Buket, my family and I, I looked across the table at her beauty. We had married for very specific reasons, but in that moment, in that millisecond of happiness before our hells would collide, I was proud. I was proud of her, of me of my wife, and I think she was too.... for a smiles length of time she was proud to have the name Levene. Though an hour later she would be in fits of fury as I returned from the toilets with a single streak of crusty white powder running from my nose and then nodded into the wedding meal. And as she pointed to my nose, letting me know the streak of residue hadn’t passed unnoticed, I knew.... I knew that in two days I would take her to the airport and would never see her again. There would be no reception... no Bosphorus dreams.. only heartache, divorce, pills, heroin and crack.*
The Taxi pulled up at 4pm. I bundled Buket's suitcase into the boot and slipped in the back beside her, my breath awash with the nutty scent of piped heroin.We had arranged for the taxi to exit London by a very specific route - a mini tour of all the streets, avenues and bars that had fuelled these past months. It was a blustery English day and the autumn light was already fading. We looked out the window together and watched as London rolled away into history and memory... as the motorway took us out of the reverie and on the 45miniutes journey to Gatwick Airport.*
I was calm.... we was quiet... this was it. I walked Buket to the departure gate, and we stood outside holding one another. “We’re never going to see each other again, are we?” I said.... holding back tears that could not be held back.. “This is the end isn’t it?” She kissed my nose and wiped my eyes... and then she broke down herself and started making desperate promises and gestures of love. Her eyes wide and speaking a hundred thoughts at once. We held each other on last time and I sucked in an audible lungful of air and courage. Trailing fingers broke free and without looking back I headed off, my tears falling freely as I made my way back home. Patting my pocket to make sure the two little bags of heroin were still there.
We kept in contact over the next month... daily phone calls and desperate pleas for the time to quicken up it’s pace. The reception was planned and booked and I had bought my plane tickets and that of my mothers and sisters for the event. But then one dull afternoon, an event happened that would almost kill me and push me fully into the arms of heroin and crack. A conversation so bizarre that I still don’t understand it now. But in that conversation my wife would slip into psychosis, threaten to have me killed and we would never speak nor see each other again.
I received the call at work, it was Buket and she was desperate... crying and swearing undying love: “I need you... can you come earlier... you need to be here now!”
“I can’t just leave like that” I said. “Anyway, I’ll be there in 14 days.. it’s not so long.” And then she changed.... for the third time in our relationship her psychosis appeared and in a click of the fingers she was a different person... someone evil, uncaring and spiteful. “14 days!!! You think that’s not long.... how can you be so fucking cold! I need you and you speak with tiredness... yeah, yeah, yeah! Are you that bored by me???”
"I’m just a little tired...”
“Tired!!! how can you be tired... we only speak once a day... how can that tire you!” And then the phone went dead and so did I... because I knew from experience that when she became like this she was inaccessible... she was no longer there.
That evening I tried to phone, but got no response. I was in complete panic and began phoning her friends and family. Finally I got through to her family home and it turned out she was there but refused to speak to me. Her father however had this to say:
"The marriage is over. My daughter says it was a mistake and she no longer wants to see or hear from you again... EVER! Please send her clothes and belongings over and do not call back!”
Well I did call back... many times but Buket wouldn’t speak with me, and as the realisation dawned that our beauty was dead, I sunk into a depression and a hurt that gave a self-destructive edge to my recklessness. London and her memories began taunting me and I started to die... and then I broke down and cried. This life was not for me.... all the hurt and the pain and the tragedy and the upset and abuse and...and... and... it could keep it... I’d had enough! But life doesn’t care for such despair and 2 weeks later she delivered my friends dead body to my feet, and for a while I gave up... but you already know that story.
It took me a whole year to get over the break-up, and three years of heroin abuse to ease the pain. Since that bizarre phone call with Buket I have never seen, spoke nor heard from her again. We’ve never divorced and I never sent her clothes back. I hold no ill will towards her, and have no desire to see her again... it’s something that is done and dusted. Instead I think and I laugh.... I laugh about my 3 day marriage and I laugh at just how very human it is. All the things that have passed my way, and finally it was the old dart of love that got me... brought me to my knees screaming for mercy. And I’m proud of that.... I’m proud because I can love and I can hurt. I am proud that after everything I am not numb, disconnected and unfeeling. I am proud because I have a heart... an open heart and a heart that can be broken.
Take care All...