At this point I shall not suppress a sigh. There are days when I am haunted by a feeling blacker than the blackest melancholy -- contempt of man. And so as to leave no doubt as to what I despise, whom I despise: it is the man of today, the man with whom I am fatefully contemporary.
Nietzsche – The Antichrist
The Last Days of Sober Living
The last year of sober living was a romantic time. I remember evenings spent sat beneath Westminster Bridge, the party boats just along down, moored in the high tide, the lights of the Southbank centre lit up across. I remember the last days of that infernal summer, where somehow dark obsessions came in on the floral evenings and magic and horror both lay in the distance. It's like it was another world, like the place a poet must see before being condemned to the page and the word. And when the summer was done that last sober autumn, crisp beneath my feet, walking so far and getting so lost and so far away from home. In the distance, rising up, the old industrial areas of Wandsworth, places I'd gone with my father and where we used to research Roman fares and Victorian bottle dumps and dig them up to hopefully find treasures. In the last evenings before the great turbulence of adulthood I read Oscar Wilde and James Joyce and Yeats – the Irish in me for the fight to come. Gabriel Garcia Marquez and the great Russian writers accompanied me as I travelled London, a kinda farewell tour before going underground. I visited museums and galleries and walked around Soho in the pouring rain, miserable and seeking out drug contacts. I wasn't needing a contact just then but was planning ahead. I wrote my first short stories through that winter with the windows out, no heating or money and having to warm my hands with a hair-dryer.
It was an insanely beautiful time, the memory a bruise blossoming in the sky now. But coming in on the back of the year was a great storm. I had been watching it build for years, darkening tones and swirling shapes in the sky which I didn't understand. I was too young to chase storms at that time. God, I didn't know which way it'd move or what course it'd likely take. So I sat and watched with a fatalistic horror and delight, kinda thrilled that the world was gonna come down on me, imaging the eroticism of my struggle and how I'd kick and fight and die. I watched the storm engulf the sky and come up over the bridge. The river darkened and weird ripples and eddies crashed about below. The cheers from the riverside bars now sounded like screams, like the whole world was screaming. There was talk of a meltdown. That was the night they set the river on fire and welcomed in a new thousand years. And all the while I was at home, laying in bed, shivering and crying and imagining gunning down the crowds. It was on that night there that the wound opened up and the poet crawled out: I was fundamentally at odds with my world.
In the dark of the night my brother said, “Shut up!” And I don't blame him at all. I chased the smack down the foil, but not even that made life bearable. It wasn't one thing. It was a lifetime of things. Twenty five years of tragedy. I watched the fireworks go off, exploding in the sky, Chinese Dragons and Roman Rockets and War and Blood and Bubblegum sparks... “HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Happy New Millenium!!!” They screamed.
The last drunks staggered home; the celebrations turned angry in them now. It's just the same; nothing changed; and there's work tomorrow. Outside one of the discontented beat up a dustbin, scattered its guts all over the road. I looked at the back of my brother's head and wondered if he was asleep, if he was still breathing, if he'd survive this night. I used to do that when we were young, creep about in the dark, feeling for his breath. I hope he breathes. I hope he sees the morning. He deserves it more than me. I thought back to when I was ten and Robbie Rudge's granddad said that his goal was to reach the year 2000 as he'd then be exactly one hundred years old. I thought of him, if he was breathing. Probably not. I hoped not. We were seeing in a new era of tragedy, but this next thousand years will not be a history of collective tragedy like the last, but of personal tragedies : it will be the single man and woman who will get it this time. The next holocaust will be indiscriminate.
My brother was asleep now. His chest didn't move and the night was now deadly still around us. I clicked my lighter and as quietly as I could chased the last beetle of smack around the foil, blowing heroin out into the new year. “Night Night, Dan,” I said... “looks like we've made it, Bro.... looks like we've really fucking made it.”
I don't think I'm going to last out the year. I can feel death and weakness in every move I take. The eclipse of bad health is nearly complete. My lungs rale and wheeze through the night. I am breathless on waking. My first half an hour is spent coughing up the settled phlegm in my chest and smoking cigars to replace it. I feel tired all the time. Not physically tired, but a tiredness that hangs in my face and has a physical weight. I've started getting piercing headaches and have a weird second heartbeat in the extreme left side of my chest. Every so often, twice a day, my entire chest will cramp from the middle as if some force is trying to pull my breast plate apart. My feet are brown from over 10,000 injections per foot and bad circulation. My ankles and shins swell up after each fix. If I pick a scab I scar. Stairs almost kill me. I can manage no more than a flight without getting out of breath. And it's been like that for a while, but now I'm starting to feel really ill with it: old ill, like I'm an old man. If I have to predict how I'll go I'll say my heart will give out. I do believe I'll die alone in this room in France and will not be found for at least a week.
I never wanted to die and I never wanted to hurt myself. I only ever wanted to tame the pain and be happy. I am happy. That's the contradiction. I was never really sad anyway. I guess when you're young and feel so strong and offended by death that you think you can do just about anything and get away with it. Nothing effects youth but time. Then one day, suddenly, the stitching's all undone. My only hope now is that I really am a hypochondriac.
Rebels should not take Drugs
Rebels should not take drugs! That is NOT taking up arms! That is NOT the good fight! That is getting in bed with the enemy. Rebels should not drink OR smoke! That is NOT rebelling: that's conforming! Rebels should not pay homage or get high on pussy or arsehole... that only leads to heartbreak, antidepressants and the psychiatrist's couch. Rebels should NOT write! Rebels should NOT march! Rebels should NOT lay down in front of bulldozers! Rebels should NOT sit in French cafés reading clandestine newspapers! That's what rebels are supposed to do!
People have always said I am a rebel. But I'm not a rebel. I'm the opposite of a rebel: All I've ever wanted was to be accepted and loved.
Rebels should NOT need love.
I Have no regrets, but...
I have no regrets, but...
That's not a rock n' roll thing, just how it is. I don't look at life for what has passed but only for what is here infront of me today. That's not to say I'd do everything over again. But it is to say that if I could alter history, yet without knowing what consequences that would have on my present, I wouldn't dare change a thing. I have no regrets, but...
That old man I saw on the metro: how fresh and wise and vibrant he looked. Sitting there with a head of brilliant silver hair, a soberness in his face like you'd maybe acquire from reading thick volumes of law books, his eyes pale and clear, alive and responsive, his skin not sagged or mottled, but thickened perfectly to sit on the collar of his fresh pressed shirt. But there was something else within him, a kind of contentedness with the world and his place in it, something very straight and honest, a kindness of living that only those in good health can have. Somehow he exuded life, as if all the comfort in the world was within him, completely respectful of his own mortality; like every minute was one to savour; like even the discomfort of a morning wash and shave was a pleasure; like waking to a new day was a gift and not a chore to get through until bedtime. I eyed his face again, could almost see the years of him slapping aftershave across his jowls, eager to get out into the world. And he sat there like that, his hands crossed over one another, the right gently clasping the left, taking warmth from his own existence, completely submissive to life, not waiting for the next blow. I unclenched my fists and let my own hands hang loose.
Between Saxe Gambetta and Bellecour, two quick stops, I glimpsed that man's entire life in my mind. Or maybe not his life, but the life I imagined I'd never have. And as I watched him more, I thought: I wouldn't mind being like that, being him... getting to that age. That wouldn't be too bad.
I have no regrets, but...
...in the dark window of the subway train I glimpsed at my reflection. And I thought:
God... what the hell have I done.
covering up the waste underneath, the needle pocked flesh, the brown feet, the huge abscess scars, the frightening capillary veins that pop and spread out like fungi, the raling lungs and wheezing chest, the heart palpitations, the shortness of breath, the emphysema, the bloated liver, the early onset of diabetes, the methadone fat, the filthy elbows, the dirty neck, the suicide scars... all covered by nice shirts and jumpers and trousers and socks and shoes.
When Tescos began selling books like Naomi Klein's 'No Logo' I knew we were fucked. A system so sure of itself that it even sold me it's own anti-propaganda, advising its customers to boycott almost every product it sells.
Capitalism is ME. I see it all too clearly now.
Home: A Love Letter to London #257
Behind the wall, in the shade, on the weeds, I know the black and orange caterpillars that are found there. Through the park, behind the swings, in the bushes, I know the human shit and trodden porno mags. Along the river, on the bank, with the tide sat out, I know the stench of the sunbaked mud. In Shepherds Bush, down St Elmo's Road, in first spring days, I know the Cherry Blossom snow. Around the church, on broken graves, under the elm, I know the damp of summer shade. Beneath the cars, where the eye can't see, I know by default lies what where:
The taste of bus windows; the underside of benches; the stuff stuffed down behind the green BT junction boxes; the muck of squashed vegetables after market; the hard school walls; the anti-climb fences and black grease; the smell of the public telephone receiver; the smoked brown wood of telephone poles; the acrid taste of motorway berries; the oil pools on the tarmac after the neighbours fixed his car; a sparkplug caught in the drain; the white enamelled bricks in latrines; the grubs that burrow in the window boxes; the insects that come in on summer nights; the mosquitoes in the back yard; the softness of the back seat in taxis; the taste of bus windows; the rain in shopping bags; the stains the beggars leave alongside the cash machine; the brown furry pollution that clings to the disused power station on Lotts road; the smell of train journeys out of town; egg and cress and mayo sandwiches; wet dogs; house cats; the smell of Superdrug bathsalts; brewery alleys; Adidas aftershave; four pints of beer and an ashtray; sausage and beans; fresh air dried laundry; corner shops full of the morning news; carbon betting slips; the afternoon soup kitchen of the Goldhawk Road Methodist church. That's my home. A million memories of all I am and everything I'll ever be. A deep sadness of a city that horrifies, saddens and brings me to beautiful tears... caught somewhere in years gone by and going by. That there is my home. She rises west from here and sprawls out like you wouldn't believe. She rises and settles like a mushroom cloud; the snake of the river slithering through her heart. London Town.
My city rips me in two. There is nothing I am more passionate about than home. It acts upon me as a melancholic gravitational pull. I cry for London Town. I did another Google Map walk through her streets last week. I broke down crying for the city I know so intimately, for my exile from her, for all that is me and is lost here. Cut off from London I am dying, but I am too gutless to return. I suppose I'd rather live in pain than face the music. But as my father and mother and brother and sisters die I will be taught one almighty lesson: I will be brought to my knees and dragged screaming through these foreign streets.
France is not my home. It's not even a home from home. Maybe on my death bed I'll be nostalgic about my days here, maybe she'll become a part of my history proper, but just now she weighs me down and makes me unutterably sad. I don't know this city or the people like the integral way I know the people of my own city. The little nuances that distinguish everyone – a slight accent, a fashion of accentuating words, the choice of words. I don't know this place and it doesn't know me. I have become a 37 year old blank. I didn't grow up here. I didn't clamber over her walls and graze my knees, camp in her undergrowth, go insect spotting in her forest. The streets are not the same curbs we sat on as kids, poking at the gutter life. The walls are not the same brick I drew and sprayed my name on, was gripped up upon. Even the barbed wire is a different cut and leaves different scars. I once wrote that 'the pavement tastes the same no matter where you are', but that was just poetry, a throwaway line that sounds true but isn't. The pavement DOESN'T taste the same, it's just the same things that knock you to it.
The Dark Shadow of Existence
I walked around followed by the dark shadow of existence. It fell in front of me when the light was behind, moped behind me when the light was in front, and submerged within me for the high noon sun, only to re-emerge, inch by inch as the light went down, out into the evening, until it stretched so far ahead of me it was all there was. And when the natural light of day was done, my dark shadow of existence multiplied and split, unsure of which debauched route to take through the city night. The lights from street lamps and sex shops and bars and arcades tugging at my soul.
Behind my dark shadow of existence I live in fear. I creep around like one of the mentally retarded, grinning at perverse acts and watching the elephant men and woman of the city balance their lopsided lives in dubious ways. I stand in the grime of shooting galleries, watching and imaging nightmare scenarios. I watch young boys in the station toilets perfecting the eyes of lust they'll give to old men as they suck their cocks and rifle through their pockets. I help put sex cards in the phone booths for dying smack and crack whores. I sit in the room, waiting for the crack man, fronting the money and loading the pipe till she's finished out back and can join me. Sometimes a client wants a proper moment and she'll rush out in vile filthy knickers, her death in the low light, holes in her groin, sucking down a rock of crack before scampering back to her trick. The curtains are drawn and it's not even 2pm.
My dark shadow of existence is there when I wake, staring forward at the naked, nicotine stained walls, the blood on the floor. It raises when I do, before the sun is even up.
Just a few words to let let you know I'm back from the wilderness and will be posting here within the next few days.As I'd been writing constantly during the past 4 years I thought/felt it was time to take a break from that nonsense and have a proper rest from it all where words and sentences and themes were not my first waking thoughts. As many of you know the actual process of writing for me is just a nightmare. I've never enjoyed the physical act of getting these words down, and really only do it from a desperation to say the things my mouth has never been able to. Anyway, there you have it: I'm in from out the cold.
The upcoming post will almost certainly be a set of four or five little texts, each one concerning thoughts and sadnesses which have been plaguing me since the end of last year. One of the pieces will pick up on the last post here, though rather than addressing what happens POST-junk it will focus on the PRE-junk dawn... my last year of sober living.
Until then... Watch this Space... Shane; x