The first post of the Into the Mind season of writing here at Memoires of a Heroinhead. This is the first part of a mammoth post concerning the study of the deceitful practices of a young addict who turned up here at the end of summer on a foreign students language course.
A Syllabus of Deceit
- part 1
Spread thin. He admitted to that. Trey, a young junkie over from Massachusetts, a foreign student with a yellowish, rubbery, bloated looking face, like he had water retention or chronic diabetes. In fact, his entire body was like that, still a little popped out from youth, pumped full of blood from his early years spent working out prior to falling foul of the needle. His biceps were what got to me the most. They ripped out the arms of his t-shirt and just looked wrong on him, looked wrong on a junkie. More than any other part of him it were those biceps which stayed in my mind and repulsed me long after his vile little presence had shot town.
“Man, I can't believe I'm in the company of the HEROINHEAD!
You think you could shoot me up man? It's cool if not. WOW, I've been shot up by the Heroinhead... What an honour, I swear. Man, that was intense!!! ”
He'd constantly say ridiculous stuff like that, prattle on about how great my writing was, tell me he was my biggest fan and that he not only wanted a book of mine but needed one. It was all bollocks of course, the initial wave of deceit to try and stand him in good stead for getting what he really wanted. But the truth was, like so many junkies become, Trey had no compassion within him, not for man, beast nor tree. His had become a motivated character, everything he said or expressed was calculated against some kind of favourable return. He had desperate needs and very little means, save for youth, a fresh tight arse, and a heart full of sob stories. He was at that early stage of addiction where one suddenly finds oneself in too deep,needing heroin to either function physically or psychologically, all choice in the matter gone. All one can do, anyone, is adapt and try to survive off what you've got. The easiest way for Trey to supplement the drugs he could harvest himself was to have a support group of people around who empathised with him and would help him out whenever he was in dire straits. His entire personality was a projection of that, a projection of someone who wanted to inspire empathy in others. And if ever he appeared to have human emotions, it was only an appearance, each tear or smile or compliment given for a desired response – then or later. That's the game he played. In the company of other addicts he would talk of the illness and what hell it is just getting up. Around homosexuals he'd whittle on about his inner torment over his sexuality and how it had left him isolated and troubled and talk of the different façades he was obliged to keep up with different people. If he was near a veterinary surgeon he'd no doubt talk of his love for animals and how he could only relate to beasts. He said all the right things to everyone, tapping the community around him, gradually extracting money and favours from people or worming his way into a position of trust where his light fingers would sneakily start getting to work. One by one, each person who had done him a good turn would realize they had been used and pull back. With the well drilled dry Trey would move on to new pastures where the process would start over again. I understood that about him immediately; that he used people as a conduit to get what he wanted. I warned him to be straight with me, told him I saw through every trick and lie in the book, could predict to an uncanny exactitude what addicts and dealers were up to from the smallest behaviours or words.
“I pitch a straight ball” he said, unaware he wasn't even pitching straight right then.
“They all do,” I said. He shot me a queer look.
“Come on, it's this way," I said, "We're walking.” And so Trey followed, always a step or two behind, probably thinking he was safe back there where I could not see what he was up to. I didn't need to see; I already knew. In the three months that Trey traipsed behind me, often sulking like a admonished puppy dog, he would go through a whole range of petty junkie tricks and behaviours: a perfect study for a willing host.
It almost began at the start. He had mailed me saying he was in Lyon and wanted to score. He mentioned my writing and said what a fan he was. In the event that that didn't sell it he dropped in mention of a full student loan he had and wanted to blow out on heroin.
"I want to get the Heroinhead high!" were his words in that first mail. It was a short message but it told me a lot. It told me that Trey did not have a physical dependency on heroin just then. If he did he would never have gotten on an aeroplane and have flown halfway across the world, knowing that he'd crawl off the plane the other end and be bedridden and deathly ill for the next two weeks in foreign climes. It also told me that he was either a real fan and a false addict or vice versa. If it were more me he was interested in, then he should be quite calm but excited, almost passive where the drugs were concerned. However, if indeed he was an addict, if heroin were the foremost thing in his mind, I knew it would be a jumpy little fuck who showed up, terrified of being robbed.
I met Trey outside the Croix Rousse metro station. It was an afternoon at the end of summer and the public square was crowded. Trey was late and nervous. I spied a jittery dishonesty within him immediately. I didn't like his voice or the way his eyes flitted about as if he had someone a little way off watching out for him. He was too small and too broad to be any friend of mine. He gave me his hand. I tried to calm any fears he had but it was evident he was scared of being robbed. It was heroin that brought him here. I let go of Trey's hand. It was sweaty, slimy. He was in a mauve t-shirt with a scuffed black rucksack on his back like a parachute. I eyed his arms but couldn't detect a single injection mark. He saw me looking.
“Man, I know I don't have any marks but I'm straight up.”
I didn't reply. I decided there and then that he would have to take a shot in front of me. If he refused on any count, no matter how valid, he'd get no gear and I'd have no more to do with him.
“OK man, so how much to get us high?”
When I told him the price I saw his silly little brain doing somersaults in his head, making the same shapes like fingers stretching about in a pocket.
“50 euros a gram?” he repeated aghast, the first honest expression he had shown.
“It's not cheap here... as you must've read? And the minimum you can buy is three...”
“Three! Man, I didn't figure it'd be that much. And what you ripping for yourself?”
“I'm not ripping anything. You called me out, said you'd get me high.”
“150 bucks, damn! Uhmm... er....could I get two? Just to try?”
I was bored already. Whenever this game isn't easy it's terribly fucking hard. I could already see this boy would be nothing but hassle, that the heroin here was priced beyond his means but that it wouldn't stop him.
“What about this student grant you have and want to blow?” I asked sarcastically, now onto him. He gave some excuse about it being fed through in dribs and drabs. As he spoke I could see his mind working overtime, calculating, debating as to whether he should score or pull out. It's rare the junkie will pull out when the heroin is so close at hand. Still, just to put the pressure on, I warned him: “You better not have called me out for fuck all!”
“No, man... it's cool. I just didn't figure on it being so goddamn expensive, jeesh! You know if there's an ATM around here?”
“Just across the road,” I said. I saw him looking over, eyeing the surroundings, the distance. I had a feeling that if I let him out my sight that he would sneak off, make an anxious walk around town, deliberating with himself over the cash before either sloping off home or calling me and saying he had gotten lost. I followed close behind. At the ATM machine he withdrew one hundred euros, cautiously guarding his pin details with his popped out little body, looking around nervously as if expecting me to try and rip the cash from out his hands. It meant he'd turned up with only 50bucks. That was really gonna get the heroinhead high. During the ten minute walk to the dealers Trey became noticeably agitated, no doubt imagining all the scenarios whereby I get his money and he gets no smack. It was now obvious: Trey was almost as poor as me.
That was the first meeting. Trey was a nervous wreck until he had the gear in his hands and a shot in his system. I made him inject in front of me. He shot a speedball and instantly changed into another person. He begrudging gave me my cut for scoring and then on the coke wearing off and him coming to his senses he inspected his deal and queried the fairness of the divide. Then he retracted his words and said it didn't matter.
I observed so much to dislike in Trey that night. Sat there watching him I saw something so vile and selfish in him, something undefinable, some kind of pathetic psychosis which manifested itself not in any interesting or dangerous way but as a vile, emotionless, self-centredness. Not even 25 and he had a face that was already influenced by sulking and self-pity.
After that evening I did not see nor hear from Trey for four days. That would be his cycle. It was just another behaviour which gave his real game away. He wasn't interested in friendship, nor the writing: his only interest was self-motivated and that was junk. Every four days he'd text or mail. “Could you call your man?":). Even in the smileys he sent I spied something pathetically false and dishonest. But then, on that second call, Trey was still in the dock house: I had no real feelings towards him one way or another. I called my man and then called Trey.
“An hour? Fuck, bummer, man! Will he be around this evening?”
"No. Why? What's the problem?"
"Man, my money's being wired into my account but it'll not be there until this afternoon when banks open in US. Bummer."
"So you've phoned me asking if my man's on, had me ring and arrange a meet and you knew you had no cash?"
"Yeah man, sorry about that dude. Dint know he'd be there right now. I guess it's a dead duck then?"
"Well if you've no cash, then obviously it is."
"Hang on, man. Not sure if you'll be down with this, if not it's totally cool: could you weigh me in with the cash until my bank opens? I'll leave my phone with you or my wallet with my ID and licence. Is it workable?"
All though we were on the phone I moved my eyes across as if studying him down the line, concentrating on the silence where his words had been. He could be genuine, but it was a big doubt. I weighed him up as I listened. He didn't have a physical addiction and couldn't score without me. The chances were that even if he didn't repay me today he would in the next days, certainly before he had to score again. But make no mistake about it, he'd only pay back because he'd be more fucked if he didn't. I wasn't banking on his honesty but on his greed to reimburse me.
"OK," I said. "But I don't want any guarantee, just your word."
"Oh, man.... that's real fucking appreciated, bro. Just for a few hours, man... promise."
I met Trey three quarters of an hour later. He said "real fucking appreciated" and then "man, I can't wait for your book.... I gotta get that book... never been so fucking hyped for a book"
As we walked along together I gave him a hellishly curious look. Even as I was eyeing his total dishonesty, he repeated, almost punching the air in front of him, “Man, I gotta have that book of yours!” His false admiration was already too much. His first bridge was burnt. I despised that falseness so much. I didn't want him as a reader and if I could, I would have removed my words from out his head.
We scored two grams. By the time we got to Trey's, divided it up and got high four hours had passed. The longer I stayed the more Trey was on edge. When I said I was leaving he sat there silent with a frozen look of panic and fake innocence on his face, hoping I'd not have realised about the time and mention that the money should be in the bank by then. As he walked me out and through the driveway to the electric security gate he did his utmost to deflect any mention of the money, suddenly unleashing a barrage of words and praise about my writing, not letting up for a minute in the hope that any thought of the money would get forgotten it in his hype.
"Oh yeah man, because I just loved that one about … God what was his name (flicking his fingers as if trying desperately to remember), that guy up in the loft? The Black House man. God … What an incredible piece of writing... LITERATURE. I'll never forget that one, man. That was with your mum right? Yeah, man, that was intense. WOW! And all that shit really happened? Fuck, what am I saying "did it really happen!" This is the fucking Heroinhead right here. Man, you kick arse, I gotta tell ya! I can't wait for your book. You gotta get me a copy soon. I swear. Man, in my eyes you're like the greatest livin...... “
“The money, Trey... how you gonna sort that?” I said cutting right through his bullshit.
“The cash? Yeah dude, no probs. As I said the cash will be in tomorrow and I'll give you a bell, man. First thing. I can be around like before ten. But that was sooooo appreciated what you did there today. Straight up. Fuck, there's not many like us about who'd do that."
Us? Another lame junkie play. Whenever they come across anyone half decent or generous they suddenly buddy up, inserting themselves into the other man's honesty. Trey wouldn't lend someone as little as 50 cents if they were dying. And he didn't appreciate it at all. As I left and watched Trey disappear behind the closing electronic gates I already knew he would try to skip out on repaying me. I wasn't too concerned. He had made the mistake of taking me to where he was staying, put up by a wealthy bourgeois woman who took in foreign students each summer. If he did try skipping out on repayment I'd turn up there and make a scene, at least threaten to. Trey would soon find my money or an arrangement. The afternoon was coming down on the city. These were the last days of summer. Feeling drowsy I made my way back towards the metro, drunk on the floral scents and noises of high Lyon.
They never call you first, no matter how much leeway you give them nor how much you pray and hope that for once someone will be genuinely straight up. On the fourth day of receiving no news from Trey I text him three question marks. He replied to that text.
"Man, I got your cash. Just going to college. Will be with you after classes."
Whenever there is an event separating you from the cash it means that event is going to be the reason why you do not get paid. Trey could always be with me immediately when he had to score, but when it was time to give up suddenly his classes were all important. I eyed his text message and wondered what would be his next move. An hour later it came, via Facebook messenger.
"Man, just contacting you here to say I've lost my fucking phone! Still be with you. Gotta go lame internet connection."
It was all set up lovely. He had set up a fake intention of paying me and now was scheming to concoct a reason why he couldn't arrange to get around after class. He had already laid the groundwork for having no phone and now he had set up his later excuse as to why he couldn't mail or message. His story would be one of desperately wanting to pay me back but we were just undone by technology – the same technology which never fails when we need heroin.
As soon as the text came through I knew it was the start of a much longer piece of bullshit. To show Trey that I was onto him I decided that I'd surprise him in his foreign students class. I didn't expect to get the money, but having this little cunt squirming in front of me would be some reward in itself. Not knowing exactly where Trey's classes were I made it down to the university for lunch time and hung about in a strategic place where the percentage of students would have to pass. It was over an hour I was stood there when I turned around and there was Trey coming out the university with a phone in his hands. He saw me and I could see his face lose tone immediately. He could hardly talk through shock.
“See you've found your phone?”
"Huh? No, man, it isn't what it looks like. This is a different phone."I saw the panic in his eyes as he imagined me ringing the number to test him. Suddenly he was mumbling and spluttering, talking absolute nonsense as he played furiously with his phone to knock the volume out.
"So if I ring the phone it won't sound? Well it 's a bit fucking strange you suddenly lose your phone right on the point of having to pay me back. I never believe in coincidences... especially from a junkie."
"Man, I knew you'd think that! Fuck!" He said that quite boldly, obviously having successfully killed his phone.
"That's because it's true"
"No, bro... not this time! I swear to you. I had your cash and was all set to repay you when this fucking class fee came up and had to be settled. If not I can't continue my course and if I'm not enrolled my grant will be stopped and there'll be no heroin for either of us."
"So you haven't paid me back to help me? Trey, you better have the fucking money and I'm not fucking about!"
"Man, I just paid 250 dollars to keep me in the course. I thought I had more grant money in my bank."
"Trey, I'll tell you once more: I want the fucking money!!!"
He saw I was getting angry, maybe on the point of violence.
"Man, calm down. Course I got your money... some of it. I've er... a hundred... a hundred and ten. I'll give you the rest in a couple of days."
I could tell by the coins and crumpled notes that it was his very last beans, that he was absolutely potless in paying me back. For a moment I felt sorry for him. He probably now didn't even have enough left to get a coffee from the canteen with his classmates. I was on the verge of giving him a note or two back and then I saw his face and it disgusted me. A face like it was comprised of every low dirty addict I've ever known, all manifest in this single kid. I put the cash in my pocket.
"Man, if I didn't have the cash or was trying to avoid you I'd have backed away when I saw you from behind."
That was true. Only he couldn't have as it was indeed his deadline to pay for his courses and by pure luck I was lingering around right outside the descent to the basement where course enrolments were taken. That was why he called me. If he could have snuck past he would have. But no matter how much of a little snake Trey was not even he could slither past me from there.
"I thought you had already paid the enrolment?"
"erhm, er.. kinda, bro, yeah. I mean it's in my account and I'll pay it now?"
"So you have all my cash but would rather pay the the enrolment fee?”
“No, it's not like that. Man, I knew you'd think this!”
I left it. There was no point. I had three quarters of my cash and now knew not only where he lived but where he studied too. He was cornered and so did the only thing he could do.
Barely had all this passed, he had almost incurred my wrath, than he started off on his next ploy. Standing with him in the queue to pay for his course he suddenly asked matter-of-factly:
"Do you think your man will be on?"
"It wouldn't matter if he is, you're broke."
"Hmm mm, maybe not. I think there could be cash in my bank. Give him a call."
I could already see what he was up to. He knew that once I had called and arranged a meet that I would have to respect that. He was hoping I'd call before he checked his account, arrange a meeting, only to find he had no cash in his bank and I'd have to re-lend him the money he had just returned so as he could make good on the deal. For him it was a sure fire thing. He gets his gear. I get my cut, get high and am still owed the money. Sounds like a good deal. Only I've been around too long and know when that starts it never ends. By then I knew how Trey's student loan worked and how much he received each week and it was clear that he'd never have enough to repay me and still have money to score after. So each time he had to repay he'd be in the same predicament as now.
"Check your bank first and then I'll phone," I told him.
It was now raining. Trey knew he had no cash but he'd started off on this latest scheme and he could either flop down in the wet and admit it was all a ploy or he could walk us both to the ATM machine in the rain, knowing he hadn't a penny, get us soaking wet and then stare at me like a lost child pleading for me to help when it came to light he hadn't a dime. Junkies never flop down when there's a chance of getting a payout, and anyway, there was more than just one scheme going. Trey, knowing that I was an addict too, was wagering on watering my mouth with all this talk of heroin and scoring. His hope was that regardless of what happened at the ATM machine that I would then want heroin as much as him and out of pure selfishness and greed re-lend him the money regardless. Without umbrella, and Trey with a black hooded top, we braved the rain and headed of down the Rue Marseille.
We walk fast. Junkies always walk fast. I can tell two junkies on the score from the way they speed walk. Trey and I were junkie speed walking through the rain. I was watching this vile little fuck of a thing, could see him 15 years down the line all jaundiced and wasted, a HIV case for sure – the ghost of it was already in him. I didn't despise him at this point, but whenever I look at anyone like I looked at Trey on that walk it does not bode well for any friendship. At the cash point he withdrew his wallet and took a big gulp of air. The imbecile! He knew he was penniless and yet here he was hoping a miracle had occurred and money had miraculously fallen into his account.
He put his card in the ATM, dried his hands (sweat not rain) and punched in his pin code. He half closed his eyes, not wanting to see "INSUFFICIENT FUNDS" flash up on the screen. It didn't. To his shock he was asked how much cash he wanted to withdraw. He almost had a fit, lost between excitement and disbelief. Before drawing his cash he started screaming, “Yes! There's fucking bucks! How? Fuck, my mother must have put more through. YES!!!”Then he turned to me, shaking and confused with excitement. “How much should I draw man? How much?"
"Whatever you want cause it's not gonna pay out. It always makes a whirring noise when there's a possibility of a transaction. That won't pay.”
He wasn't listening. He was high out his mind on surprise.
“One hundred and fifty? You gonna go in with me? I'll take one fifty. Yes!!! Come on.. come on...Please...."
He pressed to withdraw 150 euros. I watched the machine. Trey got his hand ready to snatch the cash just in case the machine realised it had made a mistake and tried to swallow it back up before he got his greedy little hands on it. The machine made no sound. It wasn't gonna pay. Trey stood before it, kinda half stooped, his eyes glaring and his mouth hung open like it had some kind of a hypnotic hold over him. His hand was ready to pounce, and then the screen flicked to red:
INSUFFICIENT FUNDS PLEASE CONTACT YOUR BANK
Trey's legs almost gave out. He spun around in the street, jumped down hard in the rain through a release of pure adrenalin rage and screamed “FUUUUCK!!!!” Then he grabbed his card and stood there looking at me, lost, all hope gone. He looked as drained as the sky. Where for an instant he had convinced himself the machine would spit out money he didn't have, now he wasn't able to accept the reality of his pitiful condition. I'd seen this before. I'd done this before. Trey needed a slow ride back down to the reality of a drab dopeless day.
"Hang on, man,” he said, after a moment, “that thing was just about set to pay. Let's try one hundred. I'm sure there must be a hundred in there."
Each time Trey tried a smaller and smaller amount and each time it was refused ,but each time he became a little calmer. He needed to be disappointed in stages, gradually let down from his high of thinking a miracle had occurred. By the time he tapped in 10€ I stood staring at him in disgust. Even if it did pay out, what fucking good would ten euros be? He needed one hundred minimum, and even that would be my man doing me a small deal as a favour. When ten euros was refused Trey retrieved his card and calmly said “bummer!”
It was bad, but it wasn't over. In Trey, in the pouring rain, there was still a glimmer of hope: ME.I was standing next to him with my pocket full of the money he had repaid me. His hope now was that he had lured the smack monster out in me and desperate to get fixed up myself I'd start scheming,would lend him back the money so as I could get high. Together we walked back up towards the university. Trey was sullen, like a sulky child, wanting me too take pity on him. He purposely let the rain drench him so as he could sit in a wet heap looking awful.
We took shelter at a tram stop. To keep me there, to keep hope alive,Trey began talking about literature and writing and pretending he had a real interest in that. Whether he did or not wouldn't have mattered as the last thing I ever want to do is stand around in the wet discussing books. And so we waited under the tram stop, me standing and Trey crunched down into himself, hands in his pockets, his hood on, dripping wet and looking sadly out at the world. Surely on another day his ploy would have worked, but on that day I had writing to be done, had just a day left of a deadline and would not score for all the world. That it also meant this fucker would suffer just a little for his ways made it even easier. Trey made a concerted effort to keep me alongside him. I understood. Being his last hope he felt a little less down while I was there and there was still a possibility of junk. He talked continuously but it was obvious they were blank words and secretly he was just waiting for me to propose lending him the cash. Whenever I spoke he would come alive for seconds at a time only to be disappointed and mooch back down into a wet sulk. When I finally said I was going, Trey just nodded and looking sad and estranged from life, said, “Yeah, me too. Fuck university. I'm gonna go home and just go to bed.” It was a way of saying he didn't want to do anything without smack, that right now he didn't want to live and that somehow it was my fault and could I not do something to make him not want to curl up and cry and want to die. There was nothing I could do. I couldn't help him. I could only postpone the hours until he had to eventually spend some straight time alone, but I could not indefinitely put off tomorrow. Back in the rain we walked down towards the Metro. Our pace was slow. We had nowhere quick to go. A wet European city soaking through our lives.
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