“Ok Lee . . . do you wanna follow me?”
The rhythm of Mike's words flowed like nimble fingers dancing on a piano. The statement was dressed up as a slutty question. Mike knew this ditty off by heart. He didn't even have to look at the keys.
Lee followed Mike through a huge reception area with various whiteboards hanging on the walls. Sheeplike, he continued behind Mike entering into a dormant, clean room, clinical to the core. There was no love here. Love is not an addict in a rehab facility. Love is a million miles away. Love is unattainable, mocking like a duck, quacking in the distance. Lee equated true love with ridicule and rejection. Whenever he'd given his heart over it had shown itself as too sensitive for the onslaught sure to follow. What's love but a second hand emotion? Once again, as soon as Lee's vulnerability seeped into his consciousness it was surrounded by song, protected by an undying, incessant rhythm.
In the loveless room there were three computers. Two staff members sat behind a couple of them hitting keys extremely hard like robots on a self-destruct mission.
“This is Ashley.” Mike held his hand towards the young lady with Hollywood white teeth and coat hanger smile. She wore an orange, baggy jumper which Lee suspected was covering up an amply-sized bosom. Lee noticed a bunch of keys on her desk. On them were a picture of a dog with large, droopy eyes. She looks the type who dresses her dog up as a dinosaur, thought Lee. Ashley looked kind but had an element of don't-mess-with-me-fucker in her eyes.
“And this lovely lady is Sandy.” Mike nodded his head towards the direction of Sandy, then winked at her like a lovestruck schoolboy. Sandy blushed a deep tomato red. Obviously fucking each other, thought Lee. Lee noticed that Sandy had two framed pictures either side of her desk. David Hasslehoff and Patrick Swayze gazed up at Lee all dreamy like. Fuck you Hasslehoff, was Lee's internal response to this offensive imaginary. Sandy's face looked the epitome of health and was rosy like an apple, some might say glowing. Up the duff by Mike wondered Lee? He thought about taking Mike to one side and asking what Sandy was like at giving head but then assumed Mike probably taught her himself so he didn't bother.
Lee observed the room and spotted a framed print with the words emblazoned on it:
You don't have to be mad to work here, but it helps.
Lee felt the sudden urge to smash everything, and call Mike a cunt. He wanted to get the fuck out of there. He didn't like Mike. Mike is too fucking nice. Nobody is that nice. No one. Not even the fucking Pope. A heat rising from his core began to overwhelm him like a pressurized volcano that hasn't erupted for eons. His emotions were like bitchy blessings in drag.
“Okay... Lee, can you open all your bags? I'll need to go through them and make an inventory of each piece of clothing.”
If he could be bothered, Lee would have asked Mike why he's gotta be such a smug twat. Why so fucking polite, Mike? But Lee didn't want to talk. If he had a sharp knife he'd cut out his tongue and bleed his addiction out. An addiction transfusion.
How do people swallow their tongue, he pondered? Lee had no answers. To anything.
“5 T-shirts. 2 pairs of jeans...” This is the sum of my life, he thought. A couple of old T-shirts and a some cheap jeans. They're not even fucking Levi's. Lee felt the drugs' effect begin to wear off. Down the rabbit hole I go.
Mike then led him into a medical room for a urine test. It was like a shabby doctor's room with a toilet placed conspicuously on the side. The toilet smelt like a backstreet butcher's shop filled with rotting corpses. Mike made him keep the door ajar whilst he gave his yellow sample in the plastic pot. He briefly considered exiting the toilet—cock in hand—whilst pissing all over the floor then saying to Mike, “Right on ya knees ya cunt—open ya mouth.”
But whilst daydreaming, Lee noticed he had pissed all over his hand. It felt warm, comforting somehow, like the blanket he used to have as a kid. He called it his Goo-Ga and would spit on the end of it then rub it on his nose. He used to drag that dirty old rag everywhere he went. His thumb was in his mouth so much that the skin was always dry and split. His Goo-Ga made the dark monsters disappear. When his mother would leave him alone in the house (all while she went out all night drinking) and he got scared of the shadows, Goo-Ga would never fail to comfort and protect. In the rehab, he was stripped of his Goo-Ga. He knew that the monsters would probably visit him again. Soon.
Mike dipped a plastic stick into Lee's piss. The utter concentration upon Mike's face was more suited to a nuclear scientist handling uranium rather than a drug worker dipping a bit of plastic into a piss pot. He knew the reaction before I even got my knob out thought Lee. Wanker.
“Ok Lee, so you're positive for Heroin, Methadone and Cocaine. That'd be the crack," said Mike, utterly unsurprised.
“Errr... Ye-, ye-, yeah that's fine.” Lee stuttered, his words tripping over like a dwarf wearing orthopedic shoes racing Forest Gump down a steep hill.
In reality it was anything but fine. At that moment, Lee felt he was no better than a backward-flying goose going north for the winter. Too late to change direction. His passage of time was now in the hands of others. Liberty wavered in a rehab facility deep within the English countryside.
Lee was then shown his room by big tattooed Mick. He had to walk up three steep flights of wooden stairs and onto the top floor. The floors creaked even more than him. Inside a room, two single beds competed for space whilst a couple of minute windows selflessly accepted the little light they allowed in. Each wall was bare like the smell: neutral and bored.
“You'll be sharing with Mad Alan. He's just done a thirty stretch for murdering a nonce. The home office sent him here on license. You'll meet him later.” Before Lee had time to imagine the grotesque image of Mad Alan, "the nonce killer", Mick threw something in his direction.
“Here ya go laa'; there's some clean bedsheets and duvet cover. Put them on; get yourself sorted, then come down when ya ready. Tea is at 5.”
Lee chucked the sheets onto the bed with the distain of an addict-now-scorned. He casually (and pointlessly) looked at the single bed before muttering the words, Tight twat, under his breath. In all reality, he said it more to himself than the helpless bed. Wondering what to do, he lay down and fell asleep.
"Fire, Fire, Fire!"
Huge flames the colour of autumn rose dangerously above his gaze. Some fucking hero was trying to put him out with a red blanket. He could hear phantom, fetal heartbeats. "It's 25 weeks; abort, abort, abort!!"
Lee opened his eyes to be confronted by a pair more hardened than his own. Big Mick stood ominously above him.
“Get up there, mate! It's teatime 'n you haven't made ya bed properly laa'. Listen... I know ya fucked, but a bit of advice: try and get into the regime as quickly as you can.” Mick left the warning hanging in the air like a bee about to sting. “Now get ya bed sorted and let's go downstairs!"
Fuck you, you fat fuck.
He was soon following Mick down the stairs and into a dining room that reeked like a hospital in a third-world country.
About twenty wooden tables kept company by twenty pairs of eyes. All of them were staring into Lee's, trying to pull out secrets, weakness and shame. Their questions and feelings overwhelmed him, but he stared back undeterred. See if I give a shit—you don't know me. You can't.
The wooden floor bore well-marked scrapes and scratches like the back of a submissive, demanding lover. Seven wooden windows outnumbered six senses, but stood together in unison brightening the less-optimistic parts. Lee glanced at the dark red walls; they reminded him of deep, African soil. Upon one crimson wall hung one, strange slogan:
We are here because there is no refuge, finally from ourselves
Until we have confronted ourselves in the eyes and hearts of others
We are running,
Until we suffer them to share our secrets we have no
safety from them.
Afraid to be known, we can neither know ourselves or others
and will be alone.
Where else but in our common ground can we find
such a mirror?
Here, together we can appear clearly to ourselves;
Not as a giant of our dreams nor a dwarf of our fears
But as a person – part of a whole with a share in its
In this ground, we can take root and grow.
Not alone anymore, as in death, but alive to ourselves
Lee stared at the words like a damned priest. He peered into the eternal abyss as a poet lost in an endless journey might ponder his own existence. A tall guy with long, greasy hair approached him. Lee noticed he wore sandals with purple socks. His feet were at least two sizes too big for the sandals and his toes poked like baby pigs tucked in a blanket. He stood next to Lee and stared at the wall. He then turned to face Lee.
“Bullshit.” He mutters the words before slowly walking away.
Before Lee could take any of this in, he found himself at the front of the dinner cue. Two girls with matching blue hats and aprons served up a sad looking shepherd's pie.
“Alright mate. You ok. Welcome to your new life; you want some shepherd's?” a familiar cockney twang bounced out, offering to feed him. Underneath the girl's smile Lee saw that dental hygiene was not her strong point. Brown and rotten, her teeth made his stomach churn.
A pretty girl with blonde hair dished out the shepherd's. She appeared to be shy and she never once looked up to meet Lee's gaze as he passed. She didn't mutter a word. There's something familiar about her, he thought.
He sat alone and wolfed down the food. Each morsel disappeared quickly into his bloodstream. His body was surprised by the rare, full plate of food he consumed. Upon finishing, he walked outside to the smoking area, hoping that no one would follow.
A couple of guys appeared in the smoking area. One introduced himself as Wonky Lee due to his wonky eye and the other Geoff aka White 2 Pac. Suddenly, Geoff proudly showed Lee two huge holes in his groin from injecting and the word Thug Life tattooed just above a bullet hole where he was shot during one of his drug-dealing escapades. Geoff told Lee how he was stabbed in the neck by the fiancée who he's intending to marry.
“How long ya here for, mate?” Wonky Lee has the familiar twang of a West London geezer.
“I'm not sure, mate. But I reckon about twelve weeks . . . max.”
“Hahaha! You're having a laugh, mate—no one gets out of here after only twelve weeks," he says, smirking. The info made Lee want to scream . . . and punch the geezer's face right on the nose. Lee felt like he had turned into a pot of paints being mixed together, unsure what colour they are going to turn.
“I'm going on a date with Lucy.”
The biblical-looking chap with purple socks threw in a random comment into the already annoying mix.
“Yeah, Lucy. Lucifer.”
The silent girl who had served Lee his food suddenly appeared outside. She glanced at him once before looking towards the floor. It then hit him. He realised where he recognised her from. She had been the girl nodding out in the crack house near Brick Lane after that DJ gig several months ago! What the fuck?! thought Lee. Behind her, a girl with beautiful long dark Italian hair appeared silently like an apparition, and sat down on the ground, opposite Lee. He noticed her black, shiny, patent shoes. He glanced up then his heart suddenly started pumping hard. It felt like it was going to explode. In front of him sat a living ghost. The ghost spoke . . .
“Hi, my name is Christabel.”
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