BY YOUNG SUNG HERO
The last time Lee saw Matilda, he’d been frantically beating her chest with his fists, in a desperate attempt to save her life.
In active addiction, Lee was always chasing a high. Its form, shape, color, or consequences were utterly irrelevant. As Lee reflected on this, he wondered if he would ever be truly fixed. Fuck, he thought.
Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
Lee exhaled and a vaporous cloud formed in the cold air between him and Matilda. He looked at her through the veil of his breath. Matilda’s eyes and Lee’s did not match. Hers were energized and untroubled. Lee thought of her as Pandora, the mortal woman who owned a box packed with hidden difficulties. As Matilda opened her mouth, Lee’s chest started to constrict. It felt tight, like a wet leather t-shirt. Suffocation seemed inevitable. Perhaps that would be a suitable way out, he thought.
“Hello, Lee. Lovely to see you again.” There was no irony in Matilda’s well educated, European accent. “You remember Bella?”
She pointed her slender arm palm side up towards Bella.
Lee could hear the birds singing in the garden. They sounded happy, content, and oblivious. They suffered from no unfulfillment or resentments. Why couldn’t he have been born a bird? He wished he could fly away from himself. Even after all these months of intensive treatment, Lee still yearned for a way to distance himself from himself. Sometimes, the inside of his head felt like a jungle. He was Mowgli, naked and alone.
“Hi, Lee. It’s good to see you looking so well. I’ve been hearing all about your progress.” The last word slithered from Bella’s lips like a deadly snake.
Lee felt uneasy seeing Bella once again. Suddenly, it occurred to him that she was the very person responsible for getting him into the rehab.
“It’s great to see you both. I’m feeling so much better, thank you. Bella, I’m truly grateful for all your help getting me into the rehab. I can honestly say that it’s been a life-changing experience.”
When Lee said this, he was merely trying to say what he thought Bella would like to hear, but when he heard the words leaving his mouth, he realized he was speaking the truth. It had been a life-changing experience, and now he was scared. The thought of leaving made him feel exposed and vulnerable.
“You don’t have to thank me. Just remember that your journey has just begun.”
Bella stared into Lee’s eyes. The intro to Prodigy’s “Firestarter” came alive inside Lee’s brain. The lyrics sounded like thunder and lightning and smelt like burning tires.
I’m the fear addicted, danger illustrated.
I’m the bitch you hated, filth infatuated.
I’m the pain you tasted, fell intoxicated.
“So, Lee, when you move into supported housing I’m going to be your housing worker. I’ve only just started working here and you’ll be my first case.”
Matilda smiled. Her mouth was the shape of innocence, but Lee knew it wasn’t genuine. Her skin looked amazing. He wanted to taste her saltiness.
“Aren’t you lucky.” Bella subtly rolled her eyes. “Right, I must be going. I’ve got a plane to catch. Good to see you, Lee.”
It seemed extremely abrupt; but then, Lee had only met the women a couple of times. The first was when he’d just shit in a bag, another when he’d almost killed Bella’s PA, and the last when she’d called him a drug addict. No wonder she didn’t want to chat. Not many reasons to have a cup of tea and talk about the weather, he thought.
Bella walked out of the office and down the driveway. Her red high heels clicked in a steady rhythm on the concrete path. Before she reached the end, she briefly looked over her shoulder, flicking her head like a soccer player heading a ball. Her long hair fell into dark coils. Then, she was gone.
By now, Lee knew better than to take too much notice of his mind. He knew it would only see what it wanted. He dismissed his thoughts and turned to face Matilda.
As he looked at her beautiful face, he quickly forgot about Bella. His thoughts turned to romance. Or maybe it was lust? He wasn’t too sure. He was wrapped up in sexual memory.
Matilda was a strong woman, but her skin looked soft. Lee wanted to hold her. He cussed himself for being so melty, but then remembered that he hadn’t had any physical contact in months. Everyone needs someone to hold, he thought. As usual, what started as Lee’s tender emotional need was soon overtaken by deviant, lustful feelings.
His serious gaze fell onto Matilda. He worked his way from her lethal-looking heels and skin-tight, black pencil skirt, up to her ice-clear, green eyes. He felt the same old urge that he always did. The one that had haunted him since he’d first bitten that poisoned apple all those years ago. In fact, as he reflected, he suddenly realized that it was the same feeling he got when he took heroin.
Fuck me, he thought. The two things that get me off are interlinked. But even this insight was not enough to throw his desire off its stride. His primitive, animal instinct ached to walk over, throw Matilda against the wall, spread her legs, and taste her.
Lee wasn’t praying for love. He was praying to be saved.
Matilda must’ve picked up on Lee’s scent because she looked at him seriously. “Look, Lee, regardless of what happened between us, it’s extremely important that we have firm boundaries. We’re not in Switzerland now.”
For the first time, she smiled at him. He took this to mean he should be patient. Nothing could happen right now: give it time.
“How the fuck did you end up working here? I’m finding this a bit weird.”
A lot of things seemed a bit fucking weird.
“Well, I was working as Bella’s PA. Bella is on the board of trustees for the company that runs the rehab and the supported housing. She heard about this job and suggested that it might be good for my personal development.”
Lee hoped that she would make further mention of Switzerland. But he was powerless to make her talk about it. At times, he felt powerless over his own words.
“My other work colleague here is called Matthew Tatler.” Matilda paused to take a sip of bottled water and wave at the stern-looking man who was walking up the driveway.
“Matt, we were just talking about you.” She turned to Lee. “We will both do our very best to assist you in a smooth transition from rehab to support housing, and eventually to your next step of the journey.’
There it was again. That fucking word, journey. Lee nodded. He had met Matt several times in the rehab. He was known for his sniper-precise one liners and wrestler’s physique. Everyone called him T-Dog.
Once Matilda was gone, T-Dog decided to give Lee a bit of coaching. He said, “You’ve gotta get some commitments. Re-entry is not all chocolate cake and pornography. Don’t you want to change?”
He stared hard at Lee, eyes stony. He looked like a sullen Greek statue.
“Yes,” Lee answered, trying his hardest not to show T-Dog that he was scared. He’d tried to change all his life, but always ended up in a town called Failure.
“Well, start getting honest with yourself and don’t worry about other people. What other people think about you is none of your business.”
Easier said than done. T-Dog walked down the hall as Lee followed. It wasn’t a bad suggestion: keep your head down, don’t pick up. After the strict structure of rehab living, T-Dog sounded perfectly reasonable.
“And leave those girls alone for a while, just concentrate on yourself,” T-Dog shot over his shoulder.
Fucking hell, Lee thought. Is every cunt reading my mind today?
There were three floors in the large house. Each one had three bedrooms and a shared kitchen. After sharing with up to forty people for the last several months, sober living seemed like bliss. The residents were assigned cleaning duties each morning. The place was spotless.
“This will be yours.”
T-Dog showed Lee into a medium sized room. The window was shut. With the radiator on, it was oppressively warm. It was the opposite of good feng shui. Lee felt itchy here: this room had never felt any harmony. The last resident had left the yellow odor of stale tobacco in their wake. Old smoke stained the wall paper.
“Come on,” T-Dog said. “Settle later.”
Lee followed him out of the bedroom and immediately bumped into a familiar-looking girl in the corridor.
She looked like she’d just stepped out of a chewing gum commercial. Lee carefully studied her profile.
“Bloody hell, Lee. Have I got ‘twat’ written on my forehead or something?”
Then, it came to him. Before him stood a reinvented version of the crack house head-nod girl. Transformation was real. She didn’t look sick any more. Now, she was more like fucking Mila Kunis---one who’d done a lot of heroin and crack, but very pleasant all the same.
“Alright.” Lee couldn’t remember her name.
“Good to see you. When are you moving in?”
Before Lee could open his mouth, T-Dog stepped in.
“A couple of days.”
This was the first time Lee had been given a definite date. It was actually happening. His insides filled with butterflies. Finally, a fresh start. Lee took a breath and let the feelings flutter through him.
When Lee arrived back at the rehab, it was quiet. The silence rebuked him, like it wanted to push him away. He walked upstairs with his head down, looking at the floor. Neil lying on the bed in his room, reading a VIZ annual from 1992.
“Neil, why are you on my bed?”
“Because I can. Frankie’s smuggled in a mobile phone and you can get porn on it.”
Being a senior member of the community, Lee should’ve told staff about the phone. The counselors drilled it into them: having a phone in rehab was a danger, because it kept people’s heads in the outside world. Lee knew this, but when it came to porn he played by different rules. He couldn’t help himself. The visual combination of Matilda and Bella had stirred up a feeding frenzy inside him, like a pack of great white sharks ripping apart a shoal of tuna.
It wasn’t hard to find the new kid. Lee told Frankie that he’d do his washing-up duty in return for a bit of quality time with his phone---also against the rules. Frankie was an easy-going chap and agreed without any bartering.
As soon as he got his hands on the phone, Lee’s head throbbed. He had the same euphoric feeling as when he use to sniff lighter gas as a kid.
Lee sprinted upstairs to the men’s toilet, firmly locked the door, and unzipped. He typed ‘voluptuous Latina sluts' into Google with his other hand and swallowed. His gut filled with deep, seedy anticipation. He glanced at his dick. It looked guilty. Lee looked away in disgust and directed his gaze back to the small screen.
As he yanked at himself, he barely saw the images on the phone. His imagination took him to a place where Hillary Clinton was getting it on with Martha Stewart. Both completely naked with melted peanut butter dripping from their asses. Lee’s mind floated past them to Georgian England. He was transported to a place where he was smoking opium and wearing a wig, wanking furiously and gazing at the contorted, naked bodies all around him. Hillary and Martha were there, soon joined by the crack house head-nod, Christabel, Bella, Sandy, Ashley, and Matilda. Their tongues flickered.
He was filled with jubilation as waves of joy and aggression whipped through his body. He was about to cum, but a millisecond before he could let go, someone knocked on the door.
Lee’s orgasm shriveled, and as he shot his load, he felt no pleasure. He watched his dick spurt as Neil’s voice came through the locked door.
“Lee, what ya doing?”
The wank was ruined, maybe forever.
He zipped up and washed his hands. His usual wank guilt arrived, with a side order of shame. Lee felt utterly exposed and vulnerable. It was the feeling he used to get after sex. He might be excited at first, skipping along, but the bottom always fell out after a day or less. After, he’d drive directly to the crash site, lay down next to the wreckage, and wait for the authorities to come pick up his body. This shit really did torment Lee. That’s one of the reasons why heroin was a perfect fit. Pit heroin against real, soulful feelings and the drug would win every time.
After coming off heroin and methadone, Lee had been like a teenage boy, wanking furiously. He’d jerked off like his life depended on it. He remembered doing it nine times in one day once, a rehab record.
But this wank was the one Lee would remember. It wasn’t just Neil and his perfect, mood-murdering timing. It was one for the books: was the last orgasm he’d have in rehab.