Signing On Day.
Thirty hours of no sleep is hanging over me like Medusa, almost imperceptibly turning my muscles to stone and paralysing me forever where I lay, on my time-worn lime green sofa. The unimaginable high I was experiencing a few short hours before, feels like another life ago, and has left me numb yet restless and alert.
I can’t hold my eyes shut any longer and they spring open like roller blinds. A blade of light, slicing through a gap in the curtains and cleaving the room in two, bisects my eyeball and lodges in my mind like a razor.
I groan wearily and turn from the light, pushing my face into the sofa cushions. After a few suffocating breaths of dust, I pull my head back onto the armrest and into the light, feeling the weight of my cheeks turning my mouth down at the sides. My face feels like a St. Bernard’s, my jowls pooling around my face where it meets the sofa. I roll my eyes forlornly and survey the living room.
The light permeating my orange linen curtains bathes the room in a horrible, dusty orange haze, morphing everything in the room into one Satsuma coloured moonscape. Overflowing ashtrays, CD’s, magazines, cutlery, clothing and assorted junk litter the mono-coloured land, forming deep ridges, valleys and mountains. In the corner a plastic carrier bag spews out a mix of spangled sweetie wrappers and toys in a psychedelic, volcanic wave that rolls and merges into Ben, who lays motionless on the dirty carpet, his head propped up on his trainers.
“Ben?” I ask. I know he is awake. We had been doing pills and coke all night and we won’t be sleeping for a long time yet, “Ben? Ben!”
“Whaat?” He wines as he slowly turns his face to meet mine, barely pulling his head up from his makeshift pillow. I give him my best lachrymose, puppy dog eyes.
“Could you close the curtains please?” I see Ben begin to protest but choose not to hear him, “It’s shining right in my eye.” I whine, “Please Ben, it’s keeping me awake.” I look him square in the eye and try the guilt trip “You know I’d do it for you.”
“You do it. It’s your fucking eyes.” Ben spits, and turns his back on me, sucking himself up into the foetal position. I open my mouth to argue but can only muster a weak exhalation of air. I can’t argue with Ben, we’ve lived the same story tonight, last night, this morning or whenever last night happened and I know where he’s coming from.
I push myself up from the sofa and almost cry, not because it’s too tough to do, but because it’s too easy. I obviously still have plenty of energy coursing through me. I hate this feeling; I want to be tired and embrace sleep but I just can’t switch off. At least it makes the walk to the curtains easier than expected though, and I negotiate my way across deep, orange crevasses and peaks to the offending window.
I take the curtains in my two fists, avoiding the light behind them like a vampire, yet struggling with a morbid fascination that pulls me toward it. I tentatively peel apart the curtains, peering through the gap. My eyeballs burst into flame and I squint through the retreating pain, seeing the usual grey horizon of office blocks, apartments and building sites. With its lifeless, overcast skies, the horizon looks like a sombre oil painting, painstakingly brushed onto the backdrop of a stage on which scenes of morbid intensity are to be played out.
My flat is located on the twenty-seventh floor of the Victoria apartment block, situated above the cavernous Victoria shopping centre, which puts me about forty floors above Nottingham’s central business district. I look down at the hordes of people swarming through the streets and my brain starts to rush. Looking down from this height, watching all the tiny people flow through the streets they look like blood flowing through veins. My thoughts are sprinting away from me, this would be a great shot for a film, the horizon, the fucked up clubber it all seems great the horizon is a metaphor, a prophetic fallacy but what about the clubber what’s he doing? What am I doing? Am I doing? The blood, the people as blood what does this mean? The streets, commerce, blood, lifeblood of commerce, then what are drugs? They’re commercial, but there’s something different, you buy a release, another reality, another reality, a door opening. A door, or a curtain is better with the play theme and the stage it pulls back the curtains you can see the machinations, who is pulling my strings? Where are my lines, is this all written, is this a film?
My trembling fingers snap the curtains shut and I retreat back into the warmth of my orange living room, feeling someone’s eyes on my back, I can’t shake the feeling of being manipulated for some end and I shiver like someone’s stepping on my grave. I stop in my tracks; on the floor to my left two huge white orbs are staring up at me.
“What time is it?” Ben asks, staring unblinkingly as I kneel down to check the clock on my VCR.
“It’s Eleven O’clock.” I reply, as he turns away, rubbing his eyes and groaning.
“No. No. NO!” Ben cries dejectedly, thumping the floor with his fist.
“I know, I know” I mutter, falling back onto the couch.
“Where’s the weed?” Ben starts impatiently, looking at me like I stole it.
“We don’t have any.”
“Yes.” Ben says, a thought beginning to form in his head, “Yes. Yes we have!” He enthuses and quickly jumps to his feet, “I got a quart off Fat Lad last week” he says as he vigorously bounds up from lethargy and into his room.
I nearly cry again, “Oh! Well why didn’t you bring any out sooner you silly schmaggot?” I rub my face with my hands, trying to get some feeling back in my muscles, and trying to wipe away the thoughts of what could have been.
“Because I forget I had it didn’t I?” he mocks as he returns clutching a huge bag of skunk.
I ask if there’s any king size in this dump and Ben points to a fresh pack on the floor between my feet. I quickly tear out a few papers, tossing the rest to Ben and we go back and forth like this with the tobacco and weed until we are both lighting up and taking deep, hungry tokes off of our respective joints.
I push down into the slack cushions of the sofa, trying to relax as much as possible and let the weed do its job. Ben is sat in front of the stereo and is thumbing through a stack of CD’s for something suitably inoffensive to put on. I look on vacantly as he inserts a CD and soft, soothing music begins to seep and bleep through the speakers gently. I try and relax into the music but as soon as I let go, my thoughts hit the ground running into that impenetrable darkness and I struggle to rein them in. I close my eyes for a moment, straining to control my paranoia, and when I open them again, Ben is sat in the deckchair opposite watching me.
“You were just moving your mouth like you were talking to someone then.” He says with a smirk.
Ffenerwa I think I mutter drowsily in response. I wouldn’t be surprised if I started talking in tongues right now my brains so mashed. I open my blurry eyes and look across at Ben, with a self-satisfied grin, he asks if I’ve had a good night, and when I think back, to the warming fuzziness of being at the fulcrum of fucked-ness, my paranoia slips from the front of my thoughts, and a huge smile breaks across my face,
“Yeah, yeah it was alright.” I say, and we giggle conspiratorially.
“Why were you talking like a cockney wide-boy all night?” Ben mocks, laughing at me through a haze of smoke.
“It’s my new fing man!” I say in a cockney accent, Ben starts giggling and I’m instantly back up to normal, the mood is nice and I feel myself being able to relax again “The birds love it when ya tork like a cant!”
Smiling as he taps the ash from his spliff, Ben sinks down into his deckchair, “I know two birds that didn’t like it Sam” He smirks,
“As if!” I screech, “If they weren’t lesbians they would have been all over me.”
Ben tuts in frustration “They weren’t lesbians! Sam,” he looks me dead in the eye, “they were just snogging each other to get rid of you.”
“All over me Ben.”
“You dribbled. You dribbled whilst you were talking to them Sam.”
“All over me.” I declare triumphantly, and I think I have the argument won. Ben rolls his eyes and I am now self-satisfied. They would have been all over me, had they not been lesbians. My triumph is short lived however, the cosiness of security lets slip from my tongue the moment we’d been dreading, the chafing confrontation with coarse reality.
“Ben?” I ask, “Why were we such nobs last night?” And I feel the air suck out of us both at the thought of last night’s horrible mistake. Ben sticks his tongue behind his bottom lip and lurches forward, burying his face in his hands.
“Nnnuh!” He laments, “I can’t believe we were that stupid!” He stops and shakes his head in disbelief, “Why the fuck did we do that? Why. The. Fuck…I can’t…” he pauses, “…I can’t believe we were that stupid.”
“We were mashed and we made a mistake,” I offer, trying in vain to console myself with that thought also, “don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“Sam! We’ve just spent our entire dole money; our party money for the next two weeks no less, on a bag of powder that’s probably icing sugar or something. And you know what pisses me off? That, that guy is laughing his fucking ass off at us right now.”
Ben falls back into the deckchair, a disapproving look smeared across his face. He stares at me, waiting for a reply but I can’t think of one. My mind begins to fug over from the weed, coupled with the ecstasy comedown it’s making thinking – let alone communicating – difficult. I stare through Ben, and off, into the distance, and he through me. I try hard to maintain my train of thought, but this time, as I let it go it slowly, rolls, to a halt.
Before Ben, Sam and Rob descended into the club they were already rushing hard and as they bounded down the stairwell, a tide of energy engulfed them. They washed through the double doors at the foot of the stairs into a kaleidoscope of images and faces, weird hairstyles, crazy trends and crazy words sound-tracked by the almost impenetrable bombination of funky house music and the inner-transmissions of peoples minds, cracked open and spilt for the conversation-surfing pleasures of their new best friends. And in a second, in the blink of an eye, the hours had past, the bar is closed and its time to bid farewell to their newfound, one-night stand families.
As Ben, Rob and Sam ascended the stairs and walked forth into the cool, stillness of the night, their boundless energy levels suddenly dropped. With all their contacts exhausted, they had no breadcrumbs to lead them back a party, and so they found themselves reeling and weaving without purpose through a maze of side-roads and back-alleys, their conversations interspersed with the question, So what are we doing then? They settled on taking the rest of the night one mission at a time, and so set off in the direction of the nearest petrol station to buy some fags, the rest would be decided on the way.
As they rounded the corner just before The Old Angel pub, and started down the dark, seedy alleyway, the neon light of the ‘massage parlour’ sign at the bottom of the alleyway, framed the scene of an apparent break-in. Two men, almost polar opposites of one another physically – one tall, gangly and a pasty white, the other short, thick and the darkest black – could be seen in the dull, bluish light, attempting to scale the wall of the massage parlour.
As Ben, Rob and Sam tentatively approached, they recognised in the two men the unsure stagger of the inebriate, and their apprehension began to abate somewhat. They saw what they had mistaken for shady behaviour was in fact just mashed-up japes. The gangly white man, attired in a kind of shell suit assumed to have been banished to the eighties for safety reasons, was scrabbling at the sheer brick wall, garbling incomprehensibly through a demented smile with drool oozing from his chin. The black man, also shockingly attired in velour tracksuit bottoms coupled with a tight, three-quarter length leather jacket, was imploring his friend to let, whatever it was he was trying to capture, go free. Ben, Sam and Rob looked on for a brief moment, before they giggled amongst themselves and approached the badly dressed duo.
You guys having a good one tonight then? Ben asked facetiously, approaching the black guy. The man looked startled; unaware they had been closing in on him from the top of the street. His wide, sparkling red eyes fixed on Ben, and then the others. He approached, his huge hand outstretched to shake the lads hands, his countenance looked like that of a man meeting people from another time or dimension,
Yes lads. Yes. The black man urged, You’ve come for me haven’t you? His drooling friend in the background, still scrabbling furiously at the brick wall somewhat muted the conviction in his question. Before the lads had time to query him, the black man leaned in close, his stale breath pervading the air, I have what you’re looking for, he whispered, and with a flourish he pulled from deep within his pockets a clear plastic baggy. At the bottom was a thick, gleaming layer of crystalline powder.
Ben, Sam and Rob, although wary, drew closer to the man and reached for the bag, finding it pulled out of reach by the black man, In time, my friends he urged, In good time. What is it? someone asked. The man slowly unravelled the bag and tipped a small amount into the palms of his enraptured audience. The sample was smelt, rubbed against gums and greedily devoured, the black man laughing maniacally and repeating himself, You know what it is! You. KNOW! You know what it is. What is it? You know what it is. Tell me what. it. is. His wild eyes were all the lads could see as the black man pushed himself into their space, into their faces. What is it? he asked excitedly of the trio.
I dunno, said Ben, It tastes like…amphetamine? he offered. Rob and Sam concurred. It was some kind of amphetamine; it was something that would get them high again; it was something that they immediately wanted. The black man laughed again, his friend turning from the wall and joining him this time, laughter ringing out through the alley and into the night. A price was negotiated, the black man lamenting capitalism and how it was such a shame that he had to charge for the stuff, But, he said, What can you do?
The money paid, the boys found themselves back on their way to the petrol station. They left the black man and his deranged associate behind, giggling amongst themselves at the strangeness of the episode and riding their white duck proudly, back across the river to the land where reality was malleable.