New Flat, Old Self
So there I sat, on the floor of my brand-new London pad, amid boxes, bags, speakers, and various bits of equipment, thinking how nice it would be to have a fresh start, for this move to mark a new era in my hitherto indifferent existence. In this spirit, I thought it would be a good idea to stop getting stoned all the time. Although I felt bereft and bored without dope, I was also aware that constant use of it did me no good. In exile, I'd got into the habit of getting stoned all the time, rising midmorning and rolling a joint before doing anything, which hadn't usually made for a very productive day. Also, much as I didn't like to admit it, being constantly stoned did make me feel paranoid and shun society, which had the effect of further fuelling my isolation. But I couldn’t have been in the new flat more than two hours before I was popping out to find the local shop, getting some Rizlas and tobacco, and skulking back to roll an inaugural joint. What joy it brought. I find cannabis just accentuates whatever emotion I’m already feeling. In this case, the end result was being even more daunted by the unpacking I had to do, and less inclined to do it. But I foraged away, assembled the hi-fi, put some music on, and set about positioning things around the room as aesthetically as I could. I took particular pleasure setting up my rickety little recording-studio, because this, although a source of ongoing frustration in many ways, also represented pleasure and hope, and I had plans to keep myself busy in this regard in the months ahead.
Days and nights drifted by, with the low growl of traffic my constant companion. Sometimes I would try to pretend the growling of buses and trucks was the sea, ebbing and flowing, but the sea doesn’t have hooters, nor does it sound quite so impatient in its rhythms as people with schedules and deadlines to meet. I’d learned a grain or two of wisdom from my appointments with counsellor Nick, but I was no changed man, and it couldn't have been more than a week before I was travelling the handful of stops to Westbourne Park to rekindle things with Debbie. So much for fresh starts. Whilst I'd managed to say no to crack, with a struggle, when there were a hundred miles between us, there were now barely three miles keeping us apart, and they were easily traversed.
It was coming up to midnight, and there I was, fifty quid in pocket, furtively making my way down Droop Street to Debbie’s. I climbed the mean stone staircase, walked along the narrow walkway that led to her door. But what was this? Where once there’d been a wooden front-door, with panes of glass and letterbox below, there was now just steel, a flat metal sheet covering the whole. I knocked all the same, thinking perhaps someone had kicked it in and she'd had to get an emergency replacement. No answer. I knocked again. No answer. There's little worse than one's countdown to crack being interrupted. I was all keyed up for a session. I felt like a child who’d had his milkshake snatched before he’d even put lip to straw.
There were a few women chatting on the pavement across the road. As I stood there considering what to do, one of them called up to me, ‘Are you looking for Debbie?’ I went downstairs and crossed over, fully expecting to be told she was at the shops, or in so-and-so’s flat. Then one of them said, ‘Debbie died a few weeks ago.' I hadn't been expecting that. I stood there, slightly numbed by the news. 'You know what she was like,' she added. ‘What happened?’ I asked. None of them knew. 'The police sealed the door when they took the body,' one of them said, 'in case it's a crime-scene.' I pictured her brother, in a frenzy, pushing her about, both of them drunk, then suddenly he shoves too hard, she falls, bangs her head, never to rise again. I imagined her keeling over after a pipe, then, clutching her chest with one hand, crawling into the hall to call a neighbour. But my mournful speculation soon turned to selfishness, and I began wondering if one of these nightjars was a user. Maybe one of them wants to score. How can I drop a hint? There has to be a way of putting feelers out, without categorically stating I want crack. I wouldn't have to be too heavy-handed, because users know each other from the smallest sign. But doubt, or decency, probably the former, caused me to keep my mouth shut. I thanked them for the news, and made my way home.
I can't say my thoughts were noble or selfless as I lay there in bed. Once I’d got over my failure to score, my next feeling was one of unsentimental relief. Debbie's death had saved my skin. She was the only person I knew to score through. Now, barring a chance encounter with Sandra, the door to crack seemed barred and bolted. If, as I'd been hoping, I’d used that night, it would have led to my being jettisoned from London a second time. The shame of crawling back to my family would have been crushing. But, as things turned out, this was the start of nearly two years without crack, albeit more by chance than intention.
And here, for your entertainment, is a short example of one of my songs: Tarantula
See you soon I hope.