Twenty eight year old. Heroin addict.
I wake into greyness. The cheap dreary bedsit is devoid of colour, life or love. Out of the uncurtained window the grey of evening is starting to fall like a curtain. The monochrome drab invades the room, stealing in through the window. Sliding in and pooling in the corners of the room with a gathering intensity. The heavy, low slate grey clouds scud over head on the brisk autumn breeze. Sea side towns have a way of losing their colour, their soul, when the tourists go home in September. Just the natives left in their grey existence waiting for the spring and the tourists to return with some sort of vitality to breathe into the town.
My bones ache. It is cold. I am ill from the withdrawal from gear. It is so painful. It is overriding all; it overrides hunger, overrides thirst, emotion and all things. The shudders of withdrawal well up inside me and I break out in shivers.
He sleeps under just a filthy sheet on the piss stained bare mattress. He is skeletal now, just bones - such a long way from the powerful and muscled man he was. I am not sure if I can see that man, the one I loved so much, in there now. I know I have to get a move on, I need to be out on the street earning, grafting, call it what you want. Making my way, naked in front of the mirror I look down at myself, in the fading light of the one room bedsit we call home. Someone will be desperate enough to pay for my body tonight, it doesn’t matter who. Their money is all the same, they are all the same, another punter, another nameless number in and out. The times are beyond count now. It doesn’t matter to me I must score heroin. I am struggling, rattling.
The violet bruises pinned upon my ribs are angry and harsh, (I don’t want to wake him up) they are an angry flower, nourished by my pain and blooming on my body. The punters won’t even see them because I will be in the back of the car, over a bin, in an alleyway. They won’t take my top off, they will never see the bruise. It hurts to breath.
My make-up has got cold in the room and it is difficult to squeeze the foundation out of the tube but I have to cover the swollen and angry injection sites. Running my hand over them on my forearms I feel the rough, sore, broken areas. They have to be covered. No one need see them. Who would want to pay to fuck a junky whore?
Gazing into the mirror my ribs are now visible all over my chest, they are visible through the flat skin pouches that are my tits now. Looking further down I cover the sore in my groin with foundation. The broken needle has been the route of the infection for ages, maybe three months. It smells. Even over the dirty stale stench of the bedsit there is the odour of this sceptic wound. A quick wipe around my cunt with a baby wipe and over the abscess will keep the smell away from the punters. Most will only want a blow job anyway, I hope. I hope I don’t have to let them fuck me. Later on in the evening the takeaways and restaurants will be closed and the waiters and cooks will be looking around for something. I hope I am done by then, they always want to fuck. I hope I have enough money to score. Just enough to keep us going until tomorrow, that’s all, just get through one day at a time. Turning to look around at the room before I set out into the evening I take in the scene. He lays still asleep on the sheet less mattress on the floor and under the piss and blood stained duvet. I will leave the mobile phone on the floor beside him. He says I should take it with me so I can call him if I run into bother and he can protect me… I don’t think so. More like he can call me and if I have not had enough punters and don’t have enough money for heroin or crack he can give me another pasting. The bruise on my ribs is a constant reminder of the type of protection he will give me.
The yellow sharps box lays on the dirty, soiled floor with pins spilling from it amongst beer cans and cider bottles. I will escape this. But, for now I need to get on the streets I am rattling and need gear. The addiction is biting hard.
The wind was blowing hard from the west and the sea front at East Parade was fully exposed to the icy autumnal blast. Just too cold to work on this street. Maybe if I just pop round the corner onto Conway Street I will be able to get a bit warmer. I know it is another girl's patch but I need to get a bit warmer.
It is quiet now that the tourists have gone back to Manchester, Liverpool, Salford or wherever they came from. When they were here there was always more punters, more young lads with a few quid in their pockets. I like the young lads better, they are clean and quick, they pay their money. A few cars come down the front, I am watching them hard for any sign that they might be looking for business. Other girls walk up and down the street looking for the trade. All like me, all rattling wrecks. They drive past, not hesitating, not stopping. The gnawing withdrawal becomes unbearable. I only need one punter, just a tenner bag to keep me going, that’s all. The desperation is starting to grow in me.
The post office splashes an oasis of light onto the pavement ahead of me. The door opens and a young lad comes out, jumps on his too small bike and cycles off into the darkness, wrapped against the cold and the dark. Absently I watch the post office, there is money in the till, there are things on the shelves worth getting and selling. Is it worth one more go? One more chance to try and grab a handful of deodorant and run out? Every shop in the town knows me. I am on the Shopwatch top five lifters posters. No, I will look for a punter, a quick suck in an alleyway and I can get gear. The pain can be stopped. I anticipate how that relief will feel.
By now as I have idly mulled these ideas over in my head I have got near to the door of the shop. Absorbed in my withdrawal and aches I am a little surprised when the door opens and some old woman steps out in front of me. She looks funny. She is not as tall as me and hunched over her silver metal walking frame. She is well wrapped against the cold and the elements in a big grey woolly hat. She has a big thick woollen coat on that covers her from chin to knee in a brown and orange cocoon. It looks funny, to me, like a tortoise's shell! Her twig thin legs wrapped in thick grey tights and little black shoes. I can't see how old she is... sort of ageless. Somewhere between seventy and a hundred years old. As I look away I see she is stuffing something into her coat pocket. Her gnarled, arthritic hand struggling, shaking to put some paper in there. The crinkled coloured paper catches my eye. It is money...
She walks slowly from the shop towards Conway Street her frame placed in front of her and tiny painful steps take her forward to it. Before placing it forward again. She then turns down the alleyway behind the terrace, out of the light and into the dark, off the street. The chance is there, in front of me. I almost can savour the relief of the heroin coursing through my veins destroying the gnawing pain, as I walk closely behind her. I move closer and closer to her I am just inches behind her. I can smell her perfume. The strong lavender and violet like the sweets I had as a girl mingled with her ancient piss and dust. I can hear her old and troubled wheezy breathing.
The sweet relief of the tenner bag has hit its spot but I know it is only temporary, soon I will be rattling again. I know the relief from the gnaw is temporary and short lived. I need to keep working and get another couple of punters, enough for us both for tomorrow. I can work tomorrow and we will be ok. Since coming away from the toilets on the prom, where I cooked up the heroin, shot up and washed the blood from my hands, I have felt cold all the way through. At least the pain from the withdrawal rattle has gone now and I can focus on working.
The cars keep flowing, all the same speed. Walking up and down the same patch I see an old Landrover or jeep come past. I think I have seen it before tonight. Might be a punter on the circuit. I edge towards the curb and under the light of the street lamp again. Another girl has seen him on the circuit, she moves into a street light, she wants him. I hope he passes her and stops with me. I need the money, my habit is very bad at the moment. Yes, the same car comes past again, it is an old Landrover. Some old Farmer from the hills, tired of shagging sheep.
"This will be money for nothing", I think.
The land rover pulls up and from the inside a voice comes from the darkness.
"Looking for business?"
I still feel that little sideways lurch in my tummy. It’s not excitement, I'm scared. I need the gear by tomorrow night I will be rattling. He will withdraw, he will get angry and he will hit me again. Maybe next time it will be worse.
"Yeah, baby, what have you got in mind?" I try to sound sexy, my voice shakes with the cold.
"Don’t be scared", the still unseen man says to me slowly, calmly. "How much for a blow job?"
Telling me not to be scared was unusual and momentarily puts me on edge. But we can get into that comfortable business transaction that I have made time and again with the same different men so many times. There is reassurance in the familiarity.
"Just twenty, sweetheart" reassuring routine pattern established. "And that's without a Johnny"
"Ok love, do you know anywhere we can go? I have not done this before" he sounds well spoken, quiet and confident. I still can't see him. They all say it’s their first time, it rarely is. Sometimes they forget it is me that sucked their cock just a week before. The back of the landrover is dark with just a tarpaulin and some tools. The tarpaulin might be mucky but it would be more comfortable than some dirty alleyway or over a wheelie bin.
"Yeah, sure, I know a place. Somewhere we can go and you can do what you want”
I jump into the passenger seat and my eyes steadily adjust to the gloom of the inside of the landrover. It is not quite as dirty as I first thought. It smells clean, smells like bleach. This must be a really house proud sheep shagger!
For the first time I look at my punter. He isn't what I expected, a good looking guy. He is pretty tall, short and smart grey hair. Tanned and clean shaved. He had that almost leathery look of a bloke used to being outside. He has the cleanest overalls on I have ever seen. I wonder why this guy is looking for action from me. I don't care, I need the money in my hand. I need the gear. It’s all about keeping the beast of my addiction at bay. He drives the truck to the industrial estate just on the edge of the town. His hands move like fluid over the gear stick, smooth, oiled and polished.
There are no other cars in the car park as we pull in. we pull into the corner. He hasn't said another word to me since we got in the car. He is probably nervous, after all he said it was his first time for this. Well, it certainly isn’t mine, I will put his mind at ease.
"Can we go in the back? It's warm in there"
"For sure" he says, “If it makes, you feel more comfortable, it is warm in the back too.”
We walk round to the back of the car and I glance around the car park. There is the normal industrial waste of a few old tyres and oil cans. In the corner of the car park is a burned out shell of a car, half hidden in shadow and a long way away from the feeble street lights.
It is quite a high step as I try to get into the back of the vehicle he gives me a hand up by putting his hand on my arse and pushing me. I can feel the sure confidence of the strength in his hand as he guides me up. His powerful hand strays to the crack of my arse and I feel him over my arsehole through my jeans. I hope he wants that, it will be extra money, I take it once in the arse from him and the next day’s gear is all sorted.
In the back there is something else in the shadow. It is something dark and unseen, a blacker, deeper part of the shadow detaches and closes on me. He is behind me, the shapeless shadow bares down upon me. I am transfixed by the shadow, struck in terror and rooted to the spot. My breath catches in my chest and a wave of utter fear and abandon washes over me. I feel a scratch on my back but the fear is so overwhelming I cannot respond or react. The shape closes on me and pushes me down onto the sheet. The sheet feels smooth and shiny as I am held there. I am waiting as the micro seconds drag by and turn into day long seconds. Any moment the crushing impact will come, but it doesn’t.
I feel that I am relaxing, my body welcomes the opiate embrace enveloping it and surrounding my senses. I know this feeling, I have been here so many times before and reassuringly I sink out of consciousness. The voices I now hear seem so far away. I can hear them but they are disjointed. Like the voices of lost souls.
“Is she out?”
“Another second or so and she will be”
“Ok, put the ties on and we can get going” said the other voice, the voice that came from the shadow.
The light seems very bright. I become aware of it through my closed eyelids. There is a red haze and a lazy road map of blood vessels imprinted on my retina. I can smell the strong odour of bleach, like in the Landrover. My pulse pounds painfully in my temples. This is the come down, the rattle, withdrawal bites into me again. There is a dull familiarity in this pain. The pain of withdrawal almost provides me with some comfort, something known and dependable. A pain that I have lived with on and off since my youth, since I was in the children’s home. Plaything of the night “carer”.
I try to bring my hand up to rub my temple but it won’t move. I nervously and warily start to force my reluctant eyes open in the bright light. As my vision slowly focusses I see straight above me a large round light set. My head is still not clear and my thoughts seem fogged and slowed. My thinking retarded by the opiate withdrawal. I can’t look around my head is held fast. I explore the way my body feels, checking for injuries, to see if I have been hurt. I have been in resuss rooms before. I know how it is. I am strapped to a backboard in the bright lights whilst the Doctor patches up the bloody broken body that the bastard punter has left me with. At least here I will get morphine and the pain will go away, there will be no withdrawing here. Strange, I don’t feel any obvious pain in my body. But I still seem to be strapped to a board. Next time a nurse comes I will ask her what is going on. Maybe the injury is so bad I don’t feel anything anymore. As escape from my life round the clock care.
Time passes by me. It is difficult to tell how much because I drift in and out of awareness. I feel touch on my body, but it is not the touch of a hand. It takes me some time to recognise the caress of a warm flannel as I am washed. My mouth is stuck fast, I can’t open it to speak to the nurse. I can’t speak. The lack of speech is a restraint. When I move my face to speak I recognise the feeling as being tape on my face. Nurses don’t duct tape your mouth shut.
“You need to be cleaned up, you are dirty”. It is the voice of the man, the punter from the Landrover. I can’t see him. He is out of my sight.
“You had blood on you, it wasn’t your blood. I saw whose blood it was, I saw what you did. But it’s ok, I have washed it off you and started to clean you up now”. His voice was soft and caring.
“Waking up a little are you? Well we don’t want that now do we?” I hear his paces as he walks away across a hard floor. There are other noises, movements I don’t really recognise. Several seconds later the paces return across the hard floor. He stops beside me and I feel a tug on my left foot. I feel the spreading chill of anaesthetic working slowly up from my left foot and into my calf and leg. As this numbness spreads up my body I feel the flannel return to my skin, I feel the flannel explore the sore in my groin. The numbness overtakes the flannel and I start to drift away from reality again and the comfort of the opiate is there for me again. “This looks sore, but never mind we will stop it hurting soon, when you are cleaned”
It is later. Not sure how much later. Slowly I am coming back to the surface of my consciousness. Swimming through the thick soup of awareness reaching for the surface. Slowly my brain starts to work and collect and assemble thoughts from the jumble that was the drug induced sleep. Walking side by side with my increasing awareness is a rising tide of fear.
Realisation grows that this is not some serene sanctity of a hospital bed, this is something far more sinister. Last time I was awake I seemed to be bound tightly. I was laying down and I could only see the lights and around the light a white smooth expanse of ceiling. I am more upright this time. Still I am bound but my head has some movement, I can breathe easily, my mouth is free from restraint. If I open my eyes I will see what is around me. If I keep them tightly squeezed shut they will remain a barrier between me and whatever else is in the room and I will remain hidden from it as it is hidden from me. My neck is tight and aches. I want to move it and relieve the ache. If I do that I will draw attention to myself. I lay still.
Opening my eyes slowly I look around, it is not so bright this time. The light is softer and less directed. Everything is white and shiny in this room. The walls are tiled in smooth glossy white tiles, the floor also in smooth white tiles. To the side of me is a big metal table against the walls. The table has three white enamel trays on the top. I see a plain white door straight in front of me. The other side of the room, to my right has a trolley type bed, the sort that you might see in a hospital and a small metal sink attached to the wall. Finally I summon up the courage to look at myself. The chair I am in is a dentist’s chair. On each arm is a broad leather strap with two shiny silver buckles holding me tightly. The broad brown leather bonds are strong and old looking like saddlery. My legs are bound in the same way but at the knees and at the ankles. Whilst there is no movement the bonds are not painful, not so tight that I can’t feel my feet and hands. I am dressed in a plain white gown, like a hospital gown. Loose fitting and tied with a series of bows down the front, I am naked underneath. I feel washed and clean, I smell of soap not of stale sweat, stale sex and the weeping abscess. Despite the restraint I feel quite comfortable. I have a cannula in my left foot. I have no recollection of how this appeared. It looks like it is professionally fitted and has a long pipe attached to a device on a small trolley near my foot. I have seen these devices before. They are used to give cancer victims and other really ill people morphine at a controlled rate. A morphine pump. This is why I do not feel withdrawal. The pump is supplying me with enough morphine to stop the withdrawal without me becoming too high and not able to think. Beside my left arm attached to the chair is a small tray it is only about a foot long and six inches wide. There are tools on the tray, I am not sure what they are. I have never seen anything like them before. There are two of them. Like pencils in shape a little longer. Eight inches long of shiny metal and pointed at one end with a T shaped handle on the top. Beside them is a small hammer. Again of a shiny metal. I have no idea what time it is. No idea of what day it is time is just a blur. I am in that stage of being semi awake and the boundary between dreams and reality is blurred and not fully defined. I become aware of a person in the room. I look over and see the person. They are in a white overall that a forensics cop wears. The person has the hood up and has a surgeons mask on. They are moving around behind me, I am exposed and open to them. They keep appearing in my peripheral vision.
"Where am I?" Some human contact would be reassuring. No reply"Excuse me, where am I?" I repeat.
"Hey you, I am fucking talking to you, where the fuck am I"
Why doesn't he just answer me? I don't know what he is doing. He appears beside me and walks down beside me to the morphine pump. He moves so lightly and smoothly, fluid like a cat. I can't see what he is doing as he works with his back to me. Soon it becomes apparent as I feel the increase in the Morphine dose course through me and again I begin my descent into unconsciousness. The dreamy state of opiate awareness covers my senses with its blanket of fuzzy comfort. I do not fall any further into it as I watch him glide around my vision and back into the periphery of my lucidity. Firmly I feel his hands grip me head on each side. I want to resist but I cannot. He is strong and controls my head firmly, the morphine makes me weak and delayed. I can shape words in my brain but they are lost in the passage to my voice. As I am held I can feel a strap placed across my forehead and restraining me tightly. I can smell him, I smell his aftershave, I can smell the body spray he uses. My senses are dulled but the scent seems strong and clear to me. His body smells like a woman's body. I am aware of everything that is going on around me but I can’t do anything about it. I can’t move. I can’t react and help myself. Trapped in a nightmare that I can’t wake from.
The seat tilts back steadily as I listen to the motors of its mechanism working. I am almost lying flat now and my head is pulled back behind me extending and exposing my throat. I am vulnerable and exposed. The morphine is strong in my system now.
His hands are on top of my head and he reaches over and opens my eyes one at a time. I look up and I can see his blue eyes above the face mask. I look into his eyes. They are pale blue, deep and caring. They look at me with interest but not humanity. A flood of white light comes over me and envelopes me.
My left eyelid is lifted and I look up and see the man. He has one of the tools in his hand and he places the tip of it in between my eyelid and the top of my eye ball. I can feel the cold metal on my eye. There is no pain and there is no fear. The instrument looks odd when seen from this perspective, long and shiny, like a lance. Not just a small tool. I can see the concentration in his eye. I watch as he reaches over and picks up the small, shiny silver hammer in his slender and supple hand. He weighs it in his hand as he holds the shiny metal handle in his hand. Turning it over in his hand I watch as he brings it up over to the tool in her other hand. The Hammer is raised and falls.
My vision has gone, my pain is receding, just sliding away, night and darkness envelopes me. I still can hear but sounds are starting to move away, like they are in the next room. I heard the crack as the tool cut through behind my eye. I can hear distant voices.
She is cleansed now, no more pain" It is a woman's voice. "Have it on tape, for you" The punters voice. "Show me, I want to see, show me now" Her voice is clipped and excited. All fades away.