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I just need a second…
Right. So it starts with an empty-streeted morning, with me lost on one side of town, just after having escaped from Marck’s porch – see, the front door had latched behind me and the sliding door was locked, so I was stuck in that little liminal space. Forever? At least till I rang Marck. Pox was that he’d already gone to work, so he texted Roman to let me out. Him with his dark, bagged-up eyes and ghost face. He looked woeful. I can’t imagine I looked too much better to be fair, head splitting, jaw clenching, all frenzied from trying to work out how much oxygen was in the entryway – anyway, so I strike out from his bound for the DART.
The salt-breeze cuts into me, through me. It’s not particularly cold out but I’m shivering and shaking like it’s the heart of winter, and I miss the little-fuck-of-an-alley I’m supposed to take and end up walking up and down his estate about three of four times – I find it eventually, and I see the station: a glare beams off its roof that shuts my eyes for me. I can only squint at it. Reckon it’s birds up there, shiny feathered bastards, or broken bottles maybe, either. My vision is fucked at the minute.
We have a phrase we always say to each other the morning after: me bleedin’ head buddies, me actual factual bleedin’ head, and it’s usually a bit tongue-in-cheek but this morning my head is actually factually dying its own little death so it is. God.
Speaking of God, some facet of him is with me today because the DART comes about two minutes after I get to the station, and I can pour myself into it and hunch over in a lovely seat. Grand. Now, motion is the real test. The DART takes its first little hesitant spurt forward and a coin flips: flip flip flip, spin spin spin … it lands heads up! – and it landing heads up I may have forgot to tell you means that I win, I hold fast, I don’t get sick on my shoes. I become king of the fifty-fifty. So, with stomach under ten— tentiti— sorry, tentative, lwegh, control, now I can lie back and close my eyes.
Here I am now on my own. In the dark cave of my own head. Things can slow down a bit. God. Last night. Jesus. Last night was gorgeous. Perfect. Endless. Well, till it ended. Now I’m here with an ashtray mouth; coldsweat forehead; heavy, anxious stomach under churning, nauseated head. I’m skagging pretty bad now. Quick note: Heroin is skag, but skagging is an ecstasy hangover, consisting of a proper heavy depression and other nasty little side-effects. I know it’s confusing but drug slang has an incestuous etymology, I’m sick to my teeth, which I’m currently grinding to fine points, of arguments over whether dope is weed or heroin, it’s either, it’s both.
Fuck was it good though. All of us sat in Marck’s little grandad sitting room: all comfortable carpet and old fashioned couches, suffused with the softest, warmest light, like butterscotch, pouring out the lampshades. All the beautiful little bits of it floating back in shocks and whorls, the buzz, that boiler room set, the craic nipping down to the beach for a smoke, Marck shitting on all night, talking his wonderful brand of brown—
And that story Annie was telling us, just as I was coming up, just as the perfect simulacra of love for everyone was blooming, like a rose in my mouth: It was Lyn’s birthday, and me and Siofra and her were sitting in her kitchen. They were taking ages getting ready to go out, (classic) so I decided to pop down to Dunnes to pick up pre-drinks instead of waiting around. This must’ve been for Lyn’s seventeenth I think, cause I remember when I got to Dunnes I didn’t really know what to buy, I mean, I had my brands, I knew my cheap vodkas fairly well (and here we all laughed because we all remembered; cheap vodka was collective memory) but this was Lyn’s seventeenth so I wanted something fancy, I was only just sixteen and got it into my head to get her a bottle of Southern Comfort, very fancy (again, laughter), and last-minute realising we needed a mixer, I went for a big two-liter of Fanta as well. So I headed back to Lyn’s cradling this big bottle of Fanta and a brown paper bag of fuckin fruity liqueur. This was back as well when we had absolutely no clue of our limits, so like within an hour of me getting back we were sitting on the carpet with big measures of Southern Comfort and Fanta, made-up to the high heavens (here she asks Van if she remembers how they all used to do their make-up before, the trend at the time was seriously heavy on eyeshadow and they laugh), in dresses and heels, with Lyn saying she was tipsy which me and Siofra knew meant she was drunk and so we must be drunk too and we started having a little tea party there on the floor. We never even made it out (here I was struck by something holy, that note of pure sororal friendship, harmonic to my own experiences but at the same time wholly distinct. Annie had opened up a window to a polaroid past, unreachable in the way the past always is, but also, closed off to me in that I could never experience female friendship, sisterhood, in the way that they had. God how special it was for a viscous browngold moment, rebounding now off the red-bricks along the line, and God how it made me sad), and we called it Nibbles, our little Southern Comfort tea party.
Fucker. The DART stops suddenly, trying to throw me out of my seat. Tara Street. Well, time to get off anyway. See, this is why it’s useless getting caught up in reveries, I’ve never heard of anyone getting into a nice reverie without them being jolted right the fuck out of it all of a sudden. Annie and her Nibbles. Nothing about it glows at the minute, there’s a pit of deadness at the heart of me that makes sure of that. The buzz is worth it though isn’t it oh yes, what is it Marck always says ah sure if it was easy, they’d all do it.
It’s bright out, empty. I drag the sleeve of my jacket across my forehead and give a little shiver. I could, very easily, collapse right now, just lie on the ground. Maybe in just the right position on the kerb so that a car drives by and runs over my fuckin skull, that’d be peachy. It’s worse I’m getting. Need to get home, gotta get on a 14. Grim. The DART is the smoothest ride of your life compared to the bus, it really is.
Waiting at the bus stop I start panicking. The bus is coming in 3 MINUTES, then 2 MINUTES, then 3 MINUTES, then back up to four somehow. I would feel like I’m losing my marbles, or being caught in the flux of some proper time dilation, if this wasn’t so notorious, so fuckin classic Dublin Bus. Still, even though I know this, this a-linear, whirly notion of time is still upsetting my very fucking fragile state of being and if it doesn— thankfuck, never mind.
I give the bus driver a nod as I’m tapping on, half: hello thanks for driving the bus Mr, half: please please don’t go over the speed-bumps too hard, I really couldn’t hack that right now. I’m pretty sure he catches my drift and so I climb the stairs. There are a few people downstairs but up here is empty. I watch the City Centre churn by in shakes and spurts. I’m really feeling it now. What the fuck am I at, Christ.
Soon enough I’m joined up top: people dotting about, sitting by themselves, minding their own business. Until this one fucker gets on and plonks himself down right in front of me, no big deal, takes out his headphones, again, no big deal, and starts listening to music, with his shite headphones floating a tinny reproduction of whatever he’s hearing to back at me, normally, to be honest, no big deal, but this morning, this morning I’m really not in the mood and my head fills with visions of blood, of my bony balled-up fist knocking his head forward like an arcade punch machine. Stupid fucking prick. Sucker punch the prick. Where have I heard that lately: golpe a traición, coup bas, unerwarteter Schlag, ispodtiška, phwnsh sugnwr. (Fuck are you on about Marck? I asked, not for the first time that night.) Sucker punch. Spanish, French, German, Russian, Welsh. Sucker punch. (And?) It’s the first thing I learn in any language, or at least, I’m learning it in as many languages as I can. (Why? I asked, dutifully, him wanting to be asked.) Well, see, how it is is I want to see cunts coming, if they’re gonna try something, ah-ta-ta-ta whisht now, unlikely you’ll say, that this would be helpful, well, you’d be wrong. See, cause I started this after I was jumped a while back, by a load of Spanish fuckers, four of them (everyone was listening now, leaning forward, Marck being known for his gory oratory), I would’ve battered them, skinny-fuckers they all were (Ye would yeah, Roman said, we laughed) whisht, only while I’m sizing them up one of them says all casual to his friend “golpe a traición,”and gives a nod, then he swings at me before I was ready and suddenly all four of them are sticking their boots into me while I’m lying there defenceless. Now, by the time I get up they’re gone, but that phrase, “golpe a traición,” is burned into my skull. And so I go home, and look it up, in Spanish, in all the languages, cause no cunt is ever gonna pull that on me again. I learn all sorts of phrases so I do, and just as well… (a kind of waaaayyyy went round the room, pure bloodlust) cause I see him, couple weeks later, that sucker-punch fucker, only he’s on his own now. So, I tap him on the shoulder, tap tap tap, and he turns round, and what do I say to him? (Golpe a traición!!! We cheered) No, not quite (Marck knows how to build us up, bring us back down, keep us simmering, hot for blood and pride and getting fuckers), I say “Voy a golpearte en la cara, coño” perfect Spanish (Google translate more like; laugh), perfect Spanish for “I’m going to punch you square in the face, you cunt” and I do, I knock his head hard enough to sprawl him, but I make sure the cunt knows they’re going to be hit before I hit them, I’m no fuckin coward. (Then we all felt love for Marck, because he was real, more blood and dirt than any of us, cause he didn’t give a fuck, and, mostly, cause he made us laugh; we mock-wrestled him to the floor, whooping some shite about sucker punches.)
Fuck, easy tell Marck wasn’t on the lovedrug last night, pure coke-talk if ever I heard. Now, that story doesn’t leave me hollow, cold light of day that one makes me a bit sick. Cunt-this, cunt-that, he probably deserved to be battered by the Spanish lads. Never told us why they were squaring up, was probably him being a racist bastard like usual. Thought of him learning other languages, hah. Still, can’t say he didn’t spin it well, had me codded last night, the prick. Have to go out with him again on Sunday, fantastic. Why does he go on like that I wonder. I guess, why does anyone go on any way. The headphones guy has gone since. Good riddance, prick.
I’m not caught up in any thoughts when the bus gets to my stop. I’m not thinking anything at all. I, or the ghost of me at least, float down the stairs and off the bus, across the empty road, over the wet grasses, along a row of identikit houses, until I’m home, key in the door, fiddle-fiddle swing, up the carpeted stairs and into my room, into bed. If found: please return, shaking and shivering, to a little damp room in a Dublin house-share, any one will do.
Fuck, I could nearly end myself now. This is some price to pay for the buzz. For last night. How did it even end, last night, or when did it end? When was it not last night anymore, and this morning instead? Sunrise, I suppose: (Fuck, we’ll be dying tomorrow, I was saying to Roman) God Yeah, at least you have nothing on, I have work in the morning, I have an alarm set for six that I’ll probably hear go off any second. (It’d been a while since my fourth half, I was coming back to earth.) Should I text yer man? (For sure, I said. What were we thinking trying to buy acid and the sun coming up.) Fuck, he still hasn’t seen the message. I know where he lives though, we could razz over on the bus? He gets back from work around this time. (I almost said yes; nah, man, can’t get off this couch, I’m donezo.) Fair, I’m fairly fucked as well. Where was I anyway? (You were telling us about Sarah, Van said. Good old Van, see the lovedrug affects your short term memory a bit, but Van was only drinking and so she sat with me and Roman on the couch, reminding us what we were talking about whenever we lost track.) Oh yeah, yeah I was, it was the weirdest fuckin thing. Me and Sarah (he lowered his voice so Annie wouldn’t overhear; her and Sarah are close, she wanted to stay neutral), we were sitting there, eating pasta, business as usual. I’m enjoying my spaghetti, it was lovely, I make a whopper plate of pasta, and so I give her a smile over the carbonara, and she smiles back, and she’s smiling yeah, but then I look closer and she’s crying as well, not sobbing or heaving or anything but there’s just tears flowing down her face, dripping onto her dinner, and I don’t know what to say, so I just say “Sarah, you’re getting your carbonara all salty.” (Jesus Roman, Van said, you’re useless.) Evidently yeah, cause after that, somehow or other, that was the end of it, I think. I know it sounds crazy. But yeah, we went to bed that night and had sex, and then the next morning she told me that she was breaking up with me, wouldn’t say why, or what it was about or anything. (Jesus man, sorry, I said, are you alright?) Ah yeah, I mean, obviously I’m a bit cut up, but I guess she knew something I didn’t, and then once she’d left I nearly knew it as well. Had to be done. I hadn’t even noticed properly, but yeah, things hadn’t been great, cause I think we were both relieved, or at least I am now, to be at the end of it all. At least it wasn’t like, shouting and screaming and plates breaking or any of that, it was just … yeah.
Yeah, like, obviously I’m not 100%, but I’m feeling better now … fuckin hell, I really needed this, just all of us together, havin the craic, really brought me back to reality a bit. We should do this more often. I know we’re all busy, and I know we say this every time and never follow through, but we really should do this regular, yeah? (Yeah man, definitely, me, or Van, or someone said.) Nice one … fuck, it’s so bright out already. (Yeah, I said, and I lay across the other two on the couch. Roman gently stroked my hair, and he said he loved me. Said he loved Van and Annie, and Marck. I said it too, and I said it wasn’t just the drugs talking. I loved them all, all of us together. I can’t sing for shit, but that’s it isn’t it, that beauty note is when your wretched voice comes good in the thronging of the chorus. And after I’d said it, a second later, I was down, and it was gone.)
Now my hair is slick with sweat. My stomach is full of grey vomit. Because it’s gone, because I won’t get it back, not for ages, and never sober. That closeness, that feeling that you’re about to get to the heart of it, of them. Replaced by sickness, loss, hate, separateness. I don’t think we’re supposed to be this way, separate. I don’t think I can be this way.
This sweat drying on my face, these thoughts rattling around my head, always stopping at the walls of my skull – they’re my great fear confirmed, of how fruitless is the longing for what I’ll never, can never, could never, know. There aren’t words for how fuckin lost it is. What is it like to be you. I know you, but not like I know myself, from the inside out, to the centre, to it all. Not even a fear really. Fear is about the unknown, the dread of something coming, isn’t it. This has come, this is happening, this was always here and will never go away, this is so definite that there can be no fear. Fuck it, the despair then: that no matter how close I come, I will always be back here, shut out of you, trapped in myself, alone in my body. I will never have an instant or an inkling of what it truly feels like to be anyone or anything but myself, to understand how we fit together, to see myself from the outside, to love you properly, to know you really.
One… Jesus, one second…
Okay. So it starts with a dark and muggy morning. With me tucked up on Marck’s sweaty couch. With a terrible finger of sunshine accosting me through the curtains. I can hear Marck and Annie in the kitchen making tea. They’re not saying anything, heads probably too sore for that, but I can hear clinking and scraping and the steamy thrush of the kettle bubbling and pip-popping away and – urghk, and I think – yeah, definitely. I’m definitely gonna vomit. I leg it to the jacks half tripping in the tangle of blankets that grip round my ankles and find myself hunched in the posture of the porcelain hug. I can feel it rising up my throat, the hot load of sick…