Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way Chapter Five

The Whole Bag

   Nadine leaves the cinema knowing. It’s obvious. She can’t believe she didn’t think of it before. She’s discovered something new and incredible to fill the intense boredom and despair between writing essays for her BA in Film Studies. She pictures the lifelike realism of the scenes depicted in the film, the skill of the director in his use of lighting effects to capture the essence of the post-modern, urban lifestyle. She considers it all the way back to Didsbury on the bus; how it must feel, the raw hedonism, the pain. She imagines the pleasure as she lays between her Habitat Egyptian cotton sheets, fragrant with her new organic aromatherapy foaming bath oil, she pictures the room where it all took place, the faces of the characters etched into her dreams.
   She returns to the cinema four times in the week to watch the film. As she grows familiar with the lives of the characters, the subtleties of the plot, the locations, the language, she begins to embrace the sheer amplitude of the journey of knowledge and enlightenment upon which she is soon to embark. Each time she witnesses the opening scene, the music reinforcing the depth of its meaning like metal studs on a biker jacket, her determination to experience total harmony with the film’s characters is topped up withy super unleaded. On the fifth day, she buys the book.
   Lectures drag on. She’s finding it impossible to hear the lecturer over the Circle and District Line of her brain. Her notes become sketches of the main characters and his close-knit circle of friends, surrounded by the names of the actors, characters, best boys and boom operators. By the end of the week, she’s discovered the world of Longsite Market’s  pirate video vendors.
   The first person to share the pirate video extravaganza is Jont. Nadine watches his Harrow-boy countenance with interest throughout the showing, keenly awaiting the signs of disgust or fascination to register upon his thoughtful brow. Analysing his opinion in this matter proves fruitless as the plot absorbs her once more. During a relevant scene, she speaks:
   -It is, you know.
   -You haven’t! Fuck me, Nadine, that’s awful! You don’t still do it?
   -Every day…I can’t help it.
   -You…surely it’s just a matter of, well, not doing it any more?
   -You don’t understand: I’m in Hell…
After this satisfactory fabrication, Nadine finds it easier to become more deeply involved with the infrastructure of the characters’ psyches, allowing her to create for herself a more stable post-urban environment in which to exist. The transitional stages between the reality of the plot and her own life-text will be the hardest.
   The first stage could have been selected from amongst a number of action plans. To begin with, she has the notion that a purchase will be the obvious way forward, but she realises that this will barely be possible without first creating a suitable environment in which to fulfil this end. The Salvation Army are delighted with their new acquisitions, although what to do with a mattressless bed is a trifle puzzling. Stage two involves creating a general awareness of her predicament amongst friends and contemporaries. For she is, at this point, a part of her own illusion, believing she has reached the unknown, when, in actual fact she has yet to venture within vomiting distance of the clan of whom she claimed ruthlessly to be a part. Stage three proves to be wearing. But now that she is wearing the right clothes and has aquired the layer of grime which she considers obligatory, she is ready to begin.
   It’s incredible, she thinks as she looks into the grey-green eyes of yours truly: not only am I the first that she has approached, but she believes I can satisfactorily fulfil her retail needs. She’s never spoken to a real-life punk before and she’s scared. She said knew that I was a smack-head the moment she saw me: punks always are, she says, The Sex Pistols started it. They were all at it, her Auntie Maisie had told her once, ‘Like spiky-haired rats’. The high speed walk beside me down Great Western Street makes her innards fizz like bicarb and citric in water. She looks around, hoping to be seen with me, her maharishi, her initiator. As we reach a telephone box on the dual carriageway, I pull the door open, step in and let it swing shut behind me. Nadine loiters around the phone box, watching the cars flash past. Grass sprouts from the cracks in the tarmac mixed with crystals of shattered glass and cigarette butts.
   -Right, give us yer money and wait ‘ere. Be about five minutes.
   -How do I know you’re going to come back?
   -You can’t come with us- he don’t know ya. D’ya want the stuff or not?
   -Yes, but…
   -Look, you know where to find me anyway.
She reluctantly hands over a crisp, bank machine ten pound note and watches as I dodge the high speed traffic and head towards Quinney Crescent. Ten minutes later, we’re heading back the way they we came.

*   *   *

   The grains crunch tasteless between her teeth. Nadine pours the contents of the foil sweet wrapper into a water-filled teaspoon and strikes a match, following the instructions. Spikes of water hit her hand like the fizz of a dispersible vitamin C as she boils her mini-crucible. But the grains remain intact at the bottom of the spoon. She can’t be doing it right. She boils the teaspoon dry, scraping the orange-brown residue into a Rizla and adding tobacco from a Marlboro Light. As she smokes, she relaxes, lying back on her mattress, willing herself to be ushered into the dark.

*   *   *

   Facing me proves to be a trifle embarrassing, owing to her obvious lack of knowledge beside such a master. As she approaches my dishevelled form, I shift slightly in my crouched position and glance sideways at her, pulling on a crumpled rollie.
   -Yeah, I know, love. Before you say anything, I’ve got me brother to kick the fock out of him. I got fockin brick dust and all. Still got the wrapper at home on me floor. Put the citric in it and it don’t fockin dissolve. I was rattling to fock and all. Took us til six in the morning to score.
   Nadine takes mental notes on technique.
   -I’m sorry, I thought…
   -Na, love, you can trust me. You know where I am for fock sake- I’m not into ripping people off. I’m going down later if you wanna come.
   -Thanks Gary, I’d really appreciate that.
   Laindon Road in Longsite has always struck Nadine as a quiet, orderly neighbourhood. Tonight, though, the atmosphere is several rungs below the atmospherically lit room and the warm, slyly affectionate greeting of the salesman she has come to expect. Yellow streetlights buzz and hiss as kids on mountain bikes circle parked cars, occasionally stopping to lurk on street corners. She follows me out of the all night convenience store carrying the apple she’s bought for fifty-eight pence and hands me the change. I step into the phonebox and she slinks in after me.
  We lean back against the dilapidated terrace wall in silence. We’re just waiting for a taxi- waiting for a taxi. Just waiting for a taxi, waiting for a taxi- waiting for a taxi…my instructions turn into a nervous rap behind her eyes. She feels small and insignificant alongside me, acutely conscious of her southern intonation and Airwalk trainers, of the lack of dirt under her fingernails and the sweaty banknotes wrapped around the Barclaycard which she’s clutching inside her Stussy hoodie pocket.
   -Look, I’m gonna try him one more time, then I’m trying someone else. He’s fockin us about ‘ere. You might as well get off and I’ll meet you later when I’ve got it. You don’t wanna be hanging around: might be ages. See you about half eleven, usual place.
   -Alright, see you later.
   -You’d better give us yer money. You want three, right?
She’s not sure, but she thinks she hears me snicker to myself as I watch her strut off in the direction of Daisy Bank Road. They might call it Victoria Park, but that’s just a convenient way to get students living in Longsite.

*   *   *
   I’m sitting in the milkshake bar on Wilmslow Road with Lee. Liam’s just gone for a dig in the toilets upstairs and he’s made Lisa wait outside and keep on begging ‘til she’s made enough for herself, cruel cunt. Nothing I can do but tell him he’s wrong. Shouldn’t treat her like that, can’t stand to watch it. It’s nearly eleven. Splinters of hard, white rain pelt the windows, running down the pink-captioned glass in streetlight-orange rivulets. People whisk by outside, holding their collars and hoods up against the storm. Cars, taxis and buses vomit torrents of spray onto the curry-house-neon pavements, soaking any cyclist daft enough to be navigating the cycle lanes, blocked as they always are with parked cars and delivery vans. I take two sachets of brown sugar from a glass on the counter and pour one into my tea, which I stir before pocketing the spoon. The other, I proceed to pulverise through the packet with my lighter. Then I open it and pour it into the minimal contents of a re-sealable plastic bag and shake it fervently. Ha, you like this? You like my style, my grammar, my florid language? My tactics? My cunning? We ain’t all stupid, you know. Not even Nadine. She’s just lost the plot. We’re all in the gutter, Oscar Wilde said, but some of us are looking at the stars. She’s been looking at too many stars, I reckon, got her head stuck up there. As usual, I’m doing someone a favour. The less heroin, the less habit…I’m quite pleased with myself, truth be told.
   -Does this look like three bags to you? I ask.
 Lee explodes with laughter.
   Nadine’s hovering in the vicinity of Cool Wines Hot Videos, obviously edgy. Lisa sits shivering beneath her blanket on the step, mouth-but-not-eyes smiling as I approach.
   -‘ere ‘e is. Oi, Gazza, she bin looking for ya.
   -Alright Lise. Nadine, it’s all in one bag. Want a biscuit?
I pull out half a packet of cookies out of my pocket, hand Nadine a bag-biscuit sandwich, then hold out the packet for Lisa.
   -You wanna watch yerself with that stuff, it’s fockin dynamite, innit, Gaz?
I grin and nod.
   -She’s right, you know, love, take it easy, know what I’m saying?
   -What ya say yer name is?
   -Nadine. D’ya toot it or dig it?
   -I’m sorry?
   -D’ya toot it? Smoke it on foil? Or inject?

*   *   *

   The anticipation manifests itself in horror. This is it. She’s been building herself towards this moment for so long that the reality of the situation softens the contents of her large intestine and sends it arsewards. Clenching her cheeks, she speed-shuffles towards her front door, ferreting in her pocket for her keys. In the darkness, thoughts of using the pavement had crossed her mind, but fear of exposure forbade it. The key’s in the lock and her bowels are surging horribly. Climbing the stairs is horrific; she can feel the stagnant matter seeping into her Valentino knickers, smearing between her arse cheeks as each leg moves onto the next stair. Her keys drop between the banisters as she tears open her flies, flies round the corner and onto the toilet, as what feels like a pint of water cascades into the pan. She exhales hard and examines the extent of the damage. Two moist, sticky skidmarks. She’s appalled. Removing them along with her self-scissor-massacred jeans, she slings the offending items into the washbasin before realising that she’s left the front door open.

   A sweetbitter taste. More sweet. This is more like it. She dabs again at the powder, its flavour registering in her mental catalogue, before emptying a small amount onto a square of tinfoil. Better to test it safely, wean herself in gently.
   The effect is not as she expected. Nothing. This is not happening, she thinks, emptying a third of the bag onto the black broccoli of residue on the foil, an acrid taste in her mouth, in which she holds a tinfoil tube as detailed by Lisa. She tries again, the powder melting as before, but this time running down the foil as she inhales its smoke successfully.
   She feels it in her legs first, a heavy warmth, and then in her stomach. She turns to place the foil on the vegetable crate coffee table and a wave of nausea hits her, pre-vomit saliva surging as she makes a second dash to the bathroom. Nothing is left to come up as she views yesterday’s spinach and ricotta cannelloni merging with milky Special K and what could only be this evening’s portion of chips, the primary heave. Staggering to her mattress, she flops onto her back and drifts into a semi-consciousness of strange dreams and eventually, sleep.

*   *   *

   I’m onto a winner with Nadine. She wants three bags a day? She gets three bags a day, courtesy of yours truly and the Organic Fairtrade Sugar Company. Produce of Barbados. And Afghanistan, possibly: the lesser contents ain’t exactly clearly labelled, though it should be. Sell it in Boots the chemist, they should: make my life a hell of a lot easier at any rate.

*   *   *
   I’m not in my usual spot when Nadine pays her visit to Rusholme three weeks later, pins and spoon and citric in pocket. In my place sits the teen waif, Lisa. Heroin-chic heroin chick, the girl with the flaxen hair. Beautiful heroin angel.
   -Hiya Lise. I was looking for Gaz, have you seen him?
   -Nah. Wanna score?
Nadine half-smiles.
   -You going?
   -When me geezer gets back.
On cue, a gangly bloke in scraggy army surplus gear crosses the road holding a blanket.
   -Oi! Fort you woz goin’. Oo the fock’s this? Oi, who the fock ‘re you?
Lisa cowers. Liam lurches. Grabs Lisa by the shoulders and a full-scale domestic ensues, (if one could call it a domestic, given the circumstances) I do not believe it! He is actually punching her! Nadine doesn’t feel like sticking around, it’ll only be a matter of time before she gets hit too.
   -Ya comin’ then? ‘s alright, ‘e fort ye was a pig or somefink.

*   *   *
   Links corner. Behind an old, blue Ford Transit a young woman pulls a plastic bag out of her mouth. Gold teeth are visible as she opens the bag to reveal a cluster of cling-film wrapped packages of heroin. Like a bag of frozen peas. There are at least fifty. Lisa hands over a ten pound note, crumpled and sweaty. Nadine gives the woman twenty five pounds in fresh-from-the-bank notes. One for Lisa, three for Nadine. Only Lisa has to share her bag with Liam. It’s been a bad night and just for now, she’s going to straighten herself out with this little bit as best she can before she heads to Chicken Run corner to find a punter. She can’t stand to do it straight, tries her best to avoid it, but it’s getting tough to fund the two of them, and tonight’s the worst, cos the rain puts off the punters.
   Scarletts smiles at Lisa. She likes her. Shouldn’t be doing gear, not at her age. Sixteen, did she say? Looks on the downside of fourteen, but you can’t always tell. Then again, isn’t Jesmond’s little cousin out punting gear every Friday night off his mountain bike for the big man? And he’s only eight. You can’t get done when it ain’t you sellin’ and what would a little kid be doing selling brown? Too much problem for the five-O. What chance does the poor little fucker have, up to nuff shit and he’s not even hit ten. Right little gobshite, playing the hardman. Fifty-fifty he’d end up like his uncle anyway, the way he worships him. The youth start young and they die before they hit twenty if they don’t use their brains. At least she’s her own boss, to a certain extent. Regular customers- well, it’s not like it’s a hard sell. The A-1 vendors’ market. She wonders if the posh bird thinks she wants to be doing this. It wasn’t exactly her childhood dream, but it’s hard starting up in business when you’re broke. A few more months of this is all, and then she’ll have enough to buy up some stock for her market stall. Start small and work up. She ain’t doing it for a joke, you know: she knows how to put an outfit together that’d make this gimpy girl Nadine into the Dancehall Queen, no lie. But she looks out of place here, Nadine does. Messin with things she don’t understand. Naïve as they come. If Lisa’s got any sense, she’ll blag her third bag off her easy. That cunt Liam’ll knock her out and stamp on her head for the lot if she stays around long enough. It’s not as though she’ll be running to the police saying someone stole her heroin, now, is it?

*   *   *

   In the toilets of the milk bar, Lisa and Liam watch as Nadine slides the needle into a perfect vein, blue against a red-brown sunburnt arm. Blood registers first time. They exchange glances. She did say she does three bags a day…perhaps she normally goes in her legs. Shy in front of Liam…Dirt under her unbitten nails, pushing down the plunger on a one mil insulin-only. She staggers, slumps. Falls. A dull thud, then a trickle of blood on the toilet bowl. Blue skin. Blue. Check her pockets. Just the one bag, Liam’s got the other. Blue.

   -Get the fock outa here!
   -Liam! Call a fockin ambulance. We can’t jost leave ‘er!-
   -You fockin watch us leave the daft bint-
   -But Liam! Get the fock off us, yer ‘urtin us- we can’t jos-
   -Fockin gerra move on!

Down the stairs, white tiles, pink walls. Strawberry milk, mango milk, banana milk, ice cream sundae, knickerbocker glory. Glass door, taxis, buses, turn the corner.

   -Come on, ya daft bitch
   -For fock sake, Liam! We gottoh phone an ambulance! Liam!
   -Shut it. Just fockin SHUT IT! She’s the eightf person ta die this year an’ I ain’t gonna be fockin responsible fer anovva daft bitch oo lies ta lok ‘ard.
   -Liam, she might not be dead-
   -Look, bitch, I’m gonna fockin deck ya in a minute.
   -But Liam, can’t we jost-

Sirens. Flashing blue lights. Liam legs it. Lisa isn’t far behind.

Poems from Nowhere

Hey everyone,
I've added a new page of poetry to Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way. I'll add to it as and when. You'll find the link at the top of my main blog.

I hope you enjoy reading.
Vee X

Saturday, 15 September 2012

An Intoxicating Journey with Ruth Johnston: Word Intoxication 

  Take an hour of your time. Take two. Just for you. Time when no one else is around. Hang a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the door. Because this time’s just for you. It’s time to allow Ruth Johnston to take you to the edge of life with her new anthology of poetry. Let her tantalise you with semantics. She said it. And she’s not lying: it’s Word Intoxication. Are you ready?

   Now imagine you’re sitting in an old, oak rocking chair, padded with velvet and chenille cushions. You’re ready? No? There’s a wide, open fire burning, enough logs to stay alight for hours, a footstool to lay your feet. And if you like dogs, there’s one right there, dozing in front of you, warm and cosy in the fire’s glow. She won’t be bothering you; she’s been fed. Or are you a cat lover? There’s a cat on your lap, purring and content. Are you ready? What’s missing? Ahhh, a crisp glass of cold white wine. You prefer red? Here it is, woody and warming. The open bottle’s right beside it. Perfect. Because you won’t be leaving that chair. You won’t even notice if you need to get up to go to the toilet.

Because you’re holding Ruth Johnston’s new book. Open the beautifully illustrated cover, which is as sexy and risqué as her poems of lust, love and desire. Flick to the first page and prepare to be intoxicated.
   From her smack-in-the-face opening, First Blood, right through to the final whispers of  Sea Echoes, Ruth sure lets you know she’s in the room. Her first words hit you like a truck: unexpected, harsh, powerful. And you’re immediately mesmerised. She’s got you where she wants you. You’re under her spell.   
                                As I kneel within your mess,
                                sweet ecstasy
                                breathes within my chest.

               Nostalgia runs through Ruth’s poetry like barbed wire and jasmine petals. She calms, satisfies, then strikes. Sensual and all at once painful: the sentiments expressed are in the balance of emotions and stark, livid contrasts.

              In her passionately moving dedication to her Father, The Man In The Moon, she enchants you with smells and textures of childhood, moving chronologically through to her devastating loss, mourning and final acceptance:
                              Soft cashmere sweaters,
                              That smelled so good,
                              always of soap and sandalwood

         With the juxtaposition of the seemingly oxymoronic, she stuns you with her slyly witty proverbs, at times, reminiscent of William Blake, such as the simple yet universal short verse, Truth.

               Word Intoxication is loaded with raw human emotion. Ruth’s language is both metaphorical and in-yer-face. Her slapstick yet grey comedy will have you laughing in delight. In Washing, she fools us: within the apparently mundane, we encounter the fear of loss: in Hangover Day, the final line catches us and draws a knowing smile.
               In Word Intoxication, we are never far from the harsh, the brutal, beautiful, yet often painful realities of life: betrayal, death, fear, growing young and growing old. It’s all there: Ruth’s unflinching verse takes you through the stages of birth, rebirth, death and beyond. From tedious household chores, to the heights of eroticism, from simple pleasures of motherhood to her vivid descriptions of abuse, to the ultimately soothing, almost-sung lullaby-like motifs. Ruth’s poetry speaks right to the heart.                                                                                                                                                          
                          Your intent was never to destroy me
                          Only to enjoy me.

              The printed copy of Word Intoxication will be available within the next two to three weeks, so to get a taster  of Ruth Johnston’s work, curl up, turn off your phone and check out Ruth’s blog at:
             Word Intoxication is available now for Kindle here:


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Last Son In Havana

I gave you my life
And I passed you the bottle
We drank like a knife
Cutting Freud on full throttle
I don’t give my heart
But I gave it to you
Without her( )in the start
Of my substitute blues
And the band played boleros
The double bass snagged
Was the first time I’d cared oh
How sweet when we shagged
And the balcony shuddered
The drain stank of shit
And the cats chased each other
(You sucked on my tit)
Do you know how it happened
How good turned to bad
Or why I seek maps of
The way back from sad
I thought that I’d found it
The day that we wed
But there’s no way around it
We don’t share a bed
And strange as it seems
(Do I miss your embrace?)
I relive it in dreams
Of the dragons I’ve chased

© Vee 1993-2012 

Note: with the word 'son', I refer to a style of Cuban music, rather than a male offspring 

A Month in the Absence of Imploding Love

   The day I drove away from you, you were drinking. You said you’d take me to court to keep our kids away from drug addicts. Your voice, loud enough to qualify for a job on stage. Our daughter, our son, curling up and clinging to me. It was bed time.
“Your mother’s a fuckin junkie. Your mother’s taking drugs. Your mother’s injecting heroin.”
But you know I’m not, don’t you.
   This is how I have to love you from now. Away from the street we once shared, the same streets, the same houses and parked cars look different. On the estate, the old brown Cortina pimped with chrome has lost the smile I used to give it. In the supermarket, I buy food for our children, but never for me. I buy brandless shampoo without bothering to smell it first, and cheap baby wipes. I don’t buy rice anymore. You told me a meal is not a meal without rice. Last week, I cooked a curry and rice and left it to putrify, day after day, until the smell became too much. Even the dog seemed repulsed by it as she watched me scrape it into her bowl. Now a silence of insults and condemnations divide us. This is how I have to love you from now.
   You sent me texts asking me why. Do you honestly not know why? You say I have kidnapped our children. How can I force them to speak to you? They’ve been through enough. Don’t you think? They tell me no and no and I don’t know and my heart breaks. I am not punishing you; it’s not how you tell me in texts and emails. Oh, you. You say you still love me. Well, I heard that once with a black eye and all-over bruises. I stayed and hoped and wished and believed in romantic ill-usions. It makes no sense any more. Romantically slinging words like practise cricket balls. Prostitute; slag; descara’a; junkie; smackhead; babylon; traitor. Cunt; bastard; arsehole; shit; alchie; abuser. 

Remember when you said to me,
‘Don’t ever tell me you love me again’
 It made you angry, you said.
   Last night, you texted me that you had no money. That the house was too big, that you wanted three pounds to buy cigarettes. Our home, where I fucked you at the kitchen sink in broad daylight, still doing the dishes and laughing, me asking you if you thought the neighbours were looking. Our home, where the kids planted carrots and beetroots and moonflowers. Are the beetroots ready yet? Did you eat the kids’ rainbow carrots? The children were so excited when they bit through purple skin to find orange inside. They will be no good for eating if you leave them too long: you might as well. Our home, where you banged the bathroom door shouting
“Are you enjoying your injections?”

The moonflowers died before we left, eaten by the slugs.

   I cannot answer. I have no words. Meanings get lost in translation and as the insomniac hours draw in, I sit, alone, listening to our children’s soft, sleepy breathing. I thought we would share foreverness and the misery of old age, waiting to see who dies first.
   It wasn’t enough, our volcanic, hateful, jealous, sick love. Only self-hate could keep us there longer, with your frustrated rants concerning my 'imminent overdose'. My 'subsequent death'. You always said you’d find another woman, someone  ‘better than me’.

   But I’m still alive, still here. 

When I met you, I had six months heroin free. I traded my elixir for our wet, psycho-fucks which had me craving endlessly more. I substituted marriage for the intravenous heroin I once thought was all I would ever want or need, until I thought I’d need nothing else but you. 

It wasn’t endless, though, was it? What do you think we would achieve if I came back? It’s unexpectedly hard for me to write this. I don’t want to cry any more. I was crying every day before I left. Do you remember?

   Do you remember when we walked though Parque Central and you wouldn’t hold my hand? Do you remember sharing a Vegas, always twenty sweet-papered, cigar-flavoured cigarettes a day between us, and half and half made ten. The tiny, cardboard-petitioned room, storm rain dripping through two hundred years of plaster, wood and horsehair and landing on our naked, sweating fuck-bodies. Do you remember how I would shout 'Vete pa’ la pinga' at total strangers in the street? 'Go to the dick', a strange translation for 'fuck off'. Havana killed me with guava rum from Pinar del Rio, drank straight from the bottle, and her lecherous street boys who touch before speaking. We killed each other with obsessive, unyielding suffocation. You never believed a word I said.
“Lying junkie!”
So as I read your hidden messages to an Argentinian woman with a face like mine, as I read your romance to her, her who you called your princess of love, as I read your invitation for her to come to live with you, of your lies that we were separated, that I 'knew about her and didn’t mind', so the cravings for heroin set in. Don’t you think that reaction is normal for a ‘fuckin junkie’, no matter how long abstinence is? My only surprise is that I didn’t go score a bag and pin it up years ago. I tried to forgive you. I tried so hard. But how could I forgive, with your constant word-debacle and counter-accusations? I am not you. I did not do as you did. Neither did I use heroin. You used to ask me about every mark, every bruise. You’d look and ask me,
   ‘What’s that bruise?’
   ‘I don’t know’
   ‘What’s that dot in the middle of it?’
   ‘How the fuck should I know?’
   ‘Looks like a needle mark to me’
How I wished it was.  
   I could have done it soon after our daughter was born. I had so many contacts then. It would have taken one phone call and my old best dealer would have been waiting for me in the bus stop visible from our old front window in Sheffield within ten minutes. I could have done that when you were out. You would never have noticed.
   I could have done it when I dropped our daughter off at nursery. Half the mothers were on the gear, weren’t they? I could have had a word in their ear and gone to the needle exchange across the road, bought some citric and be straight enough to walk home happy for a good fuck in the child-free hours. You wouldn’t have noticed.
   When they gave me the diamorphine before my operation, I tried not to enjoy it. But fuck, it would have been magic if they’d put just a little more in. After the post-op pharmy smack wore off, the nurses treated me like a naughty child when I cried through the night, every night, because they wouldn’t give me enough to kill my pain. I was in agony. You were angry with them, do you remember? You demanded to see the boss and we both knew some insider was swigging the oramorph, skipping patients’ doses. Because I spent my days clock-watching for the next dose, and my hospital sheet lied. You swung from kind to cruel, telling me I had my operation so I could have a nice cunt for someone else. Don’t you think I deserve a nice cunt? You try giving birth twice and prolapsing: fucker.  
   And as I heart-wrenchingly debate a return to the pin and spoon, of morning aches and the endless search for the return to normal, you sit in our family home, waiting for me to come back. I can’t do either. Much as I crave the two kids two parents set up, I can’t go back. You and me were exhausting. Now, I can breathe. Much as I crave the needle, I think of our kids. Do you think they would notice?
   Don’t you think they noticed how desperately unhappy we were together? You sit, now, in our family home, amongst our things, my books, the kids’ toys, their clothes and writing, my violin.
   Are my dirty knickers still on the floor where I left them? When I left, the sheets were still washing in the machine. Did you hang them out to dry? Do you wank, sniffing my dirty knickers, thinking about me pissing in your mouth and how we fucked on the trampoline, naked, at three in the morning. Or is it just words? The “I still love you” line. Does it matter how much we love when we don’t know how to love without destruction?
   I was about to tell the kids a story when you started shouting, remember? Do you remember how much they loved to snuggle up with me in bed and hear the stories I invented for them? Do you remember telling me to stop telling them overexciting stories at bed time?
   So now I sit here, in someone else’s house, without you. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t have the space in my heart to be angry anymore. You are who you are and I’m not easy to live with either. I told you never to marry a heroin addict again, no matter if they’re using or not.
   ‘You weren’t a heroin addict when I met you; you were clean.’
Well, I use deoderant and like my baths. Ah, but how naïve you thought you weren't. Didn’t you tell me, over and over, year after year, how your best friend Jicoteo died of an overdose, ten years clean? I told you it was suicide. You said no; no, it was too strong for him. It gave him a heart attack, clutching his chest post-injection, crying, ‘Mama, Mama, mi corazon!’
   I’m sorry I scared you with confessions of my desire for heroin. I couldn’t handle the pain, my beautiful boy. Do you remember when I called you that, when first we were lovers in Havana? Back then, I never thought I’d hurt so much as I do now. I never thought I could love anyone like I loved you. Sometimes, I have wanted to hate you until the stars implode.  
   It’s dark and autumn is creeping up with the smell of wood smoke. Our trips to cut wood won’t happen now. Will they? Do you really think I wanted to leave?
My heart is smashed into pieces on concrete like a plated dinner thrown against suburban dining room wallpaper, pieces of steak detaching and globbing onto shag-pile carpet. Gravy running around the contours of red flocked flowers.

I never intended to stay away. But I didn’t have the choice.

Grrrr.... Hope you're all having a better time than me hahaha,
Love& inspiration, Vee X

All work remains the property of the author © 1993-2012 

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way Chapter Four

Here's Chapter four of Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way. For those of you who  have been wondering, the Mancy Way (pronounced Manky Way) is slang for the Mancunian Way, the dual carriageway which snakes through and over Manchester. So it's not 'Mansie', but Manky. I hope you enjoy reading. Thank you as always for taking the time to read and comment. Have a beautiful day all. Love&Inspiration, Vee X

Holidays in the sun

   I see Spid sitting on the sofa on the walkway outside his front door as I reach the top of the stairway. As I approach him, a grin spreads over his face, his eyes screwing into wrinkles as he dangles a set of keys in front of me.
   -What’s that?
He puts them deep into his pocket.
   -Front door, burglar alarm and bedroom. Burglar alarm! Ha! That, my friend, is the key to the kingdom of fucking liberation.
   -Yeah, can you elaborate on that?
Spid stands up, taking a swig from his can of Special Brew and grinding his spliff end under his heel. I follow him inside.
   -I’ve screwed her in more ways than one, Gaz, more ways than one.
He’s laughing, taking out the keys and admiring them, sunlight catching sharp, newly-filed steel edges and casting dots onto the walls like a mirrored disco ball. –Six quid it cost me to get these cut. Plus a tenner’s worth of the great Gardner’s crop Ah, but is it gonna be worth the price!
   -That bird you left with last night? Sara?
   -Sa-rah. Sarah, yeah. Got her fucked on skunk in order to pull off a brilliant manoeuvre. Robed the keys, got ‘em cut, back in bed before she woke up. Had a nice chat with Tania over fried breakfast and all. Should see the place: it’s a fockin gold mine. They’ve even got one of those coffee makers what froths the milk for you.
   -Never been there myself.
   -Tania’s parents are loaded, apparently. The dad’s a banker or accountant or fuck knows what, she didn’t say, just said he’s big in finance, fuck sake, banker wanker, and the mum’s a lawyer or barrister or something, in law. I dunno, but they’re all rich cunts in that house, right. Went into the bathroom and there’s this Tag Heuer watch on the sink. Left it, though, for future reference.
   -It’d have been in me pocket and straight down the cash generator, no questions asked.
   -Yeah, but use your brain, Gaz. I’ve got the keys and we’re gonna be looking at more than a fockin watch. It’s gonna be airline tickets and a holiday for us, courtesy of Rich Student Wankers, inc.
He’s talking at me like I’ve even got a passport. I’ve never had a passport. But Amsterdam don’t sound like a bad idea.
   -My sentiments exactly. Just gotta find a time when they’re all out and we’re in there…did you go to that party then?
   -Ended up gouching out in the attic through most of it. Aaron’s meant to be cooking a meal tonight; Stakki and Kiwi are down there…you got Tania’s phone number, then?
   -Yeah, if she gave us the right number. Ain’t you got it?
   -Have I fuck. What about signing on? If we fuck off, they’ll kick us off.
Spid gives me one of those looks like I’m stupid and he has a job putting up with me. I told you before, sometimes I think I’m an expert at mind reading, right: always thinking I know all the bad shit people are thinking about me. But I know Spid, and if he’s got something to say, he’ll come straight out with it.
   -Fuck that. Fuck sake, Gaz, we’re going on holiday. Chill out.
   -Students, right? Always down the pub. Give her a ring, see what they’re up to.
   -Dunno, might look a bit sus.
   -Not if you meet her after we done ‘em over.
   -Come on. You gotta understand I have me principles.
I put a bit of filter onto my spoon, watching the liquid level sink just a touch as it’s absorbed into the filter.
   -I’ll come with yer, chat bollocks with Tania. Go on, at least we’ll be sure they won’t come home if we’re meeting them. Give Sarah a ring.
   -What if she wants me to stay over?
   -You don’t want that. Jesus, this is too fockin complex. Got a pin? You want some of this with me?
   -Don’t you want all of it?
   -Did enough for both of us.
   -Nice one, cheers. Who’d ya get it off?
   -Her gear’s shit, man.
   -Nah, this stuff’s fockin dynamite. Same stuff as I had last week.
   -I was asleep for ages after that.
   -It’s good stuff. What you gonna do then? Give Sarah a ring, yeah?
   -Right, you got some tens and I’ll go down the phonebox.
I chuck him my change bag and go back to trying to find a vein. It’s alright for Spid. Like I said, he never got into the shit like me. He’s been on and off for years, but he always stops for a while. Took him years to lose his fear of the needle. Took me a day. If it wasn’t for watching me doing it up like that for years he’d still be on the foil. Or still just smoking spliffs and drinking Special Brew, happy as Larry. Like, look at him now, off down the phonebox when I just offered him some of me brown, instead of doing it straight away. I’ll never be able to do that. When I’ve sorted myself out, I find some paper and sit at the table to doodle. Spid’s back in a few minutes, smiling.
   -Right then, I’ll have a dig and we’re off.
   -Careful with that shit, though, Spid, like I said, it’s fockin strong.
He finds a vein first try without even tying himself off. I watch him push home slowly, slowly, stopping half way and pulling the needle out. He puts his thumb over the little drop of blood and rubs at the mark before laying back into the sofa as it hits him.
   -Ahhhhh. Dutch courage…just gizza few minutes and we’ll go…
It’s at least three hours before he moves from that spot, just smiling to himself and nodding on and off. His half-full pin’s still sitting in front of him with the cap off, on the glass-topped table amongst Special Brew cans, ashtrays, flecks of sticky bud, tobacco strands and crumpled Rizla. Thank fuck he only did half.

*   *   *

   Spid pulls up outside the student house in Didsbury. The lights are all out except for the one in the hall.
   -They’re definitely out. You wanna check, though?
   -You knock. I’m not meant to know where she lives.
   -Gaz, you’re a proper fockin div ‘ead. Fock sake, no one’s meant to recognise us. You’re not meant to know where she lives. You never cease to amaze me, seriously.
   We’re wearing blue overalls, black builders’ hats and boots we picked up from the army surplus. So long as we look like professional furniture removal men, who’s gonna blink an eyelid? We both took out all our piercings, covered the mohie: could be anyone.
   -Alright, Gaz, you go knock.
   -Spid, you knock. If Tania answers the door, she’s gonna recognise me.
   -Fock sake, Gaz. How many times I gotta tell you? Just say Is this Whalley Range? Like you’re looking for the right place, put on a scouse accent and we’ll come back another day. Go on, I gotta reverse the van up the driveway. Get out, open the fockin gates and knock.
   Fuck sake. So I cross the road, prop open the double front gate with bricks and go knock on the door. There’s not a sound comes from inside, so I beckon Spid to back the van up. He nearly bangs into the tree on the corner of the hedge, but he gets it into position nicely and opens the back up, lowers the platform down and opens the front door. I’d be shitting my trousers by now if I wasn’t constipated. I hate this shit, but it’s gonna be worth it. If we make it. This is Stakki’s van, an old Luton he uses for furniture removals and whatever odd job he can find, and he’s lent it to Spid for the night. What story he’s told him I don’t know, but he’s got to get it back by midnight.
   Spid’s always been up for a bit of the old class war. Robbing the rich just pays them insurance money, gives us what we could never have afforded and probably never will. We’ve never done violence, never robbed the elderly and always check they can afford it. So don’t diss us, cos you’ve no idea, have you? Spid’s in this to progress, not to fund a habit. He’s never had much of a habit like I said. See, that half full pin sitting on his table? He put on the lid, put it in the back of his sock drawer and that’s where it’ll probably stay til he feels like doing it. He should be careful doing that though, fuck knows what sort of little microbacteria build up in it, just sitting there, doing nothing.
   The warning beeps of the alarm sound as Spid steps inside the carpeted hallway and he turns the key in the lock of a little white box, the lights changing from red to green as if giving us the all-clear.
   -Cheapskates. We’d never have got the code. Right: you take downstairs, I’ll go up. Big stuff, we work together. Make it quick, right.
   There’s a Technics stereo system in the first room which I unplug and shove part by part into army bags, followed by an expensive-looking VCR. CDs and videos clatter into a binliner along with the remote controls and a multipack of batteries. Candlesticks and trinkets from the mantelpiece all go in, and that coffee table’s coming with me along with the conveniently light TV set. Even the rug looks nice, like one Aladdin would ride on, so I roll it up ready for a fuckin magic carpet ride back to base. Shame I can’t take it home with me, be nice to brighten the place up. It all goes straight in the van, even the sofa, cos me and Spid work out that since the label says ‘Liberty’ it’s begging to be free. Table lamps, books, a mobile phone.
   The next downstairs room’s obviously a bloke’s room with its aftershave and dirty trainers smell, socks and clothes on the floor, posters of Cindy Crawford and Rachel from Friends plastered all over the walls. I shove a mini hi-fi complete with all the CDs in a in a bag and empty the wardrobe, shoes and all. There are several suits and a whole bunch of ties. Yeah looks like this one’s a proper smartarse. The shelf’s full of books on Law, and me and Spid just pick up the whole thing between us, carrying it to the van, books and all. What? You don’t think it’s right stealing books from law students? I can get a good price for these, and in a few years time, this bloke’ll be making more in an hour than I get to see in a month. Don’t worry about him. This experience will convince him he wants to continue his studies in Criminal Law and he’ll become one of the top prosecutors leading to more beds being filled in Strangeways than ever. Yeah, don’t worry about him. He’ll be out buying new clothes on his credit card tomorrow, just like Tania will.
   Even the kitchen’s got a ghetto blaster, along with the cappuccino maker. It’s all coming, down to the last teaspoon and the salt shaker. The cooker’s electric, so no gas explosions here when it’s gone. We leave the gas hob. The whole of Manchester heard the explosion when one of the flats near Spid went up. The punks had a punx picnic to raise money for the old lady who got her flat exploded cos some cunt didn’t use their brain when they were robbing whatever gas-related stuff from the flat below. Before you ask, it wasn’t me. Thank fuck she wasn’t in when it happened. There it is, the Tag watch. This time it’s by the kitchen sink along with a pile of silver rings. Seems like whoever owns it doesn’t trust that it’s waterproof. It all goes in my pocket. When all the stuff’s in the van, we go back for the beds. Duvets, pillows, towels and linen, it’s all coming. Even the shampoo, so long as it’s unopened. The money posh cunts spend on toiletries is just stupid, and there’s people I’m sure who wouldn’t mind paying a fiver for a bottle of anti-wrinkle when it’s twenty quid in the shops. The last mattress wobbles and quivers as we chuck it on top of everything and Spid closes up the back of the van. On his way out, he jemmies the door to make it look authentic, then resets the alarm. Funny it didn’t go off, eh? Not that anyone takes any notice of alarms. The street’s silent but for the buzzing of a streetlight and the hum of traffic from the main road. And we’re gone.
   Or are we? Soon as I’m sat in the van, a police car draws up, stopping directly opposite the driveway. I’m panicking now for real, bile rising up in me innards. I check the wing mirror for Spid, but I can’t see him. Jesus, I’m thinking. My heart’s racing: now I’m gonna be caught with a vanload of stuff and this is Stakki’s van, and fuck knows what Spid told him, but at least we changed the plates. Or will that make it worse? And Stakki will get implicated and I’ve got all me gear back home under the fuckin mattress- like that’s not the first place they’ll look- not that they know where I live- or do they? And now I’m looking at years in fuckin Strangeways. If Spid knows what’s good for him, he’ll have done a runner and I’m getting ready to open the van door and do one myself. The driver of the police car’s looking across towards me, but I hope to fuck the streetlight’s making the windscreen shine so she can’t see me…if she gets out, I’m doing a runner…shit, the position I’m in here they’ll not have a hard job catching me, but I’ll have a go. Shit…the police car revs its engine. What the fuck is all this about? It’s not like the alarm went off or nothing.
   The policewoman looks away and the car moves off slowly down the street. I hear footsteps crunch on the gravel driveway and Spid gets into the van.
   -Fock sake, thought you done a runner, Spid. Fockin hell, it’s a trap, they’re comin back for us with reinforcements.
Spid starts the engine and drives, not stopping to shut the gates behind him.
   -Shut it will you, I watched them go: they turned left down Wilmslow Road. Now why would I do a runner and leave you with all the stuff, eh? Don’t you think I want any?
I laugh, still nervous as fuck and make two roll ups, lighting one and handing it to Spid before I light mine.
   -Jesus, I was shitting myself.
   -You and me both. Now let’s get this stuff stashed and get the van back to Stakki. As we reach Princess parkway, we’re pissing ourselves laughing, the streetlights flashing by in streaks of orange and the cold air rushing at as though the open windows. By the time we turn off into Hulme, we know we’ve made it.

*   *   *
   It takes us a while to shift all the stuff into an empty place above Spid’s, but we’ve got help, a couple of the squatters from next door keen for a free couple of CD or warm, new duvet in exchange. We lock the place up and head for Aaron’s place.
   Spid parks the van sideways round the back of Aaron’s and changes the plates. Techno’s blasting out of the house, the kitchen window wide open, Aaron standing with his back to the sink. I pull myself up on the ledge and climb in that way, shouting in his ear as I land inside, making him jump so he spills his drink.
   -Hoi polloi!
   -Fuck sake, it’s you, Gaz. Never heard of a door?
   -Spid’s knocking on it now.
   -Stakki let him in already. You wanna eat?
I shake my head and go through to the hall, where Stakki’s talking to Spid.
   -Alright, Gary. Get a good price for the van, then?
   -Five grand. Not bad for a heap of old scrap, eh?
Stakki jabs me in the ribs and holds his hands out to take his keys, shaking his head.
   -I’ll trust you it’s round the back, then, unless you got the keys cut before you sold it.
   -Come on, Staks, we’re not that bad.
As I’m speaking, a police van pulls up outside and my heart nearly stops. Here we go. Shit, I’m thinking to myself, fuckin pigs.  What the fuck are we gonna do now?
   -Quick, Spid, get the fock down the cellar. They’ve not seen us, have they?
Stakki’s looking at me like he wants to punch me as I leg it down the cellar steps, followed by Stakki’s shouting-
   -I might have known, you bastards, what the fuck’ve you done now?
Me and Spid sit on the cellar steps to listen as there’s an almighty knock on the front door.
   -A bit late in the evening for festivities, is it not?
Blunt, disconnected syllables, sounding read, rather than spoken. A male voice.
   -Uh, how can I help you?
That’s Stakki now.
   -There has been a complaint about excessive noise levels coming from the vicinity of this house. Do you live here?
   -Nah, it’s my mate’s place. It’s his birthday.
   -For two days? The party’s over now, so I’m asking you to turn the music off immediately, otherwise I will have no alternative…
   -Right, I’ll do that straight away. I’m really sorry, yeah, I’ll just get them to turn it off.
   -If you would.
   -Yeah, g’night, thanks mate.
The front door’s closing and I see through the cellar window a middle aged, overweight policeman climb back into the van accompanied by a thinner version of himself. The music stops abruptly and after a while, they drive away.
   -Gotta get out of here, I’m paranoid as fock, Spid, I’m not joking. Thought that was it.
   -Oi you two you can come out now. Stakki shouts. –What the fuck are you two up to anyway? Spid, you told me you were helping someone move a piano, so what’s up with you?
   -Just allergic to the boys in blue, they get near me and I break out in handcuffs, I joke.
   -Ha ha very funny, Stakki’s saying –I’m not too keen on them myself, but I don’t start shitting myself every time I see them. On second thoughts, don’t tell me what you’ve done, cos then I can’t be accused of being a grass when you two get clocked. Fuckin hell, you used my van to pick up a load of smack, didn’t you?
We say in unison. This is getting stupid. I don’t know what the fuck happened with Stakki: he’s usually a really chilled out bloke.
   -Well, you better not have any on you, cos I’m not getting in shit if you used my van to pick it up.
   -We didn’t, says Spid  –and we left the gear back home.
   -Jesus, Spid. You’re really fucking up, man.
Stakki’s face is getting redder by the second and his veins are standing up on his neck and forehead. I think to tell him to watch his blood pressure but change my mind. Instead, I sit down on the bottom stair to watch the show. I can’t be arsed to get involved in it.
   -What’s your fockin problem, Stakki?
   -My problem? No, Spid, what’s your problem? I fuckin hate smackheads. You used to be well cool before, but… I dunno, you’re just…
   -Just what? A smackhead? I don’t even have a habit. You can’t group people, Stakki. What? I’m fuckin up cos I hate five O?
   -No, Spid, I saw you. That wasn’t contempt. That wasn’t hatred: it was fear. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when you and Gary went scuttling down the cellar like a couple of fuckin rats. I can’t even trust you anymore. You’re just going down the same old road to hell with your fuckin mate.
   He’s staring into my eyes now, a vision of ugly, vicious twattery, pure disgust showing on his face.
   -‘Scuse me if I don’t exist, Stakki. What’s your fockin problem? I ask.
   -I’ll tell you what your fockin problem is you stupid cunt: you’re an evil bastard.
   -What? I don’t even know ya!
   -Yeah, well I’ve known Spid for years and as soon as he meets you…
   -I went to school with him-
   -As soon as he starts hanging around with you he turns into some wannabe punk rock fuckin hero, I mean heroin, for fuck sake, it was you who introduced him to it, you bastard-
   -I don’t do gear cos Gary tells me to, Stakki, I have my own mind-
   -Yeah, right, so tell me the truth- it was Gary brought it, first time, you told me so-
   -We took it together
   -You wouldn’t have thought of that on your own-
   -I’m not a kid. What the fuck?
   -Right, so now you’re gonna tell me you can come off it just as easily as you went on it…
   -I’m not fockin on it, I just use it sometimes
   -That cunt’s on it alright! He’s pointing at me now, like a cartoon, looks like steam’s gonna come out of his ears at any second, shouting –enjoy your injections, Spid, you stupid bastard.
   -I can stop whenever I want to. Just fock off will you, Stakki?
   -No, I won’t fock off, sticking needles in your arms for fuck sake, and you don’t wanna stop do you, cos it’s so nice living in shit. You’ve forgotten who you are, you know that?
   -Fock sake, Stakki, I’m up for a new flat, what you mean, living in shit? Fockin ask Kiwi about my new flat-
   -What about you Gary? Got that central heating fixed yet? Or you too busy teaching my friend how to shoot heroin? I mean that’s the only thing you ever fix, ain’t it? Cos you’ll never fix your life.
Just now I see Kiwi walk into the hall, puzzled.
   -Someone say my name? What’s goin on?
   -Tell him about my flat, Kiwi!
Spid’s irate now, really getting in Stakki’s face and I swear they’re gonna fight at any minute. I honestly can’t be arsed with all this. It’s not like I’ve not heard it all before, just didn’t realise Stakki couldn’t stand the sight of me. His loss. Like I told him, he doesn’t know me. Just cos you’ve chatted with people now and again and greet them when you see them around doesn’t make you bosom buddies. But this, him going on with himself like this is totally out of the blue. Last person I’d expected to turn nasty.
   -Chill out, you guys and come get some food. I heated you a plate up Staks and it’s gone cold already. Yeah, your flat’s gonna be wicked, Spid, petal.
   -See, you heard her. Why are you going on with yourself about Gary?
   -What the fuck’s going on, boys? Behave now, come on, we’re all friends here.
I’m biting my nails now, getting the anxiety creeping through me. I’m really not for this shit. Thought we were gonna just drop the van off and chill for a bit.
   -I’m an evil cunt, Kiwi, right, remember that, an evil fucker, I say.
   -Leave it out, Stakki, Gary’s my mate, right.
   -Nah, Kiwi, he’s human trash.
   -Oh, just fuck off, will you, Stakki.
Kiwi comes and sits down next to me, puts her arm around me. Her body’s warm through the little orange vest top she’s wearing and she smells of patchouli oil. I lean into her and put my head on her shoulder. I love that girl. Love that girl since the first moment I laid eyes on her. Now she’s kissing me on the cheek and whispering in my ear, asking me if I’m alright. God, it feels good, and I make a conscious decision to stop fucking about like a teenager and just tell her how I feel. I’ve not even told Spid. She’s holding me tight and shouting at her brother
   -What the fuck has Gary done to offend you so badly?
   -What the fuck hasn’t he done?
   -What the fuck hasn’t he done, Spid’s mimicking now, shaking his head from side to side, -Christ, Stakki, can you tell us all where all this is leading?
   -I can tell you where all this is leading you, you poor, sad, pathetic bastard. You’ve not grown up at all, have you? It’s all a fuckin big laugh, ain’t it? Ooh, ain’t we big, ooh, ain’t we cool, punk rock. Real punks don’t use heroin, you sad losers. God you’re such a hard bastard, eh, Spid? But you’re gonna end up dead, and I hope that hit you love so much is worth it. Just don’t expect me to come to your funeral. And as for that piece of shit; Kiwi, I don’t wanna see you anywhere near him ever again, alright?
   Kiwi laughs in bewilderment and I can see she’s totally incredulous.
   -What? Who the fuck are you to tell me who I can and can’t see? Look, Stakki, you’re just coming down off those pills, come and eat, everything will look different tomorrow, trust me. Just come and eat.
   -Yeah, pills, why’s that so fuckin alright? Eh? You never hear of people dying off pills? Cos they do. Wanker.
   -Yeah, yeah, Spid, whatever. I can’t be bothered arguing any more. I’m worried about you is all. Selfish cunt.
   -So it’s all Gary’s fault, right?
Kiwi’s kissing my ear now, fuck knows how she can stand it, cos I can’t stand the smell of myself. A bath would be heaven. She kisses my cheek again, then raises her eyes to her brother.
   -I’m serious Kiwi, stop fuckin about. He’s bad news. Gary, this is the last thing I’m gonna say to you. You’re such a fuck up. You fuckin stink. Your ribs are showing through your clothes. Your skin’s a fuckin disaster. You’re covered in festering needle marks and bruises from head to toe. You leave your putrid needles in the bathroom wherever you go…just get the fuck out and get yourself into a rehab or go overdose yourself or something before you drag everyone else to hell with you.
   -Yeah, well, at least I don’t pretend to be mates with someone I can’t stand.

Immediately, I think of Stan. But that’s different. Tania. No, I like Tania. Spid keeps shouting, so angry that the spit-spray’s flying from his mouth, clouds of miniscule droplets highlighted in the hall lamp. And Stakki, shouting back, face flame-red:
I get up from the stairs, Kiwi’s hand stretching out to me as I go, touching my fingers, following as I walk straight past Stakki, open the front door and spit in his face as I walk out into the cold night air.
   -Gary, come back!
I ignore her and just keep on walking.

The sky’s thrown an orange-purple blanket over the stars and I’m turning the corner, breaking into a run, an overwhelming feeling of utter nothingness welling up behind my eyes.

© Vee 1993-2012 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Memories from Sheffield, UK

That was me, twenty-fuck-knows-something,
Back seats of a bus with Kev. "See this blade," he says, eyes straight-forward,
Missing nothing,
Puffing on a pavement-picked re-roll,
"Stash it in yer bag fer us flower?" Think I'm falling for that one?
So he keeps hold of it,
Hands shaking slightly
Like the hardman he dreams of being. Got a teenth of gear on us, and him, his rocks
And I worry more about the knife:
Though the knife won't cut me:
That's meant for some other cunt.
That was the thing with Kev, Couldn't just leave things be. I'd been clean for a while,
Smiling to myself in anticipation.
And Kev's a caring bloke.
Seeing me right, seeing I don't go over
(See the joke,
Him with a blade and the rest? But for us, back then, it was like that:
Like everything was normal
And one day we'd just wake up
And smell the clover) So I tip what I want in the spoon
And Kev's going mental like,
"You planning suicide or wot?"
Cunt tries scooping some out
And we bicker,
Snot flying, Til I agree.
Nuff folks died like this. Never forgot that day.
Kev givving us a dig in the back of me leg and
having to do more straight after anyway.
Looked after me did Kev. Coulda punched his fuckin lights out at the time

No one's got nothing. Fuck all. Seriously.
Nothing. And we're all loitering round the
market, sweating in various shades of
dishevelled grey. It's autumn, and crowds of
starlings are swooping in circles over the river,
ready for migration. "Wish I could fuckin migrate," says Deano.
"Some fuckin decent gear in Thailand, and it's
dirt cheap."
"Yeah. Bollocks to this place."
"Hold up, check it out"
There's Paul with a fuck off grin from ear to ear. And we're round him now like flies round shit,
shoving without remorse to be first in line for
poxy sub-sized clingfilm wraps of the devil's
very own elixir. Me and Sid go together to the men's bogs across
the road in Sheffield's finest fuckin tearooms
and I watch him go in his fem, shaking like a
puppet on meth as he fixes his habitual
snowball. Takes me longer, not sunk to the depths of the femoral, but vein hunting's a proper pain in the
arse these days. And I ain't for snowballin. I'll
save that for the winter down Firth Park.
And as it goes in I'm unsurprisingly
disafuckinpointed. It's cut with so much crap it
barely makes me well. So it's back down the market for a rant at the
former-saviour now-cum-cheeky-cunt. Of course he's long gone. Next time I see him, he's sat in the back yard of
the rehab, crutches by his side and an empty
denim tube where his left leg should have
been. "Fuck sake, what happened? Fuck, mate, I'm so
fuckin sorry, fuck, fuck fuck!"
"One word. No, two, actually. Artery. Gangrene." I can see in his eyes we're no longer
frienemies, just fucked up memories of a life
that shouldn't have been.


We've just scored some fuckin dynamite. Not
had nothing half decent in ages. Joe pulls up his
battered white nova outside a 1930s semi on
Parson Cross and me and Geni step out onto the
tarmac pavement.
We all push past overgrown privet, avoiding broken bottles, staffie-shit and crushed cans in
gone-to-seed grass and push the ajar door open.
When is a door not a door?
When it's a jar.
And up the uncarpeted stairs is a room where
two kids sit on a fuck-stained mattress. They look all of twelve, the pair of them.
Joe exchanges notes and bags with them and
they start cooking up. Well, the boy does.
"How the fuck old are you two?"
I ask as I watch the boy pull the half-empty pin
out of the girl's scrawny arm and set to finding a vein for himself.
Joe and Geni and mirroring the process, 'cept
Geni's holding up the needle to me
"Ladies first, petal, Joe can do his own..."
Fuck this.
And the girl's answering me through half-closed eyes
And I was right.
Fuck this.
I might be rattling like a cunt but I'm outta here.
Rather have a dig in the back yard than sit through this macabre fuck show.
Yeah, I'm outta here.
The faces of those two kids and Geni's dirty
needle, outstretched towards me forever
etched into my mind.

 © Vee 1993-2012

Apologies to all who have been waiting for Chapter Three of Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way. I've been running around trying to find a home...
Well, it's posted now, so hope you all enjoy reading.
This is old, old stuff...
I'm working on more stories from The Old Man at the moment, but it's nowhere near finished yet.

Gravediggin' Under the Mancy Way Chapter 3

Here's Chapter 3 for you. Artwork by me X

Community Care

   Spid’s a lucky, lucky bastard. How the fuck he does it, only he knows. Okay, I’m lying, cos I know how he did it: Stakki’s sister.
   This place is falling apart and the fact that they were only building it thirty years ago as part of an ‘urban regeneration’ makes you wonder if they’ll be knocking the new places down in another thirty. I wasn’t even born, but the people who remember will tell you about the big lorries of prefabricated concrete driving up and down when they were building the crescents and all that. The Victorian terraces were unfit for human habitation, they’d said. Slums. “Unfit for purpose” is the new cliché: that’s what they were saying about this place ten years after it went up. And they’ll say it again. If we’d’ve had the money to renovate them, or a landlord who gave a shit, the old terraces would have had all mod cons plonked in’em and be in perfect working order: plenty still stand and no one’s pulling those down. Ironic as it is, they’re building near replicas now (just scaled down, hard to believe though that is; the windows and doors smaller and cheaper, without the fireplaces, cellars or character).
   But they wanted to cram people in like fleas on an old dog. And don’t forget the constant need for lining the pockets of the bigwigs, eh? So that’s where the Hulme crescents came in, with their dimly lit so-called deck access and unaffordable, under-floor heating systems. They had the nerve to lie that they’d based the plans for them on the Royal Bath Crescents: even named them after their Georgian architects. Talk about taking the piss. I mean, do you see the resemblance? Any resemblance? Who visits Hulme and thinks, wow, what a beautiful place! It resonates with the spendour of polite Georgian England! Nah, I didn’t think so. S’pose they just thought because we were from generations of poor folk, that we must be stupid, eh? 
   So here we are, just down the road from the beauty of Robert Adam Crescent, where the architecture’s been condemned, and just across from Rolls Crescent and Royce Road, in the place where there’re less cars per population than virtually anywhere else in the entire effin country. Well, if you checked the prices of the insurance premiums round here, you’d think everyone drove Bentleys.  And as for interior and exterior décor, well that’s the only thing about this place that’s looking good. Every wall in Spid’s flat is covered with graffiti. He’s got a foldout table with his decks on and a speaker on each side. I love this old place. It’d probably be dead already without the squatters. Keeping it alive. It’s probably the most vibrant part of Manchester at the moment and everyone wants a piece of it. Musicians, DJs, artists, poets: people are coming from all over just to party and get a piece of this place. It feels like history in the making, well, underground history at least, but we know that’s the only history worth reading. And the parties we have here are fuckin legendary. But tonight we’re going down PSV, or the Lighthouse or the Caribbean Club as it’s also known, which brings me back to Stakki Kays. And his sister, Kiwi.
   Spid’s getting rehoused into one of the new flats. Otterburn Close’s days are numbered. Kiwi filled the forms in for him. It’s not that Spid’s illiterate or anything; we went to school together, just down the road from here, back in the day. That’ll be gone too soon, meet the rage of the bulldozers along with the rest of the place, no doubt. Seems office complexes, commuter hotels and exclusive, gated housing developments are more important than local businesses or educating poor kids these days. I mean, they don’t even give us a Dales. Everyone knows it’s the cheaper version, so what do they give us? Asda. Well, moving on, Kiwi knows how to answer the questions on the form: that’s the difference between her and me old mate. Spid works the odd evening cash in hand for her and they got talking. From a conversation about how the Prince’s Trust gave her a grant to set up in business producing and selling her herbal highs and the free holiday in Crete she got through a women’s charity, they got round to chatting about Community Care grants off the social. And rehousing forms. Either the council or DSS had a total systems failure or Kiwi’s a bloody good writer, because when they’ve finished building the flat he’s been offered, he’s getting a grand to kit it out. He showed me the letters. But back to tonight, and we’re getting ready for a night out and I’ve just put some heavy Conflict on the decks. The Ungovernable Force.
   -You still got them free tickets?
I have to shout over the music, but Spid can’t hear me and keeps shouting
Back at me.
He eventually understands but shrugs.
   -Fuck knows where I put ‘em. Be alright, Staks’ll let us in, he put us on the guest list.
   -Funny old life, eh?
   -Funny old life. Lost the bus, losing the squat and turning into a fockin Norman Normal.
Norman Normal. See what I mean? Where do all these names originate from? Maybe there really was a really normal bloke called Norman once but I guess this one’s more to do with the rhyme than Happy Larry. Larry the Lamb? Who knows. If you find out, drop us a line.
   -You’ll be working in a bank next, Spid.
   -I’ll be robbing a fockin bank if it all goes tits up.
Spid’s sitting on his battered old yellow-brown sofa and rolling a spliff the size of the Camberwell carrot from Withnail and I. He’s still got the same skinning-up tray I painted him for his birthday on one of my mum’s trays way back when we were fifteen. I did the sides black and the wobbly edges silver and on the tray itself it’s got a rip off of the Subhumans Day the Country Died picture, except the snotty, puking punk’s got Spid’s face. Yeah, we’ve been friends for years, me and Spid.
   When the record finishes, the door’s shaking like it’s being kicked in and someone’s shouting to be let in.
   -Open the door you fockin cunt!
   -Ha ha, that must be Kiwi.
Me and Spid are laughing now. She’d been nearly breaking the door down and we hadn’t even noticed. But it ain’t Kiwi, it’s a bunch of people from the squats and buses we vaguely know. No matter, the more the merrier. It’s always like this at Spid’s place, people in and out all hours, punks, hippies, Travellers, students; anyone up for a good time. They’ve got Special Brews and White Lightening; one of them’s drinking from a bottle of Strongbow.
   -Eh, put anuva record on then Gaz
So I’m flicking through the records til I find The Day The Country Died, cos seeing the tray’s made me want to listen to it. I put it on a bit quieter than before so we can hear each other, swear I’m going deaf, the amount of noise I force on my ears sometimes. We get to talking, me and Spid, about the old times, people we used to know.
   -Yeah, Jascha, he was sound; wonder what happened to him?
Last time I saw Jascha we were stopping in the bus somewhere in Devon and the tourists got a bit ratty.
   -Yeah, remember him telling that stiff arse American couple they were parked up in a designated rave zone, and they were breaking the law if they didn’t want to join the party?
   -Gaz, they were Canadian. Yeah, I remember that, fockin comedian he was.
   -And they either believed him, or-
   -Or they were shitting their pants
   -Shitting their pants probably.
   -More likely, yeah.
I stretch and laugh. Good memories, definitely. Funny how those memories always come with some sort of block on the bad parts. Cos at the time, I was whingeing a lot and I remember Spid whingeing a whole lot more, but, yeah, when I look back it feels like it was fuckin paradise.
   -I was pissing my sides when they drove off in their swanky camper.  
   -Good night, that party.
   -Yeah, seriously. Talking of parties, what time’s Dred-Rock start?

   Me and Spid push past the queue outside the Lighthouse and lean up to the ticket window.
   -On the guest list mate-  Spid grins, shoving the free tickets through the slot under the window. See, he’s not that disorganised after all. –Spid and Gary.
   -Alright, go on, have a good night.
The girl behind the window rips the tickets and hands them back to Spid as she starts to serve the next person.
   It’s eleven thirty and the bar and dance floor are still more or less dead. People are mainly sitting on the raised platforms behind camouflage-netting, the so-called chill out corners. The smell of weed hangs with fag smoke in the air and I’m looking around to see if I clock anyone I know. Up on the stage there’s Stakki with his decks on the table in front of the massive wall-hanging I painted for him, a skinny girl with dreads on the decks, better looking than Stakki, but that’s what he asked me to do and for the twenty quid he offered me, it seemed like a bargain at the time. Every time I see it, I always notice the mistakes on it. He’s churning out all the old favourites, heavy dub stuff. There’s always a bit of jungle later, but not yet, and it’s not like the crowd’s going wild or nothing. It’ll pick up later, it always does.
   Shalom’s behind the bar. There’s not even a queue. Spid’s chatting her up like usual. She’s a beautiful woman, no mistaking that: high cheekbones, long, black hair she’s wearing in braids tonight. Full, painted lips, always glossy and sparkly with that lip gloss she’s always putting on. Spid gets all schmaltzy about her sometimes, going on with himself like, ah, Gaz, I wanna know what that lip gloss tastes like. So I asked her once, Shalom, can I borrow your lip gloss a minute? She looked at me in a sort of what the fuck? way, then handed it to me. I unscrewed the lid and I went to paint Spid’s lips with it, Oi, what you doing, you nutter? Shalom was asking, but Spid was pissing his sides, just licked his lips and said, Strawberry. Her skin’s flawless, looks like she’s never even had a spot in her life, all translucent like those bars of toffee you used to get in the swimming pool vending machine, with the little hammer you were supposed to break it with. Yeah, whatever happened to that? It came in a little aluminium tray. Highland toffee, that’s the stuff. Maybe they still sell it to tourists in the Highlands, eh?
   And there’s Stan. He’s sat with the Gardner over in the farthest corner, but he sees me and stands, beckoning me over.
   -Oi, Stan the man!
He looks proper wasted, eyes red and slitty. The Gardner greets me and I sit down.
   -So who was that bird you sent to see me then? Stan asks.  
   -Ah, that was the lovely Tania. She found you, then.
Stan pulls out two tenners and waves them at me with a leer of satisfaction. Here we go. I never meant for him to do one. I know, call me a hypocrite, cos it’s not like I’ve never done it myself. I’m not being funny, but it’s proper pissed me off. Pisses me off that he’s gloating over it like he’s a fuckin hero for pulling a fast one on Tania. Thinks he’s a clever cunt, but I don’t see bragging’s ever had any purpose.
   -You burned her, ya tight bastard!
   -Gaz yer goin soft. You got the hots for her or somefink?
I’m shaking my head, part in answer and part in annoyance. Stan’s still going on with himself
   -She’ll learn one day and by that time she’ll be doing it to some other virgin, that’s just the way it is.
   -Yeah, yeah.
Even the veterans get fucked over every so often, but not like that. Well, now I’m gonna have to tell her something to keep her sweet. We’ve all had our share of shit in this game.
   -Well enjoy yourself, cos she might be coming down later.
   -Nice one! There was twenty more an’ all. Got meself some class skunk from the great Gardner in the sky. So we’ll be seeing her later, then? Maybe then me and her can get together, share a blunt and get down to some serious romance. Nice little body she’s got on her, eh, Gaz?
And he’s laughing like the old pervert he is. He’s well into his forties and Tania’s just nineteen. I might look like I don’t have morals, but like I said, I like Tania and I’m feeling a bit of a cunt for sending her to him in the first place, but losing forty quid’s better than whatever he has in his mind now and I remind myself to warn her off. I just give him an evil and he claps me on the back, cackling and saying
   -Ah, Gaz, soft as shite.
   The Gardner’s the name we all give this bloke who’s sat here, chain rolling and chain smoking his home-grown weed. He’s got sensi, skunk and whatever else takes his fancy, which he calls organic. Two flats knocked through in Otterburn, boarded windows and tin foil lining give his gardening project the perfect hiding place. It’s like summer in Barbados when you go in there. Sunglasses are optional  is his catchphrase when you walk through the door. All lights and fans, and he’s got filters rigged to the vent system so no one on the outside smells nothing, or at least, that’s the idea. Cos every time I’ve been up there, either I’ve got a nose like a sniffer dog, or the gavvers are turning a blind eye. Either way, he does an exceptional trade and never gets busted. Fair play to him, he looks happy enough tonight, and he’s one of the nicest blokes you could meet.
   -Just leave it, Stan, okay?
   -If it’s herbs she wanted, I’ll help her out; always happy to be of service, grins the Gardner. Stan’s laughing and miming someone having a toot.
   -Aah, in that case, I can’t help you, and in that case also, you did her a favour, Stan. But the karma will get you in the end, and I advise compensation in the form of green, my friend.
   -That’s what I was gonna tell you, Gaz, I was doing her a favour. Anyway, right, you don’t know me, I don’t know you: I’m not Stan, I’m just his mate, up from London, ‘cept I used to live here, right? I was just round there when he was out and took the opportunity to do a bit of business with her. ‘Cept she never showed up. The guy let me down. What’s me name?
I just play along with it. He enjoys some sort of fantasy world where he’s some superfly diamond geezer, but everyone else knows he’s just a tosser who has to shave his head really close because he thinks if he does that people won’t realise he’s gone bald. Forty-something going on fourteen.
   -Uh, Rob, yeah?
   -Rob, fockin nice one…Rob. You fockin twat, Gaz, Rob.
   -Alright, but I don’t fockin know ya so I’m gonna do one now.
   -Suits me, ya smelly bastard.
I go back to the bar to find Spid. He’s still chatting to Shalom.
   -Alright Shalom? Look, Spid; if Tania comes in and you see Stan, you don’t know him, right?
Why the fuck I’m bothering to play Stan’s game is beyond me.
   -Gaz, I don’t even know what she looks like.
   -Agh, just forget about it.
   Spid’s winking at Shalom now and shuffling off across the dancefloor, doing her a silly dance to try and make her laugh. He never gives up. There’s a throwback from the sixties dancing too, enjoying the lights, her arms in the air, grey hair long and held under a tie dye headband, pink, wire-framed glasses and a psychedelic dress. She moves in snaky spirals, like she’s still a teenager, eyes half-closed, content. I love it when I see the older ones still having a good time. This place is good like that, you get a real mix of people from all walks of life. Yeah, PSVs ain’t bad.
   -D’ya wanna drink Gaz?
   -Wouldn’t say no, cheers lil sis.
Shalom hands me a can of Red Stripe but I ask her for ginger beer instead. She cracks the ring pull as she’s taking the money off a bloke with loads of facial piercings. Face like a fuckin pincushion. I mean, I got a few in me nose and me ears, but you can’t even tell what this geezer’s face looks like. Maybe that’s the idea. Just as she turns to put his money in the till, the doors open and in walks Tania with a group of her uni mates, two blokes and a girl.
   -Oh, shit, here she comes. You don’t know Stan, right?
Last thing I want is shit off Stan calling me a grassing bastard. Why the fuck did I send her there? Anyone but Stan.
   -I don’t know him anyway.
Tania sees me straight off and runs up to me, tugging on my sleeve.
   -Where’s your mate then?
   -Hi Tan, alright?
   -Oh, don’t act the innocent with me: where the fuck is he?
Tania’s shifting from one foot to the other, hyperactive.
   -Nah, seriously, I don’t know what the fock you’re on about. What mate? What the fock happened to you? Stop pulling my fockin clothes, woman.
I give her my best smiley face, like. Look, I told you before, I like her: I never set her up. I’m as pissed off with Stan as she is. And if you don’t believe me, I want her to.
   -Yeah you do, you know exactly what I’m on about. I always treated you right, Gary, I thought you were my friend.
   -You are my friend, Tan, you’re my mate, you’re cool. I like you. Now tell me what happened.
   -Where the fuck is your so-called mate? If you’re my friend, you’ll tell me where he is!
   -Cockney fucking Stan, that’s fucking well who!
I’ve never seen Tania like this. She was never like this with me before, and trust me, I’ve scammed her good and proper, but all friendly, like.
   -Oh, you went down there, right? What, wasn’t he in?
   -Oh, the bastard was in alright!
   -Hang on a minute, it’s Stan we’re talking about here. Cut the bastard bit out, eh?
Her eyes are like saucers now, like they’re about to pop out of her face.
   -Look, he ripped me off, alright? Now where is he?
I shrug my shoulders and shake my head, all concerned.
   -No, not Stan. Look, I don’t know where he is, but he’s not like that anyway. He’d not rip off one of me mates, no way.
   -Well, the bloke I saw wasn’t even a Cockney!
   -Did he say his name was Stan?
   -…uh, no,but…
   -Well, there you go.
   -What does Stan look like?
   -Black guy. Funki dreads.
Now, I’m wondering how I’m going to carry this information to Stan, not that it matters in the end. In the long term, it’ll all be jumbled up with the rest of the bullshit she encounters if she stays on the bumpy old downhill moped.
   -I told you. It was probably one of his mates. He don’t exactly keep the best company.
   -Well, if you see him, tell him I want my forty quid back off his mate.
   -Forty quid? Did you a favour really. You that desperate to get yourself a habit? I told you; you shouldn’t be doing that shit. Do yourself a favour and get yourself a nice bag of skunk and lay off the brown for a bit, eh?
   -Just tell him.
   -I’ll do that.
I feel sorry I ever met Tania sometimes. But when I think about it, I just remind myself that if it hadn’t’ve been me, it would’ve been someone else. And I try to look out for her in my own way.

   The place is filling up, the dancefloor slightly populated. Shalom comes to say bye to me: her shift finished, she’s heading for the New Ardri for the herbal tea party.
   -Been here four hours and it’s only just getting going. Well, I’m off; have a good one, say bye to Spid for me.
But I don’t have to: he must have been watching her from wherever he’d buggered off to, cos he’s already walking over, giving her his best hug and a kiss on the cheek. Like I say, he doesn’t give up easy.
Tania’s dragging me onto the dancefloor and jumping around too fast even for the General Levy that’s bassing out of the sound system booyaka booyaka
   -Got some phet if you want some
   -Nah, yer alright
   -You sure?
   -Never touch the stuff

Now I feel someone putting their hands on my shoulders and I turn round to see Spid, grinning from ear to ear.
   -Alright Gaz, who’re your friends?
   -Tania, Spid: Spid, Tania
Tania’s giving Spid a big hug now. Thank fuck for that. I didn’t wanna dance anyway. Can’t be arsed with dancing, truth be told. She’s trying to get Spid to dance and they’re talking, looking over at Tania’s friend, who’s dancing with her other two mates. They look like right pricks, dancing like a load of corpses, stiff and jerky. That’s why I don’t like dancing to anything except punk. Rarely even bother with that, but you can’t go wrong with a bit of jumping around. Then Tania’s dragging Spid up to the girl she came in with and putting their hands together like Bob Marley and the two politicians, except this is definitely a little more romantic. So much for his dreams of lifelong love with Shalom, but seeing as she’s not interested, he’ll have to fish elsewhere. I hear Tania’s squeelie, girlie voice even over General Levy
   -Sarah! This is Spid, he’s gorgeous, isn’t he? Oh my god!
There’s quite a lot of oh my goding and Spid’s sucking it all up, laughing along with it, taking the plastic pint glass of purplish liquid she’s passing to him and smelling it, giving her one of his quizzical looks.
   -What’s that? Meths? Makes you blind, what, are you an alchie, it ain’t that bad is it?
Thinks he’s funny, but so does she.
   -Snakebite and black; taste it, it’s nice.
He’s slurping out of the glass, downs quite a bit before he hands it back.
   -So you’re a mate of Tania’s, right?
   -I live with her actually.
   -So you’re not her mate then?
   -Course I am.
I leave Spid to do his spiel and get myself back to the corner. Time to sit down. I don’t see Stan any more, thank fuck, but Kiwi’s here, sitting with a group of people we’d hung outside the Sally with last summer, on and off. Kiwi shouts me and a couple of people shift up so I can sit down.
   -You comin to the party after? The bloke next to me spoke.
   -Might as well; where is it?
He hands me a photocopied hand-written flyer with a map on the back.
   -It’s at our place. We’re getting evicted next week, so might as well make the most of it before the twenty eight days are up. Stakki’s going down later with the decks and there’s a couple of bands. Me brother took his decks down earlier, should be massive.
   -Sounds good. Oi, Kiwi, You going to this party?
   -Yeah; come with us. I’m going down in a bit with Aaron.
   -Yeah, I will, nice one.
Yeah, I’m happy I’ll be leaving with Kiwi. Spid comes up the steps and over to me.
   -I’m getting off now, going back to Sarah’s.
   -Who, that mate of Tania’s?
Aaron shouts over at Spid, winking at him
   -Alright Cassanova?
He’s obviously seen something I’ve missed.
   -You’re not coming to this party then, Spid?
I hand him a flyer, but he gives it straight back to me.
   -Nah, Gaz, I got business to attend to.
   -Alright Spidster, see yer tomorrow, right.
   -You bet, come round about lunchtime.
   -Nice one.
   -See yer Kiwi.
Spid slopes off, looking over his shoulder at me, laughing.

*   *   *

   I wake up in a darkened room full of people sitting around on various mattresses and floor cushions. Indian throws hand on the walls and some bloke with a guitar is singing some Bob Dylan song. There’s loud techno coming from somewhere else and jungle from another direction. And drums. Nothing makes sense. The floor’s littered with dog ends and empty cans. I rub my eyes, yawning, aching again like a twat on this hard bleeding floor, and sit up. Dawn light’s filtering into the room through an orange chiffon scarf someone’s pinned over the little skylight in the sloping ceiling.
   -Wossa time?
A crusty girl in a worn woollen jumper turns round and smiles at me as I check my pockets. Can’t believe I’ve fallen asleep in public, but I’ve not been robbed, thank fuck.
   -You’ve been out for about four hours; it’s about six, I think.
I remember getting here, just don’t remember coming into this room.
   -Was I in ‘ere when I fell asleep?
   -Dunno, you were crashed out when I came in.
   -Shit. Have you seen Kiwi?
   -Kiwi- Stakki’s sister. Bright red hair.
    -Don’t think so.
My head’s in pieces. I’m getting to my feet now in hot and cold sweats, skin creeping. Mouth tastes like someone’s shat in it, ears blocked, nose and eyes running the Manchester fuckin marathon. I walk the corridor, checking for a bathroom. The second room on the left doesn’t have a door and I look in. It’s like punk pillar at midday, ‘cept these aren’t punks, but it’s full, even the empty bath’s got people sitting in it, sharing spliffs and drinking. There’s a bloke sat on the toilet with his trousers round his ankles and by the stench, he’s actually shitting in public. Well, it takes all sorts, eh?
   -Is there another bog in this place?
The public shitter replies happily as he looks up from his NME,
   -One on every floor, man. It’s palatial, man, patatial…
   -Cheers mate.
   -Let me know how you get on, mate. Do you ever stick your hair up, by the way? I’ve always wanted a mohawk…
His words fade as I head towards the stairs.
   The bathroom on the next floor down has a door, but when I open it, I’m confronted with a girl throwing her guts up, her mate slapping her on the back. Well, at least there’s someone else who feels as bad as me, cos my guts are starting to feel a bit like hers probably do, but by the looks of her, she’s got a considerably longer time to wait until she can heal her wounds. The ground floor bathroom’s locked and there’s a fuckin queue of four people. I seriously can’t be arsed with this, but I need water.
   -Have they been in there long?
A waifer-like girl in a cheesecloth dress shakes her head and the door opens.
   -Save my place, love?
She nods and I head for the kitchen. There’s a massive table in there like the type they have in the costume dramas, the ones the servants prepare the food on, and there’re people all sat round it drinking mushroom wine. They start chatting to me about the mushrooms, how they got them down Heaton park, asking me to join them, but I just go fill up my pill bottle from the tap, telling them to have fun as I leave.
   I don’t have to go outside or anywhere else, because the queue’s died down that fast even the cheesecloth girl’s gone and the bathroom’s empty. Maybe they all went in together, who cares? The washbasin’s filthy, its blue enamel coated in crusty white scum which has obviously been building up over a period of years rather than weeks. We’ve got soft water in Manchester, so you can’t blame limescale for that. I run the tap for a bit, washing my spoon and rinsing out my mouth, drinking a bit, though I make sure I don’t touch my mouth on the tap, cos it’s sprouting black mould. You think I’m not bothered about stuff like that, don’t you? Think I like it? Fuck off. Do you like mildew and shit? You don’t, do you? So why the fuck should I?
   I fill up from my bottle cos the mould on the tap’s put me off and I sit on the bog lid to empty the gear into me spoon, adding a bit of citric from the film container I keep it in. I like this opaque plastic one, matches the clipper lighter I’ve got now. Small things please small minds, my mum used to say. But I don’t wanna think about my mum now. Not now. I give it a bit of a crush with the orange lid once the water’s in and give that a lick when I’ve finished, force of habit. I’m heating it now and that divine smell…I’ll maybe tell you something else about this when we get to know each other better, but I’ll keep it to myself for now…the clear, brown liquid’s formed now and I drop in my filter, feeling the warmth through the plastic as I pull it up into the syringe, then flick the bubbles up and push them out.
   -Hurry up, mate.
There’s someone hammering on the door now and another voice:
   -What’re they doing in there? Shagging?
I put the pin back between my teeth and shove everything else back into my inside pocket, get my shoelace. Roll up my sleeve. See, there is a reason I cut off the sleeves on this fuckin coat, and I’m not regretting it now. So I tie myself off and swap the pin for the end of the lace between my teeth. My fuckin arms are destroyed. I’m feeling around for even a quarter-decent vein and hoping to fuck I find one here, cos I’ve done the rounds all over the place and it’s not getting any easier, and the cunts trying to break the door off its hinges ain’t helping.
   -Hang on
I shout at them through clenched teeth.
   -Well, hurry up, I’m bursting.
   If it was a bloke I’d tell him to go piss outside, but it’s a female voice so I just tell her I’ll be out in a minute. After digging around in all the well-worn scabs, I’m feeling like going in the fem. I’ve tried both arms and hands, between the fingers and I’m not even bothering with the legs at the moment cos it’s just not been happening there lately. I mean, if they call this having a dig, I reckon it’s a fuckin exercise in gravediggin. Seriously, I always said I wouldn’t go in the arteries, but there’s always a point when you stop giving a fuck. Fuck sake. Every time I pull back the plunger there’s a fuckin bubble, and I hate missing. It stings to fuckery. So I try just above the outside-thumb part of my wrist. And I fuckin miss. The vein’s wobbling around, pushing aside every time I try for it and this pin’s getting blunter every try. It’s almost like a fuckin tapestry needle. But here, here…we…fuckin…go…
   I try again and blood’s shooting into the barrel, cauliflowering into the brown. Jesus. My teeth let go of the lace and I push the plunger all the way as fast as it’ll go before the vein’s decided it’s had enough, pull back again and shoot the deep crimson back into my wrist.
   As I stand up, I flush the bog and it hits me like a truck. Not felt this for a long time. This stuff I got off Scarlets and it’s fuckin dynamite. There’ll be overdoses on this shit, trust me. I don’t give a fuck about the cunts knocking at the door any more now than I did before and I take my time, standing up stretching my arms high, arching my back and stretching my neck back as far as it’ll go. I take my time washing the pin, stashing my ‘quet before I open the door.
   -It’s all yours, mate. All yours.
Someone in the queue mutters under their breath at me
   -Fuckin smackhead
But do I look like I give a fuck? I’m way past the stage of wondering how they know. I mean, look at me: when I say I don’t have much meat on my bones, I ain’t exaggerating. And when I looked in the mirror just now, my eyes were pinned like poppy seeds. And besides, It’s not me who’s desperate for a piss: like I said, they can piss outside. If you don’t like it, don’t fuckin do it. End of. And like the saying goes, judge not. But I reckon those who preach it are the most judgemental of all…
   The front door’s wide open, mellow trance audible from the front room. I see Kiwi on the decks as I poke my head around the door. Stakki’s crashed out on the floor and a bloke with long ginger hair and a beard’s having a conversation with a woman I vaguely recognise. There’s a joss stick burning in a brass holder, dead pink ends protruding like the spines of a cactus from its central orb, lines of ash surrounding it in a dusty, grey star. Kiwi looks up and grins at me.
   -Where were you? Last time I saw you, you were sitting in the corner in that room with all them drums, knocking about on some bongos with some Rasta bloke, cained out of his box on sensi. Kept calling me daughter of Iration. Said his name was Moses. It was all getting a bit weird for me, so I came down here to see Stakki and you’d vanished when I came back to find you.
   -Fuck sake; I don’t remember how I got there, I just remember waking up in the attic.
   -What, and you missed the party?
   -I guess.
   -So that guy really is called Moses?
Turns out, I find this out later, but Moses had actually carried me upstairs like a kid and put a blanket over me cos I’d crashed out in the doorway of the drumming room and people were nearly standing on me. Yeah, I told you Moses is a top bloke. Heart of gold.
   -You sticking around? Asks the ginger bloke.
   -I need to get some sleep at some point, but yeah, what’s going on?
That’s Kiwi for you, always up for a party.
   -Aaron’s cooking a meal tonight if you’re up for it and Sam’s cooking space cakes for afters.
   -Wicked, I’ll bring me mushroom wine.
Kiwi sticks her tongue out, pulling a Filter record out of its sleeve. –Imagine calling a baby Moses!
   I slip out of the room and through the front door, this gear seeping through my veins like magic. I’m cotton-wool heavy. The sudden brightness outside hits my retina with a stealth of bright white light. Through blotches of light stuck on my eyes, I see a collapsed sofa in the long front garden grass, uni kids sitting half asleep, smoking. The morning’s surprisingly warm for the time of year, the kind of deceptive pre-spring day you get in England which you hope will last, but never does. I’m sitting on the doorstep, scratching my nose and leaning against the brick-built porch. Lighting a roll-up I made earlier and found squashed and dry in my back pocket, I inhale smoke with the new morning’s diesel. Close my eyes, enjoying the opiates, remembering better times from years ago, when I’d have closed my eyes and seen strange landscapes flitting behind my eyelids.
   I remember the first time I tasted heroin. Like magic: pure, fuckin magic. I was with Spid, but he never loved it like I did. When I talk to some cunts who say they didn’t like it, never touched it again, I don’t get it. Then I read about how some people have strong opiate receptors, some don’t. Some have nothing worth speaking of to enjoy it with in their chemical make up. So it’s all in the body chemistry and I’m glad to say, I’m one of the lucky ones. I struck gold. Yeah, the first time it was like going home. We were in Spid’s bedroom, but I breathed in that smoke off the foil and I was in a poppy field, the warm breeze blowing over me, these white and purple poppies everywhere, just swaying, sun warming me. I knew where I was but the image and texture of what I saw was so lucid. Floating, weightless, paradisiacal opium dreams. And I never looked back.
   Even though this gear’s fuckin dynamite like I said before, I wish I could bring back those times. Gotta get home, I’m thinking, get my head down, but I can’t be arsed to move. Some seriously nice fuckin gear, this. I love the way it tastes in my throat, the itchiness of my skin, the whole fuckin thing. Makes me remember why I can’t get clean: I don’t fuckin want to. Ten years I’ve been in this madness and Just now, just now, I can absolutely and bottom-of-the-heart-feelingly say I don’t ever, ever, ever want to let it go.
   Enjoy it while it lasts. After a bit, I open my eyes, the sun cutting into my pupils. I stand, yawning, stretch, and drag myself back inside and into the attic. I’ll get home later. Then I remember: I said I’d meet Spid. And apart from that, I’ve got work to do. There must be some potential earners in here. Like I said, this measly little bit I’ve got left won’t last forever.

*   *   *

   Spid’s looking at the blue translucent resin clock on the mantelpiece which stands amongst various American whisky bottle candle holders and match boxes. Twenty to nine. An X-Files poster on the wall depicts Mulder and Skully in soft, yellowish focus with the words The Truth is Out There. He turns and checks on Sarah. Still asleep, her mouth hangs open, pouting. He’s pulling back his side of the duvet, careful not to disturb her, and standing up, replacing the cover. The ashtray on the bedside table is overflowing with fag butts and roaches. Last night’s bag of skunk lays next to it, now only stalks, seeds and a couple of buds.
   Grabbing his clothes and shoes, he tiptoes over to the pile of clothes Sarah took off the night before. Sitting down next to them, he’s getting dressed, poking her trousers for the sound of keys. Nice one. Checking she’s still sleeping, he slides the trousers towards him, pockets first, and grabs the keys tight in his fist, shoving them into his pocket soundlessly. He’s nearly dressed now, just putting on his socks and boots, treading carefully across the carpet to the door. Sarah hasn’t even shifted. Leaving the room, he creeps downstairs and slips out into the street.

© Vee 1993-2012