This isn’t me on the picture. They sent reporters to get a story. Look at that poor girl – the way they’re bothering her. Not right. If they had come around me like that I’d have told them where to get off.
I’m here because I want to be here. I’m choosing not to be in the system. But it wasn’t always like that. I was young once. Can you believe it? I was handsome too – in a bohemian kind of a way. Quite the charmer I was too. But that was before the drugs.
I started off as a curious young man looking for a new experience. I’d tried booze and was sick of the headaches. I’d moved on to meditation, but it didn’t really hit my sweet spot. Not powerful enough. So what did that leave?
My friend at the time set me up. She got me a little piece of paper that she swore was the real deal. Acid. LSD. Trip-medicine.
I was living in a flat at the time. Grotty. You can picture it easily: wallpaper peeling off the walls from the damp. Black maps in the bathroom. Greasy smells in the kitchen. A bed that never seemed warm or dry. Home sweet home.
The sofa stinked of curry and fags (all my fault, m’lud) and so I sat on the rug that I got from the market to cover the stain on the carpet that almost covered the concrete floor and never stopped the cold from rising up into my bones. Plenty of practice for the streets.
It was an alright trip. The pattern on the carpet grew around my legs like mad vegetation and the light from the lamp was like God’s own presence. The walls didn’t crowd in on me any more than normal and I had the feeling that the top of my head had opened like one of those metal tea-pots you get in M&S and that I’d poured myself out into the universe. All in all, pretty much what I expected.
It was nice. So I did it again. And again. And then all the money was gone. And then the lamp and the smelly sofa were gone. And then I ate the wallpaper. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it gave me terrible indigestion, which would have been funny if I had any drugs left or money to buy them with or stuff to sell to get money or a place to live.
The girl that sold me the drugs had a really bad trip a bit soon after. She couldn’t even tell me why, but I can still remember the way she screamed as if she was having her skin ripped off by blunt razor-blades. Perhaps that’s what she felt because she kept batting her hands against herself as if knocking off beetles.
When she threw herself through the upstairs window I had the damndest feeling she was going to fly to a somewhere better. And I guess she did. The Saint Someone-or-other Hospital. Cleaned her up, got her sorted. Never saw her again. Just heard that she’d finally used her degree to get a job as a social worker. She never socialled with us though. Never saw her on the streets. Never saw … ah, whatever.
I’ve been in this spot for more than twenty years. Since I was half what’s doubled. Years of life sitting and looking like I’m shivering my ass off. And yes, I feel it. And no, the shaking doesn’t stop when I get warm. Which is rare.
The drugs did something to me. The top of my head fixed itself back on with iron bolts like those on Frankenstein’s monster and the walls closed in even tighter. Even after I sold it, the carpet pattern jungle grew so wild that it reached right up into my brain and poked all the neurons and synapses to death. All the lights were put out in chez-Michael.
I could feel them go out in big, spattering ruins on those nights when I lay in the latest hostel they got me in. I couldn’t sleep because if I did, someone would wake me again. Couldn’t stand the way I shrieked like a little girl they told me. I asked them why little girls would be shrieking, but that just made them madder and they generally threw me out soon after. Still, not a complete bust. I stole money from them. You learn some skills on the street. Not proud of that. It is what it is.
Twenty years is a short time for penance. I’ve known some saints who’ve put in more of a shift. They come to talk to me. The saints, that is. Some of them are nice and some look like the devil himself. Sometimes I can’t tell them from the punters. The ones that flip a coin at me and go off feeling all warm and loving are the easy ones. The hardest is when someone stops to have a chat and ask me how I am.
I used to tell them, but I got harder to reach after the first few years. I got further away from myself and I couldn’t force my brain to find the words anymore. They took it well. Would still stop and talk, but wouldn’t ask so much when they saw where I was. Inside, that is. I’d look at them and that seemed to be all they wanted. To be seen.
I have this theory that people just want to be loved. So I love them, just like the saints love me. Pass it on. Pass it on. Penance. Got to go now. Strain being here. More of a nothing. The church says back to the wall she. Listen. La. Do you know? Do you?
I. Me. Look at you.
Always beautiful. Glissade.
She touched me in a … in a muddle. In the middle. Oh. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I never meant
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