BY YOUNG SUNG HERO
The rolling stock screeched and clicked along like a snail moving painfully over salt. The pedestrian speed didn't bother Lee because he was safely locked away in the train's toilet preparing a wedding party for one.
He glided the heroin and crack down the foil like long lost lovers walking down the isle. There would be no dancing, best man's speech or cake. Besides, the rings had long been pawned off to the salesmen of Satan.
Lee was a car passenger being flung towards a slowly advancing, but violent brick wall. He was all flesh, all energy—not caring about either genius or celebrity. If there had been a noose in the toilet and a guarantee that heaven existed (he would've even settled for reincarnation) Lee's body would've been swinging. He quietly scuttled around the toilet like a junkie cockroach lurking in the shadows. Seeing all, but feeling nothing. He could see no cat; he could see no cream.
The last couple of months had been slow, laborious and painful, like a newly-qualified dentist operating on a fidgety teenager. Whilst in Switzerland his grandmother had been taken to live in an old peoples home. It felt like death's own waiting room and smelt of piss. Lee went to visit her; after, he cried for what seemed like days. She couldn't distinguish him from the bowl of rotten fruit that lay dormant on the side of a dusty table. It was his first and last visit. His only comfort came from big fat balls of Afghan brown. He started visiting them five or six times a day for longer and longer periods. The visits became more and more frequent until it made sense to move in together.
He had become sad, extreme—like a Christmas shopper chasing a high with money that they do not have, nor could they ever obtain.
Around this time, Dr. Jones came into his life. He was a private doctor based near Harley Street who dished out lashings of methadone and diazepam tablets for £100 a month. Lee no longer had to get sick whilst waiting for his dealers to switch on their phones in the morning.
Bella's call to rehab had come at the right time. Lee knew he was at the end of his rope. He had exhausted all his money and his £200-a-day habit was spiraling out of control. He'd lost most of his DJ gigs and ended up working for an east London Bengali drug-gang delivering heroin and crack from 9am - 6pm. Nice and convenient, just like a regular job. The reality was that it was the opposite of pretty. Mostly, it was sitting in his car with Sid, smoking rocks, then delivering gear to handfuls of clucking addicts on the corner of Brick Lane. Crack paranoia wasn't the only daily issue to navigate. Undercover police (or Feds as Sid like to call them) were constantly trying to play catch up. Luckily for Lee, there were more dealers on the streets than police and the only time they were stopped, Sid immediately swallowed all the shots (then puked them up after to sell, as per usual). Other dealers and gangs were a bigger threat than the police. The last guy who was doing the delivery was kidnapped and tortured by a Somali gang from Hackney. They'd burnt him with a hot poker and sprayed ammonia in his eyes. Drugs war really was an accurate description. The difference with a drugs war and a normal war was that a normal war had an end.
These very real risks didn't bother Lee in the slightest. All he cared about was maintaining his daily fix throughout. The potential consequences meant nothing. They never entered his mind. Lee had become a bottom feeding fish in a huge pond full of darkness.
Once arrangements had been made for him to get into the rehab, he was eager to get off the street before he completely disappeared beneath its cracks. He could feel himself fading daily. He felt like a flickering candle whose light was about to be extinguished forever.
He visited Sid the night before leaving to pick up some gear for the journey to rehab.
“I'll bet you £100 that you'll be back within 4 weeks," Sid said with equal measures of confidence and sarcasm.
“Nah, fuck that. I'm out. I've had enough of this shit," Lee said.
“Everyone says that, man! I did rehab once and I tell ya, that thought will come into your head and you'll be back in the ends before ya know it. This ain't something you come in and out of bruv', this shit's for life.”
“It ain't for me. I'm telling ya, man. I'm done. Now be a mate and pass the pipe.”
Lee knew he wasn't going back and would probably never see Sid again. In fact, if he had any insight he might've thought about the common saying from Narcotics Anonymous and related it to what was likely to happen to Sid or to himself.
Jails, institutions or DEATH . . .
Lee had always thought of himself as different. A drug user. Not an "addict." One who wasn't like the others as he could still operate a sense of normality and hold his shit together. However, at that moment he realised he had been a deluded fuck whose "normal" consisted of starting the day not with toast and coffee, but with heroin and crack cocaine. Honesty comes in spells of hard-won realizations, which most people never would have seen coming had they known about them. For Lee, his honesty came at the price of his current surroundings.
And honestly, it was a shithole.
Sid's room was as desperate as its occupants. Grotty wallpaper hung precariously from the walls like a pathetic rock-climber who'd run out of energy. Flies buzzed around a bulb that hung naked from the ceiling with no shade for protection. Lee placed his left hand onto his right shoulder and inhaled deeply. All he could feel was bone. He fell onto his knees and buried his face in the grimy carpet, then placed his hands over his head to try and protect himself from the avalanche of shame and regret that came tumbling down his own. Personal. Misery Mountain.
With heavy eyelids, Lee stumbled onto Platform Number 8 and shuffled lazily towards the outside of the station. A sly-looking man was selling coffee out the back of a compact Italian van. The thought of coffee made Lee's stomach turn.
Even in his opiate slumber, he easily spotted the men who'd been sent to collect him. They stood next to a mini bus that looked like the type used to ferry around kids with special needs. Fucking mongrel bus, he thought to himself. One guy wore a shiny, laminated badge hanging loosely around his neck. The other guy was a huge mound of flesh who wore a black shell suit. (Lee hadn't seen one of these since the late 80s and was surprised that they still existed). His head was shaved and he had a bad tattoo of Union Jack that warped and distorted from every fold of skin. The queen would be proud. Lee softly chuckled to himself.
He glanced around at the "normals" going about their everyday life in the train station car park. People greeted loved ones disembarking with warm embraces. Suitcases stuffed into cars before being taken off again for coffee and a nice chat. When he looked into the eyes of these normal people, Lee imagined they were staring at a starkly-emblazoned t-shirt he wore that said, "Hello! I'm a junky loser!" on the front of it, and "Look at me! I'm off to REHAB" on the back.
He dropped his gaze before muttering the word cunt under his breath.
“Hello, you must be Lee? I'm Mike and this is Mick.”
Mike and Mick, M-and-M, slim fucking shady, monsters under my bed, voices in my head.
Mike is Mr Laminate and Mick is Mr Tattooed-Head. Mike held out a hand. As Lee shook it, he realised how filthy his own were. His nails were broken and caked in dirt. They were covered in burns like a leper adorned with sores Jesus himself couldn't heal.
He met Mike's gaze, but it didn't tell him anything that he needed to know. He noticed Mike wore cheap leather shoes. Minimum wage, he thought.
“Alright there lad?” Mick spoke too loudly. It was like he was "announcing" it to the whole car park. He accent was *unmistakably* scouse—a rough, nasal whine belonging to those from the more fragrant areas of Liverpool. Mick had the sort of accent that would never be able to sooth a baby to sleep.
Lee imagined Mick's hand as an anvil, (like when Popeye cracks open a can of spinach). He thought how he'd smash the faces of all who got in his way. He shook the anvil as hard as possible and kept his eyes fixed upon Mick's to project control, power. It was all fronting it out whilst inside he was really scared of the unknown and what still lay before him.
Lee had met men like Mick before, those hardened by a life that's been unkind to the soul.
Lee jumped into the shitbag rehab-mobile and stared out of the window. His knees trembled. He sat silently in the back, shivering on the inside whilst the two monkeys in the front filled the silence with mundane conversation. It made him want to throw up. Or at least put his hand down their throats to make them throw up. He just wanted them to shut the fuck up. He needed silence. Didn't they know this?
They sped past bare fields with winter soil like frozen iron. Nothing grew there and nothing would grow for a long time. Then again, time seemed stretched out. Thin. Insignificant. Bare.
Lee felt the urge to be alone in the field and roll around in the mud like a pig in shit. That would make me happy, he thought.
The trees lining the road were tall, proud. Lee stared at their slender branches reaching out, like fingers into a ice-grey sky. He wished they could scoop him up and embrace him, tell him that everything was going to be ok. Or at least they could stop his knees from knocking from side to side.
After a 30-minute drive, they reached the end of the road. There was nothing around but countryside and a huge building that looked like something out of Downton Abbey or a Constable painting. Lee stepped out of the motorcar and faced the house. It seemed to be taunting him with its grandeur. A gust of cold wind slapped Lee's face. Turning his head, he spotted a sign at the top of the building: 1842. He could feel the souls of a thousand people who've passed through the doors, crying, breathing, shrugging their shoulders and weeping.
End of the road, he thought.