I mean: I'm bored. Like picking at the wall bored; or laying on my bed just staring up at the ceiling bored; constantly thinking of calling my dealer bored, while in my head going: No, no, I can't! But knowing that yes, yes, I will. I look at the TV – nothing interesting there. Think about writing – that makes me fed up ever more. I stare with contempt at my bookshelf – now I'm depressed as well. I let all my muscles relax and slump back down, making huffing sounds and calculating how I can make not enough money go even further. It's impossible. “No, no, I can't!” I tell myself again... Unless I walk to work every other day, smoke only a third of what I usually do, and live of pasta and butter. Then I could. For a moment my boredom had left. My unrealisable planning and conniving had kept it at bay. But now it's back, and so is the ceiling and it's EXACTLY the same as before. I light a cigarette and smoke it laying on my back letting the ash drop from its tip and crumble all over me. I hope I burn myself. I hope I set myself on fire. How I feel right now I'd just lay here, stare at the 60 watt lightbulb as I burst into flames. Ha! That'd be perfect. I could blame someone for that. The one thing I musn't do is move, get up and dial that number. That number that this is all about, that the thought of calling is drilling down into my head, trying desperately to find some brain matter to connect with and overpower my helpless and unwilling body. I hope it does. God, please let it do so! But NO! That number I will end up dialling I must not! And I must get this stupid idea of a pasta diet out my head because it's returned, and each time it seems a little less impossible and a little more manageable.
In the space of the last paragraph and these words I have been dressed and stripped twice. Both times it was the same. I jumped up and said “That's it, I'm going to phone, fuck it!” As soon as I was dressed I kicked off my shoes again, wandered around the room, rested my held on the cold glass of the window pane, then went and slumped back down on the bed. I closed my eyes and thought of the brittle winter sun.
The killer is this fucking boredom. A kind of cancerous restlessness that has invaded every cell of my body. I am not thinking of anything. I'm certainly not thinking about unbuttoning my jeans and taking my cock out. That would be madness. Yet here I am, trousers off, flapping my dick about, doing strange things to it, trying to sustain a hard on while looking at the ceiling which isn't a turn on at all. My cock gets a little hard, but hope doesn't stay too long around here and just as quickly it's limp again. That's due to my wandering mind. I leave it be, out for an airing, as bored as me. Instead I pick more paint off the wall and lay suffering in the dull afternoon, sounds a humdrum in the distance.
I'm staring at my phone. I shouldn't but I am. In my mind I am going through all the angles again, trying to dredge up some deciding factor either way. Only that must be a joke, as this moment was decided eleven years ago, as the Millennium night exploded to my imploding heart and I lay in the dark sobbing to the fireworks and the bright colours in the sky. It was all decided then – even before... way before. I cry sad tears. It doesn't seem right. I let them roll. I should definitely call now. I need to call. But I musn't call. I won't call. The tears have dried, idiot! Don't be such a wuss! We can all think of sad things, especially on afternoons like this; especially when we're bored. Get up and fix the apartment, find a film – like last weekend. Enjoy it. Think of writing – live and exist of this day – let the boredom make boring literature. Oh I WILL!!! Thank God I'm alive! I jump up, back into my trousers, but it's hopeless. Even pulling the leg on I almost can't be arsed. I don't bother to button them up. What's the use? I'm not going anywhere. Only I am. I know it. You know it. The whole goddamn world knows it. That phone which is laying near my head, which I intermittently pick up and bite and suck and play with in my mouth, which I dial my dealer with then kill the call before it rings, we all know will very soon be used to order smack. That's how this piece of writing will end. Every junkie knows it, every reader knows it... even the fucking keyboard knows it. This is a fated piece of text, and not even the unpredictability of human behaviour can stop it. So why try?
Bored! God I'm bored. The bed feels uncomfortable, like all my muscles ache. How long have I been laying here anyway? Have I been crying? I feel like I've been crying. Or concentrating. It's hard to tell. I think I have a cold. There's only one way to fix that. My stomach hurts. I want to sleep. I Can't sleep. I'm so sure I can't I haven't even tried. I'm bored with trying to sleep. I need for it to just happen. I can make it 'just' happen. But no, no I can't. I musn't. But fuck, oh fuck, I know I will... we all know that. Oh my God, what is this energy that is suddenly in my body? What the hell am I writing? What the hell am I doing?
My jeans are being tugged up, I'm jumping into a nice fit. Jumping so I can't think. Shirt on, tucked in, scrunched up. This is it... I know from experience this is it! Fuck you bare naked walls! Fuck you unread boring books by shit authors! Fuck you 7 million films none of which interest me! Money, money money... Where's the money? Don't think about it! You've thought about it and decided this. It's OK... it works out. Shoes. Where are my shoes? There's one, where's the other? Phone Sonia first! If she says an hour find the shoe while time's passing. Cigarette. I need a cigarette, just in case she doesn't answer straight away and this doesn't end here. Fuck, it's ringing! Was it even me who dialled? Yes!!!! That's her voice and there's mine. I can hear it like I'm not in my body, putting an order through for a very bad end to the month. Fifteen? Fuck, I'll be there in ten. I'm coming. Shoe, where's my other shoe? Jacket??? Fuck, where's my hat? Money? Phone? Ah, my shoe! Brilliant. Heel trodden down, no time to fit in properly now. Gotta run. Worry about shoe and comfort later. I'm rattling my keys... I'm turning off the light.. the door is open and the dull afternoon opens up to a blast which is me hitting life. I'm not bored now, oh I'm not! I kiss the wall, turn off the light, close the door, don't bother locking it. I'm on my way, I'm going... Fuck, I'm already gone, running, unbored as hell, chasing life, chasing smoke, chasing dreams, chasing ghosts, alone, totally alone, and I'll see you all sometime soon or maybe in no time at all....
“Did you get it?” I'd ask “Did you get The Look?”
“Nah, don't think so,” she'd say. “She was normal. Just miserable”
“Hm... Ok. Try the next one. If it's the man with the swept over hair you'll definitely get it from him.”
“Won't you come in with me?” she'd say.
“No, he knows me. He won't give The Look if I'm there. You never get it when they know you. When they know you you get something else, something like the shutters coming down and a pump action shotgun being cocked.... You'll learn about that later. For The Look, that works on an air of complete and utter surprise. You'll have to go in alone for that.”
Anne came out the pharmacy shaking her head in vain. I gave her a curious look. “And you was served by the moron with the pigeon wing of hair?”
She nodded. “He served me like anyone else. I'm starting to wonder if The Look even exists,” she said “or if it's maybe some kind of a problem with me?”
“Oh it exists!” I told her, “but it's a subtle thing, like when US Presidents shapeshift on Youtube – you have to be receptive of it. We'll hit the next one together. You just stand by and watch.”
The next pharmacy was a little affair in a gentrified part of town. It was wedged in nicely between a family owned bakers and an organic greengrocers which sold mostly cherries and pumpkins. I peered in through the pharmacy window, around the cardboard cut-out display of a beaming family all off their heads on garlic pills. Behind the counter was a young pharmacist, natural blond hair, PH neutral skin and a neck which looked like it would smell of peppermint drops. I turned to Anne and nodded. “Perfect,” I said.Then: “How do I look?”
“Great,” said Anne, fixing my shirt collar and stroking my jumper down flat and respectable. She straightened herself, ditched her cigarette, and followed me in, the two of us looking like liberal bank workers or people with money pretending we had none. When the young girl heard us talking in English she glanced up and sang a big friendly “Bonjour!”
“BONJOUR!” we both replied, looking around and pointing like we were in a church or something.
Standing at the counter I looked into the pharmacist's polished enamel teeth, her young elastic lips, and then her clear helpful eyes as she positioned herself in preparation to concentrate on some heavily accented french.
“Erhm, I'd like some 1 mil syringes, please?” I asked, candidly. I watched as her smile disintegrated, furrowed like a brow and struggled to stay curved the right side of Customer Service joy. Her eyes widened as if she was trying to breathe through them.
“Pardon? What???” she asked, having heard perfectly but taken aback.
“Some 1ml syringes,” I repeated “I'd like five Steri-Boxes.”
“Yes, FIVE... I've got loads of drugs!” I quipped, milking it and standing basking in my own idiotic cleverness.
I paid with a note. The pharmacist pushed the boxes of needles my way and dumped the change down in a saucer on the counter so as to avoid the slightest risk of accidentally touching my hand. Then without uttering the customary “Bonne Journée!” she disappeared out back – probably to have a full strip-down disinfectant scrub.
“There, did you see it! Did you see IT!!!” I cried excitedly to Anne, as we left the shop. “Now That was The Look! A good one too. Did you see it?”
Anne looked at me like I was losing my mind. She said she hadn't seen a thing, that the girl had served me as normal, had been indifferent all the while, and then went about her business. “Whaaat???” I asked in disbelief. “She gave me The Look... she gave us both The Look! God, are you seriously saying you didn't see it?.”
Anne shook a no from her head. I put the needles in my bag and thought, “maybe she's right... maybe there is something wrong with her.”
- - -
It took a while, almost a year, but finally Anne did come to recognize and bask in the magical properties of The Look. She saw it just as clearly as I – sometimes even seeing it when I had not – straight-laced pharmacists shocked into a state of confused incompetence, the human animal within them struck dumb, on pause, the mouth slung open and the brain struggling to control the eyes whenever we said the word “syringes”. Not that the word in itself was so shocking, it was more trying to marry the word with the people stood in front of them: me in classic pin-stripe shirt and jumper, and Anne in smart professional town wear, both well groomed and speaking in the Queen's own tongue.
Getting The Look became a game to us, something we'd do to jolly up our day or give it a little taste of adventure. On a whim we'd whip into a chemists and ask for needles, both of us watching eagerly to see whether or not we'd receive The Look. It was something akin to buying a scratch card or chucking a dime in a one-armed bandit, that mystical thing which could dictate if we'd have a lucky day or not:
Get The Look = winning ticket/good day.
Not getting The Look = losing ticket/average to lousy day.
Some weekends we'd even rise early, dress in our best clothes and travel around the city trying to procure The Look. Thinking back now I remember holding hands and running and laughing, and somewhere the sky was blue, life was in the air and we sucked it down without the slightest fuss.
The problem was that whenever we were canvassing The Look it mostly always took place during a very specific period of our lives. It would be that period where we'd be having a prolonged break from heroin, after having paid off our debts, having brought a new wardrobe of clothes, after having caught up with all the latest books, films and music, then suddenly having nothing much to do or buy – money building up in the bank, and at home a stock of clean needles gradually building up in the bedroom. It always started with the needles and then progressively other things would creep in: listening to the Heartbreakers; watching heroin DVDs and punk documentaries; looking at our old junk photos; reminiscing about scoring and the characters we'd met. Some nights we would get teary eyed with happiness and nostalgia, and even the couple of bouts of sickness we had shared together we built up into a tremendous feat, laughing and grimacing at how torturous those days were. That's how it always started. Then the hats and scarves would come out, the loose round tops, exposed necks and love bites, cuts, perfume that smelled of centuries old musk. We'd triple our methadone doses and wander around the city. We'd, sit outside cafés, visit chemists, go home, chuck the needles with the others and spend the evening watching more of the same heroin films. From that point on it was never long before Anne would arrive home one day and I'd say: “I've got a surprise!”
She would know what it would be; any other surprise would have been a huge disappointment.
“Where is it?" she'd ask.
“In the kitchen,” I'd tell.
“Is it any good?” she'd shout through, sitting down at a syringe and spoon laid table.
“Oh, it's not bad,” I'd say, my mind drifting away behind world heavy eyelids.
“Oh yeah, it's good!” she'd say. “Fuck, it's so good.”
Coming out of reverse we'd start in first gear: heroin once or twice a week. By the end of the month we'd be raising an hour earlier each morning so as to get a decent fix before leaving for work. Slowly our stock of needles would whittle away, our cash too, and six months later we'd be scraping around for a quid to buy new works. At that point needles were never bought for fun but out of pure necessity. The Look could go fuck itself – and anyway, it was quite obvious from the burnholes in our clothes and the dried blood in our fingernails just as to what ends we were doing in the chemists.
It would have been around that time when we'd begin to postpone our rent, juggle the electricity and water bills, stall paying just about anything we could, post off hard luck stories telling of deceased relatives and asking for special permission to pay in instalments, sell our DVDs, take loans out from the bank, and invent surprise costs so as we could wheedle money out of Anne's parents. When you're at that stage in the game you visit the ATM machine with a Bible and your fingers crossed, 'insufficient funds' about the best result you're likely to get. And because of all the bad cheques we'd been cashing (saving the real money for smack) it was never too long before our bank cards could no longer take the strain and sought refuge inside the cash machine. As mine had a lower overdraw limit than Anne's it'd always be the first one to go, signalling the moment to begin battening down the hatches and preparing ourselves for the inevitable H bomb which would follow. We'd start regulating our methadone intake, rationing out what we had and swallowing a dose every three days so as when Anne's card would be finally recalled we wouldn't be left completely fucked. For a while we'd struggle on like that: using methadone, but always thinking of heroin and scoring whenever we could.
Then one day I'd say: “I need new shirts... I've no fucking shirts!”
And Anne would say: “I need shoes! I can't go to work in these... the fucking heel's hanging off!”
And I'd say: “The electricity’s gonna get CUT OFF! Maybe we should take care of that first?”
For a month we'd loaf around the apartment depressed and thinking of heroin. We'd score obly very occasionally and not really enjoy it when we did. Then when we were paid we'd find an extra ounce of resolve, knock back a double dose of methadone and instead of going out to score we'd go out shopping. We'd buy shirts, shoes, belts, socks, scarves, skirts, CD's, DVD's, new music, magazines. We'd reload, reculturalize, and rebuild relations with our landlord, our bank manager, the in-laws, and the outlaws. We'd take all the used needles to the exchange dump and leave without taking any freebies. Soon we'd be back in the cafés, back doing weekly shopping, in and out of changing rooms, and arriving home with all manner of gadgets and accessories for the apartment. And then one day, on a whim, walking around in our new clothes with bags from Zara, H&M and Mango, I'd duck into a pharmacy and return smiling.
“Did you get it?” She'd ask. “Did you get The Look?”
And I'd say: “Yeah, I got it! Dressed like this how could I not!”
And she'd say: “It's not fair! I want The Look... I want The Look too.”
And I'd look at her, with eyes when love was new, and I'd say: “Go get it, My Love... Go knock 'em dead!” And she'd know, we'd both know, that this was life and it was about to start again...
My Thoughts & Wishes to All, Shane. X
Dedicated to Anne Spieswinkel
Johnny was the kind of guy who'd get you in a headlock then playfully twist and grind his knuckles deep down into the top of your head so that it hurt like hell. Or, he'd put his palms against your ears, push in until your world went silent, then lift you six inches off the ground. At lunchtime he'd twist your arm far up behind your back and walk you around the playground like one of those machines which paint the white lines on a football pitch. And on the school coach, as you sat quietly looking out the window, he'd suddenly elbow you in the thigh, screaming “Dead Leg Time!” laughing, knowing he'd rendered you lame for five minutes. On Saturday mornings he'd knock on your door and greet you with a headbutt that'd burst your nose open. He'd invite himself in, throwing darts at your bare feet while chanting “Dance! Dance! Dance!” Out in the street a pair of strung together boxing gloves would land your way and before you'd even had chance to untie them he'd be about you, a flurry of punches busting your face up good; Johnny dancing around with his arms raised, singing “Champ! Champ! Champ!” In the school yard he'd lead you over to a group of girls, promising you a share of the spoils, then the moment you made your presence known he'd suddenly knee you in the bollocks, laughing as you went to ground. Through watery pain seared eyes you'd watch him walking off with all three girls – an ugly deformed kind of a boy, skinhead, big ears, bleached Levi jeans, brown Bomber jacket and white bouncy sports trainers. From behind you'd fantasize about clumping him around the head with a solid lump of wood, but never did dare due to an irrational fear that he'd only get crazier still. In the front yard, summer time, sitting on granite coloured bins, he'd talk about becoming blood brothers and when you agreed he'd pull his pen-knife across your upper arm and an ugly weeping mouth would open in your skin. He didn't want to be blood brothers; he just wanted a valid reason to stab you. What a boy Johnny was, and what a CV he had:
Johhny Merryfield. Born 1974, Bellshill, Scotland
1983 : Moved to London
1984-85 : Sherbrooke School (Best fighter)
1986-88 : Henry Compton School (Best lower year Fighter)
1988-89 : Elliot School (2nd best Fighter)
1990 : Expelled for pulling a knife on PE teacher.
Became a Chelsea Headhunter
Multiple petty arrests (violent conduct; vandalism, etc)
1991-93 : Hardcore Football Hooligan
1993 : Known Heavy Criminal.
1994 : Knightsbridge Crown Court - GBH. Guilty
1994-96 : Wandsworth prison
1996-98 : Crack addict
1998 : Arrested and charged with murder
1998 : Knightsbridge Crown Court – Murder – Case thrown out,
-2002 : Multiple arrests (theft; robbery; handling stolen goods;
benefit fraud, etc)
Heroin & Crack addict
Oh how I hated Johnny Merryfield. How relieved I was when my own family imploded and split up and we finally moved away. Over the years catching sight of him from a distance every now and again – bouncing down Edgware Road with a black eye and stitches in his cheek; leaving a bar in Chelsea with an unconscious girl strewn over his shoulder; running out of Dixons with a laptop under his arm and tattoos up his neck; looking at knives in the window of the Army Surplus store; getting on the No.11 bus with a bandaged right hand; gripping someone up by the neck and screaming on Goldhawk Road. Then fifteen years after having moved away, of hearing his antics filter through via old friends and newsaper clippings, there I am scoring heroin with him in Donnelly Court. No teeth. Face full of scars. Thin as bones. Broken nose. Walking cane. Shaking hands. Begging and crying for me to lend him two quid so as he could get a rock of white as well. Johnny Merryfield – The bully bullied by life. Scary-no-more. Lifted six inches off the ground by crack cocaine; arm twisted tight behind his back by heroin; brought to his knees, and if I'd have taken out my cock and said “Suck that, Champ! Dance! Dance!.” he would have done it. I gave Johnny five pounds and he seemed confused. It was more than he needed and I owed him nothing, Johnny scored and then quickly hobbled away. I watched him leave. He wore the same bleached denim trousers, only now dirty, out of fashion and an inch too short. His trainers were almost the same, only now a cheap unnamed market version with the back sole flapping off.
“Take care Johnny!” I called as he hobbled away. “And watch out for those Compton boys!”. Johnny didn't look back, just held a clenched hand in the air, like the old communist workers raised fist of solidarity. Not that Johnny was a communist or gave a fuck about things like solidarity, his fist was clenched because it held his rocks, I know, I was clutching mine in exactly the same way. I raised my clenched fist too. “So long, Brother,” it meant, “I'm glad you are as you are.” And I never saw nor heard of Johnny again.
A full Memoirs post will follow shortly...
Thoughts as Ever, Shane. X