How Not to Survive

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What seemed like a great idea six hours ago seems like the dumbest move in the history of my lifespan when judged from the entrance hall of a police station in King’s Cross. I keep glaring at Danny opposite me, who’s glaring straight ahead of him and being uncharacteristically silent as this fresh-faced young guy who’s obviously a complete newbie takes down his name and address at the front desk. They caught him outside the club, where they had this whole like, battalion of police cars waiting for us, like they were expecting a Scarface style shoot out or something.

I’m like, Can I get my hands back? to the pig behind me, the one I thought looked like R-Patz, and who in this light looks so unworthy of a second glance it’s obvious I was totally hallucinating any sex appeal.

The pig grins and shakes his head.

He’s like, Soon enough.

We wait until they’re done taking Danny’s details, which takes fucking ages as the rookie at the desk doesn’t seem to have mastered how to work a computer – or the ability to spell. Then it’s my turn and Danny’s yanked back while I’m pushed forward. They start hauling Danny off down the corridor and he suddenly twists and yells at me, Jaz don’t say anything!, which is just about the most incriminating thing a person can do and instantly has everyone looking at me like maybe I’m the golden goose of unlawful information.

OK then Gerald, says the piglet at the desk, nodding, We’re done.

Alright son, goes the adult pig beside me, This way.

I’m led up the corridor and into this interrogation room that’s exactly like the ones on TV, with a table and three chairs and no pictures on the wall. I’m sat in the chair and told to wait and then the door closes and the waiting commences – and then some.

Eventually I kind of doze off and I’m woken up by this voice brutally shouting MR JONES? in my face. It’s totally unnecessary and I sit up to find this tired-looking middle-aged cop sizing me up. It’s totally a scene off CSI: he’s the grizzled old geezer who’s nailed a hundred cases whereas I’m cast as the shady suspect dragged in to have his head chewed off.

Alright Mr Jones? goes the old copper. My name’s Algie, and I’m going to ask you a few questions if I may.

I’m like, Don’t I get a lawyer?

Algie smiles.

That’s for people who’ve been arrested, he goes.

I’m like, Hello? I’ve totally been in handcuffs.

Oh, that’s just because it was the fastest way to get you here, chuckles The Law, like it’s happened to everyone, We just want to ask you about you friend back there. If you cooperate, there’s no reason for us to charge you. How does that sound?

I don’t say anything, since no matter how much of a shit I am, there’s no way I’m betraying Danny. My interrogator seems to interpret my silence as riotous enthusiasm though, since he’s like, Excellent! Now first of all, what is your relationship to Danny Graham?

I’m like, He’s my long lost aunty. What do you think?

Algie’s like, Hardy bloody ha. Has Mr Graham ever provided you with drugs?

I’m like, Yeah. This morning.

Algie’s leans forward, looking very pleased.

What sort of drugs?

Head ach pills.

He sits back, takes a breath and grimaces.

He’s like, Are you finding this funny, Mr Jones? Because I can assure you, it’s not a laughing matter. You’re in deep trouble, and the more difficult you are, the deeper you’re digging yourself.

I look him in the eyes like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven.

I’m like, You’ll never make me talk! all deep and dramatic. If only he were watching, Jerk Jackson might even feel a flicker of pride.

Cracker before me heaves out this choking sigh like he’s constantly being relied on to hold up the world and is frankly starting to get a bit fucking fed up of it.

He’s like, Go ahead, be smart.

I’m like, OK.

He leans towards me again and rests his chin on his knuckles.

I’ve seen a lot of smart aleks in that seat, he goes, All thinking they know better, all thinking they can outwit us. Consensus seems to be that if they talk tough enough that’ll see them through. Trouble is, the whole reason you’re sitting there is ’cos we got you already. Caught you in the act, see? Which means answering the questions is in your best interests. You getting this?

Algie pauses for effect, then leans in further.

So what’s it going to be, my young friend? For the last time, are you going to cooperate?

There’s another long pause while I act like I’m thinking about it.

I’m like, OK but first tell me where’s the other one?

He’s like, Other one?

I’m like, You know. Bad cop.

To this Algie sucks in his lips like he’s just swallowed the mother of all lemons and stands up.

All right Mr Jones, he goes, Have it your own way!

I’m like, I’ll be off then!

Algie grits his teeth so hard the muscles in his jaw bulge out and abruptly leaves the room. A few seconds later he returns with this papery jumpsuit that looks a bit like a medical robe which he throws down in front of me.

He’s like, Put it on.

I’m like, It’s not really my colour.

He’s like, Fold your clothes up and leave them on the table.

I’m like, A little privacy?

He turns his back while I undress. It’s a pretty weird outfit, I’ve got to say, the sort of thing nobody in the world could carry it off. I fold up my clothes, which are definitely a bit on the whiffy side, and leave them on the table as instructed.

I’m like, Ta da.

Algie turns around with this grim smile on his face.

He’s like, Jarold Jones, I am officially arresting you on the charge supplying drugs.

He gives me this list of rights I supposedly have, such as legal representation and a phone call, then before I can ask any questions takes my arm me and forcibly propels me out of the room and down the corridor to this area that’s obviously the heart of the slammer, where this other pig with a big proud jelly belly is leaning back on his chair with his feet on the desk staring up at the ceiling.

I’m like, Slow night huh?

Got a wise one, says old Algie, pushing me past him and basically thrusting me through one of the open doors. I take a look around. My quarters basically consist of four walls, two shelves with mattresses and bedding on them and a shiny metal urinal from which the hefty smell of bleach wafts, probably enough to get you totally high if you get close enough.

He’s like, Maybe a good night’s sleep’ll help your judgement.

I’m like, What about my phone call?

He gives me a thin smile.

You’ll get your phone call, he goes, Just as soon as we judge you sober enough to make it.

And with these words he shuts the door.

There’s nothing else to do so I lie down on one of the bunks and stare up at the ceiling. It’s not as if I was expecting a five star hotel suite or anything, but these surroundings are seriously depressing, and the prospect a whole night here is suddenly seeming pretty gruesome. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that I’m still a bit spacey and out of it, and starting to come down a bit too. The four walls seem to be shrinking in on me and I have this nasty prickling in my chest, possibly not unrelated to the toxic smell. Somehow, despite these ailments and factors I must manage to drift off, because when I look over to other side of the cell there’s another figure there, lying on the bunk opposite me with his face turned away. I’m sort of expecting a big burly Chopper look-alike who wants to make me his bitch – and not in a sexy way, but instead the figure rolls over and turns out to be none other than my partner in crime, clad in his very own pastel jumpsuit.

Hey Jaz, Danny goes.

I’m like, What the fuck Danny?

He’s like, A bit shit, this, innit?

I’m like, Understatement. How come I’m still here?

Danny’s like, Sorry about that.

I’m like, Sorry about what?

Suddenly Danny is sounding all panicked and defensive. He’s like, I had to tell them something! Otherwise it’ll all be on me and I’ve already been brought in twice before...

I have to like, take a few to process this. Slowly it dawns on me what he’s saying, and then I have to take a few more just to keep myself from going off the deep end.

I’m like, You mean, you told them I was dealing? in this low, carefully controlled voice.

Danny’s like, Well you were helping me. I just told them the truth.

I’m like, I. Don’t. Fucking. Believe. This.

Danny’s like, Look relax OK? They’re not going to charge you!

It’s like, so the wrong situation to tell someone to chill. It’s obvious Danny’s not had much practise at this sort of thing, and somebody really ought to explain to him that when you totally screw someone over you can’t just act all casual like it’s not a massive deal.

I’m like, I didn’t tell them anything, you deadbeat loser! And how do you even fucking know they won’t charge me?

Danny flinches.

He’s like, Please don’t call me that.

I’m like, What? Deadbeat or loser?

He’s like, Either.

I’m like, Deadbeat loser, deadbeat loser, deadbeat loser.

This is pretty childish of me, but I have just been totally implicated by this guy as a full on offender so I’m not exactly at my most rational. Anyway my choice of insult turns out to be exactly what not to say to Danny, as it clearly hits home with some deep buried trauma. He gets mad, and by mad I mean scary-weird because I’ve never so much as heard him raise his voice before and the sight of his face contorting with fury is so off the wall it’s like watching the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz going psycho with a machete. He starts taking these super-deep choking breathes like he’s having an asthma attack, his head kind of wobbling around on his neck like at any second it might topple off.

You want to know how I know they won’t charge you? goes Danny, between like, dying, Because they never charge first timers who are also spoilt white middle class airheads. THAT’S WHY!

I’m like, Are you going into labour?

Fuck you! hyperventilates Danny, You’re such a little brat! Why don’t you wake up to yourself?!

He clenches shut his eyes and drops his head. He takes a couple of moments and then looks up, his breathing a little more regular – though his face is still scarlet as if he’s just had a steam facial.

Sometimes what I’d really like to do is punch you in the mouth to make you see what you’ve got, he goes, You’re not like me. You’ve got an actual chance. But instead of using it you do everything you can to piss it away. You whinge on about all the people around you when all they ever try to do is help you out. You’re such a little bastard, it’s like it’s some kind of joke!

I stare at him because this is pretty heavy. He’s starting to breath hard again.

And what’s more everyone lets you get away with it! You filch my stuff off me all the time and I never say anything about you not paying for it. You think Reg didn’t notice you’d opened that package?! You got the slightest idea how much trouble you almost got me into?! Do you?

I’m like, That’s not fair –

But Danny’s on a role here and my input’s like, totally redundant.

He’s like, Life isn’t fair! as if he’s handing me this mind-blowing dose of reality, and then adds, But from where I’m standing it seems like you got a sweeter deal than some of us.

I sit back down on the bunk, kind of reeling a bit from all this stored up resentment. But it turns out Danny’s still not done with me.

The only really decent thing about you is Eli, he declares, Or should I say was? – now that he’s seen you for what you really are? Well, good for him I say! Good for him!

It’s like, one bitch slap too far and suddenly I’m the one having trouble getting oxygen in. I stand back up and let him have it.

I’m like, Eli huh? Well you know what he thinks of you Danny? He thinks you’re scum, and there’s no way he’d ever look at you as anything else – because that’s what you really are!

It’s harsh, but it comes off the back of quite a few harsh things said to me so I don’t feel it’s all that uncalled for. I’m geared up for the next bout, but Danny seems to like, deplete at this. He kind of twists away like he can’t bear to look at me anymore, which means he ends up practically kissing the wall.

After that we both throw ourselves on our respective bunks with our backs to each other. It’s pretty fucking stupid, but I’m still totally crashing now, and Danny’s various observations about how the total reverse of wonderful I am are sending me on this serious paranoia trip where all I can think is what a waste of space I am and how they ought to just keep me in here and throw away the key. To make matters worse I can’t sleep – not that I’d get much of a chance to anyway, since every half an hour this ridiculously cheerful pig called Freddie opens up the door and yells out ‘You boys both still breathing OK?!’ apparently to check we haven’t both choked to death in our sleep or something. So I basically just lie there obsessing over what a perfect cunt I’ve grown up to be and staring at the wall, where some previous con has left his number in biro, along with these ludicrous dimensions, as if getting banged up’ll make you believe anything.

At what’s presumably some time in the early morning (hard to say without a watch), The Jolly Policeman returns and tells me I can make my phone call now.

I’m like, What about him?, pointing at Danny’s body, which is completely covered by the natty cell blanket.

He made his ages ago, says Freddie, Come along now.

He leads me out past up the corridor past his desk and then into another room which is obviously the official place for making calls because all there is in it is a telephone on a table. He pulls the door to behind me, though I can still him pottering around outside, just loud enough to deter me from trying to make a break for it.

This ought to be easy, but the thing is it’s not. I can’t call Mum because she’s still in rehab and I can’t call Dad because after ruining his engagement meal I’m not convinced he wouldn’t let Barbie persuade him to leave me in here – and even if he didn’t, I don’t want to be responsible for a premature stroke. I can’t call Danny because he’s in here with me, and obviously I wouldn’t call him anyway now that he’s just told me what he really thinks of me. The only person I can think of to call is Eli, except that we’ve had a bust up and there’s a good chance he won’t even answer the phone. Fucked, basically.

Unable to believe I’m doing this, I put my faith in my mouth and dial.

Hello? says Teresa, sounding all suspicious even though she can’t possibly know where I’m calling from, unless 999 shows up when you dial from a police station.

I’m like, Hi T, how’s it going?

She’s like, What number is this?

I’m like, King’s Cross Police Station as it happens.

Teresa’s like, You’re joking, right?

I’m like, Listen, I’m in a bit of a bind...

I’m expecting my sis to start lecturing me, or else gloating and going on about how she always knew this is where I’d end up and that it’s probably where I belong anyway. But credit where credit’s due, she leaves it at a single OH MY GOD! then listens quietly while I explain the situation.

When I’m done she’s like, Leave it with me.

I’m like, Thanks T.

Then she surprises me by laughing, which is just about the last reaction I expected from her. All of a sudden it does seem pretty funny in a cosmically ridiculous sort of way, and next thing I know I’m laughing too.

Alright sonny, interrupts Officer Freddie, poking his head through the door, presumably alerted by the sound of something other fear and whimpering, This isn’t free minutes. Wrap it up, OK?

He watches me say goodbye and then escorts me back to my cell. As we head he obviously decides this is a good time to dispense some hard-earned advice and is like, You know sonny, I see boys like you all the time and I got to tell you –it’s not worth it. It might seem exciting and glamorous and a quick easy way to turn a buck, but you’ll feel differently one day. You’ll regret it. So why not take the advice from a codger who knows and pack it all in, eh?

I’m so not in the mood for receiving avuncular pearls of wisdom right now, however well-intentioned. I’m like, Listen, if I blow you do I get a cigarette?

Old Sonny Jim just shakes his head reflectively like he’s thinking, Here’s another one bound straight for hell... and shuts the door on me without another word. Danny’s still swathed in his blanket head to foot and I’m desperate for a piss so I use the spanking bleach-heavy toilet. The sound of urine on metal makes this shrill ringing sound so there’s no way he couldn’t hear me, but he pretends not to anyway and doesn’t turn around. Things are that bad. I go back to the other bunk and lie down to watch the morning light as it creeps across the room from the tiny frosted window.

Before I can get too cosy again the door opens and Freddie stands there, cheerful as a fluffy Disney cartoon. Me and Danny both sit up and peer over at him.

Danny Graham, he announces, You’ve been bailed out by this gentleman.

From behind him Reg appears. He’s wearing a cheap suit that somehow makes him look even shiftier and more like a paedophile than he did when I first met him, plus he’s grinning from ear to ear in this totally malevolent unhinged way.

Alright boys? Reg goes.

He gives me a leering look, passing his eyes up and down me like he’s really enjoying the sight of my new all-in-one.

Danny’s like, You took your time, not sounding impressed.

Reg is like, Sorry ’bout that Danny me boy. Few bits and pieces to take care of. You know how it is.

He gives Danny a meaningful raised eyebrow, as if to remove all doubt that these bits and pieces are anything other than Dodgy. Freddie folds his arms and purses his lips like watching all this bad business around him is giving him indigestion. Danny stands up and throws his blanket on the bunk, then heads towards the door.

I’m like, Hey – what about me?

The Kray Brother lets out this guffaw like he’s just heard a joke that’ll keep his cockles warm at night till the end of his days. Danny turns and gives me this long look like I’m the biggest shit on the planet and totally deserve my fate.

He’s like, See you around Jaz.

It’s obvious he means Never, and I don’t even have time to tell him I’d rather rot than see him again anyway, because he and Reg both head off and Freddie closes the door on me before I have time to like, formulate a decent comeback.

Weirdly, once I’m alone in the cell without Danny there to remind me of another beautiful friendship that’s been destroyed, I actually start to feel a bit better. I’m almost not even that sorry to be in here. There’s something kind of tranquil and soothing about it suddenly. I know this sounds messed up – and it is pretty messed up, but the truth is I can sort of see how there’s a kind of security to not having to worry about everything. I mean, I know there’s probably no one in the world who’d agree with me, and probably if I was sharing my cell with a sadistic sixteen stone murderer/rapist I wouldn’t agree either, but I can sort of see how life in prison could be OK. Because at least you don’t have to deal with any of the bleak shit going on outside. It’s like, that whole aspect of life is removed. Almost like you’re protected from it.

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