This story is not tons different from the other rehab stories I’ve read, fucking up, selfishness, loss, redemption, more loss, but it’s different in parts, so stay with me. It’s kinda long so I may have to tell it in installments
After a series of up close and personal deaths, wham bam thank you mam deaths, fast and close and not a ton of in- between space to figure out what’s it all about , Alfie, moments, I took shit loads of drugs, some legal, some illegal, and chased em with Russian vodka. This was trick I learned from one of my dead best friends Drew ( not a drug death , an AIDs death, before they had anything smarter than AZT. Take a valium, chase it with two shorts of vodka, and nothing really matters. Drew got any drug he wanted cos AIDs back then was a death sentence, you want heroin, sure why the fuck not, your number’s up and you may as well spend the remaining painful days in comatose oblivion. )
I went to visit his mother in New York after he died. She had a totally white and pristine apartment. In his declining months, when he would do laps round the hospital with his drip and grown up nappies, the nurses opined he was trying to out run his own inevitable mortality. But that day I visited his mother, after he had died and they scattered his ashes in Central Park,she said, “I know it sounds terrible but he would run round the apartment naked, shitting and vomiting on my white carpet. I said Drew, will you please just shit and puke in one place, so there is only one stain, not a series of major carpet cleaning stains, but he was so out of it.” His body had a mind of its own. “Cleaning it all, my God, it cost a fucking fortune”
He came to visit me in London, in my bedsit in Finsbury park, nicknaming my Italian landlady Mrs. Manafuckingcotti. He cruised the disused railway that ran up to Ally Pally, and made a bee line for Soho, his gaydar still being keener than anything else. One night he told me, “Oh, I don’t have HIV anymore, I have full blown AIDs,” before spitting out a mouthful of pesto and pasta I’d made us for dinner. “Don’t take this personally, but I hate pesto and the AZT makes me throw up anyway” and he ran to the toilet and stayed there for some time. He said, “Don’t fucking cry on me, Michele, I’m the one who’s got it, not you.” And I cried my head off and between puking he shouted “Oh shut up already.I’ll share my drugs with you, the good ones, they give me whatever I want because I’m dying.”
After he was finished vomiting and shitting he went to Soho. I wanted to have the conversation with him, was he making other people sick, was he seeking out complimentary treatments? He did that hand wave “stop” sign he always did, told me to book us tickets to see the Crown Jewels, and “forgeddaboutit.”
We did the sights, he was sick a lot, and we lay curled up in my single bed while he shivered and sweated and then he would pop up and demand to see the changing of the guard.
He died a couple of years later, when I was pregnant with my second kid in London. They scattered his ashes in Central Park, I may have been too pregnant to fly, or too agoraphobic, I can’t remember, but I had heard it was a windy day and when they tossed the ashes they went flying back into everyone’s hair and faces.
This story isn’t really part of the big story, only in the sense that he taught me how to achieve oblivion faster without anyone noticing all that much, or even if they did, you would be too out of it to care. I managed what I thought was a sense of normality when my kiddies were young. We went to museums, parks, libraries, swimming pools, we played Monopoly “This is so you can learn about Capitalism and greed” I would think, before buying up all the railroads. My old man was killed on a train, so it felt like some kind of Karmic payback. I can’t remember ever finishing a game. It was too boring.
I made them healthy packed lunches and dinners, I let them make drumkits out of all the saucepans. We went on picnics. Holidays. I let them jump up and down on the beds. I watched The Aristocats about five million times. I watched their puppet shows which were all about some puppet popping up and then disappearing and then I would have to shout “Hey, where did he go?” Sometimes I threw Lego at the puppets to teach them about criticism. “Oi. Do something else besides disappear. The plot is very thin.” They’d do another show, wrapping sheets around their little Batman and princess pyjama’d bodies and singing and interpretive dancing to Kate Bush’s Babushka. No matter how many times they did this, it made me laugh. When we got cable tv I made them watch Siouxie and the Banshees and would say, “This, children, is proper music. Not the Spice Girls” And my daughter would say, “That’s not singing. She’s just shouting. That’s not dancing, she’s just kicking her legs up and down.” And then we’d have to listen to the Spice Girls. And every shitty early 90s volume of Now That’s What I Call Music. And we’d all dance and jump up and down on the beds.
I tell you all this to say I wasn’t always the asshole I became. I was a devoted wife and mother for a sizable chunk of their young lives. Sometimes I went on girls nights out with my friends and at some point they’d all start bitching about their men. I never joined in. I had a great guy. Really, I had nothing to complain about. Until some of my friends started dropping dead. I think then, I sort of made Drew’s little handwave to life and went uh uh uh, I don’t do death. I do drugs.”
To be continued.