I lost the first draft of this story earlier on today and I was really tempted to just abandon it, but decided to start writing again from scratch. I really like how this second version came out... This was inspired by a very interesting group of characters I came to know. Also I've incorporated lyrics from Placebo's 'Haemoglobin' and Ray Lamontagne's 'Empty.' Hope you like it...
Brimming with Defiance
What do you know about heroin? Heroin. He-ruin. He-ruined me. What do you know about it? Hmm well, I must admit I don't know much. I just know what I've learnt from you, from watching you and listening to you and being around you. I don't know anything more than that- or anything less. Sweet lady, I came to see you once. I rung the bell. You shouted down at me from the balcony of the estate. Now my feet don't touch the ground. I held up the small paper bag. You came down, a baby clutched to your chest, your baby, and you offered me a ghostly smile, feint and unearthly. You took it, you took the bag and then you went back in, and with a map still in hand, I walked away. A rainbow appeared then, drops of water fell and sun beat down, the grey clouds slowly turned gold. I watched the sky- I watched the whole thing unfold. I know what I've seen. I know you live in another realm. Another world. I know there's pain and darkness where you live, but I know there's a freedom too. You live in a place, sweet lady, so different from the place they live. I felt a kinship with you, once or twice in four years. Actually, if I'm honest. I always felt a kinship with you, and the others too. What do I know? Now my feet don't touch the ground. I know nothing.
Mister, I know that your gait scared them, your dreadlocks thick and unkempt swayed, and you took those steps with your strong long legs and as you walked they moved away from you. Did you do that on purpose? And you dear, I know you always wore shades, whatever the weather, whatever the season, they hid your dark eyes, your weariness. I never learned to count my blessings. You said the world was too bright and so you hid behind those shades. Big shades they were, they covered most of face. I choose instead to dwell in my disasters. You were a woman of few words. Your son, he must have been about fifteen then. He had a resilience about him, a defiance, similar to yours. And Iz, you were so quiet, so sweet natured. You always asked me the price of strange things, like lipstick you would never wear or hair gel you would never use. I told you, but you didn't care. And you too sir, you sure asked a lot of questions- not about prices, about other things. Your best friend was your dog, he was your only friend, you said. You loved him. 'Leave her alone, she's just a normal girl!' I was hanging from a tree. Unaccustomed to such violence. She told me she couldn't describe what she felt then, when you defended her. You and the other roaming vagabonds. She felt a great sense of injustice. And pride to be there with you. Were you sitting on the stoop, that same one the others claimed as their own?
I don't know much. But I do know your dog barked a lot, he scared people off. They said we lost a lot of business because of him. You didn't care. You weren't scared of most things. The only thing you feared was what would become of you when you finally got clean, did you ever? He said you wouldn't. He said you couldn't. He said it was too hard. Was he telling the truth? Will I always feel this way? You otherworldly folk, they call you addicts. They call you lonely, they call you trouble, but much of the time they call you nothing because you're invisible to them. So empty, so estranged. You're not of this world see. Do you not agree? I've noticed over the years, that you have this untouchable quality about you, sometimes you wear this cloak and you're concealed. You rattle cages, you can't deal, with being ignored at times. Other times, most of the time, you don't care. You steal batteries and make-up, the security guards ignores you. I'll go fighting nail and teeth. You've never seen such perseverance. Gonna make you scared of me. Cause Haemoglobin is the key. Because he's afraid maybe, or maybe it's because he's your friend. You seem to make friends easily, when you're not wearing that cloak of yours. It smells, that cloak, do you know, it's considered incredibly ill-mannered to wear a cloak that smells. You don't care, neither do I. That's why you make friends, because you're real. You don't care what people say, you don't fear the way they stare at you, sometimes blankly, sometimes they look straight through.
There's a lot of things I don't understand. Why so many people lie. It's their hurt I hide that fuels the fire inside me. You keep yourself busy by trying to stay alive. It's tough business, staying alive. Some of you strive harder than others. Some of you just try to get through day by day, any way you can. You and I. We would talk sometimes about stuff. Sometimes he talked to you about football. You said you were waiting for the next fall; the rush, the pain, the ecstasy, they don't know life, the way we do, they don't see the things we see them. They don't know of the dirt, the glory, the freedom, the pain, the pain, the pain. I sleep anywhere. I wake up somewhere new each day, in a different park, in a seedy bar, in some random car. And of these cut-throat busted sunsets. These cold and damp quiet mornings, I have grown weary. You roam in packs sometimes. I can hear you coming, you're so loud. I saw some of your comrades by the river once, they looked just like the three of you. They goaded their dogs on to scare the swans, such fun to be a bum- sometimes! Ordinary people looked on in disgust, they made such a fuss to the police. Your clothes were matted and dirty and they smelt, but you were free. You live in a prison, you once told me- remember that time you missed it, you told me I'll never understand the hell of it. The cold sweats, the voices, the devil inside, you called it the devil. Was it the devil? Satan made you do it. We don't care. We don't fear, the things you do. But forever weary and on edge, you always seemed to be distracted- by what? This one time, I remember, you were in good spirits, I saw you in Greggs, you said hello darling, you alright? See, I've seen a side to you. I've seen this kindness in you, in all of you, a humble kindness, a quiet humility. A certain vulnerability.
Sometimes I wonder what you're thinking while you're waiting. How'd I ever end up here. Must be through some lack of kindness. I remember you hesitantly took the bottle of emerald elixir the first time I handed it to you, from that empty square in the door. I looked away and you consumed it. I don't know why. I could never watch. It felt wrong, it felt like you were telling the truth when you said you were less than human. Will I always feel this way? The demons that consume, we know nothing about them you said you woke up screaming. You said you could never forget, the images that would cross your mind day and night, all the bad things you'd seen in the underworld, on your commute to hell, in the basements, in the gutters, fettered- you stuttered. Mostly you stuttered. So empty, so estranged. Once you called me sister, did you ever call me friend? He sent you away. You said you wanted to get off it, you wanted to start new, for you. For your family and friends too. You said you were sick of disappointing them. As they drag me to my feet, I was filled with incoherence- Theories of conspiracy. The whole world wants my disappearance. And the way you'd greet each other there, the way you'd talk about Cellar Door. You made it sound like an alternate universe. The way you talked to each other about what was going down in your reality. See you're not here, you traverse the realms of reality and fiction. This addiction, has made you see clearly, you said- sometimes you bleed. You bleed at night, when you can't fight the demons inside. You found that you had enough. You wanted to end it, but the desire to keep living drove you on. It's their hurt I hide that fuels the fire inside me.
And that rush, sometimes it was worth it, worth living the way we do. Have you heard of the rule of thumb? Well that's what I try to go by. You don't know what life is like for us. Don't pretend you do. We live a lifetime of dying, a lifetime of trying, to be human again. And still its hard somehow to let go of my pain. But we slip up, we're fallible, we're in it together, when one slips, others follow. There's another side to it to you know, there's a glimmer of gold in the darkness, it's bright and vivid- it's the glimmer of kinship, of madness, of the glory of sadness, of being and being too far gone to care. I've said this so many times, but let me say it again. It's worth repeating. I don't care about the things you care about. I flout, around like a king in my castle. I live in the slums of this great city of London, the characters I meet you- mate you wouldn't believe, half the stories I could tell. I live. Like you I live. I give. I sieve through my brain. I try to remain true to myself, I try to remember who I was, now I'm a ghost, a shadow of my former self, but it wasn't always like this. I wasn't always like this. At the time they cut me free I was brimming with defiance. Doctors looking down on me. Breaking every law of science. My hairs gone grey, my skins become wrinkly, holes pierce this skin of mine, scars are engraved on my rough flesh, meshed together with wires and strings, I wish I could grow wings. And fly away from here. I can't, so on my knees, I beg and pray and cry to God above, I pray for respite. I pray for forgiveness. I pray for morphine. I pray for this pain to leave me. If through my cracked and dusted dime-store lips, I spoke these words out loud would no one hear me.
See that emerald elixir you hand me, it will get me through tonight- till tomorrow, it will do. I have only you for company, you who? You wouldn't understand. Why we bounce of walls, why we pounce on normal people. But you, you always had a smile on your face. We'd talked once about Banged up Abroad, and how you wish you could afford to start another life, a new one. I wish I could start from scratch, I'd give up my stash. You were always so kind to me, you made me feel normal and happy. I'm Irish, you know, we used to grow potatoes in the famine. I'm famished, even now. Sometimes you got mad, you all did- an inexplicable rage would overcome, a fire would burn inside, a wire snapped and you grappled. You said we didn't understand how it was, you felt smothered by life, by the rules, clock in clock out, forced to drink your green liquid in that room. Freedom, a distant dream, when you were reliant on a poison. You'd had enough! There's a lot of things that can kill a man. There's a lot of ways to die. Listen, some already did that walked beside me.
Still, you keep the strength to live life like you do. Everyday. Anyway, I was sitting in my room today, thinking about you all, with a sickness spreading through my bones, I began thinking about other sick people. And other people who are sick. See even though I don't get what it's like, I felt a kinship with you otherworldly folk- you lived in a prison you couldn't escape, with no one to save you and no where to run. Life had become, a string of disappointments and not just for you, but for everyone you knew. You said it once, so much hurt in your voice, you said, you thought you would die. Cry. Let it out. Cry. Cry a river of tears- look at me when you cry. My mother said, look at me when you cry and try to understand what you have done. Well, I looked my demons in the eyes. Laid bare my chest, said "Do your best, destroy me You see, I've been to hell and back so many times I must admit you kind of bore me"
You told me once, love exists, so does detachment and it's comforting to know, that everywhere we go, we're never alone- in feeling alone. You zone out, so do I. There are so many worlds in this one world, so many lives are intertwined, so many stories are perfectly unaligned. I find it so sad, so strange- when I see you. When I bump into you, a ghost in the fog, in the rain, sometimes in a playground, on that same stoop, on a random bus, sometimes you travel in a troop. Now my feet don't touch the ground. And I smile at you, you probably don't notice. You probably don't care or remember who I am, I mean there's no way you can. How'd I ever end up here? A latent strain of colour blindness. But I smile. And I think for a while, I'm glad you're still around. See, I'm really bad at remembering names. I've forgotten most- old friends, work mates, but I remember all yours, I remember your unforgettable names. Nuno. Oz. Santos. Brazil. Howl. Locke. Mr Dread-Locke. Mr Yellow Vest. I invested a lot, into learning your names. What do I know about you? Nothing. I know nothing...