“We’re sorry, but your room smells like bad feet,” said one of my rehab flatmates. Which made me wonder what good feet smell like. I’ve always had problems with my feet, except they don’t smell. I had to have a bit of one sawn off. Of coarse the best part of the operation was the drugs. The operation itself sucked. My foot blew up to the size of a football. I just lay there, waiting for the next four hours to pass so I could take more drugs. Paul and H came to visit me, sitting on the bed, drinking cocktails. I wanted one too, but even then I was sensible , just enough, not to do a Judy Garland.
When I was a kid I had fallen arches and had to wear steel plates in my shoes, which my mother’s then best friend said hurt like hell when I kicked her. Later on I had to have orthotic devices, and later, an operation, and after that, a procedure , which is like an operation without the drugs or sympathy. I hate my feet, and am not too keen on the particular fumes of the feet of an ex junkie resident.
They sell this shit, these little plasters you out on your feet to “draw out toxins” and you can tell they work cos they turn the colour of shit. But it’s all bollocks. Some people have smelly feet, others have to put up with them.
Not only did the room smell, but after a few sleeps in the monk like single bed ( and I do love a single bed, it makes me feel young and safe and virginal ) with a wash basin in the corner to throw up in, if needs be, I noticed familiar welts in patterns of three all over my body. Bedbugs. They bite in threes cos they are quite civilised and like a three course meal. Starters, mains, and pud. Bedbugs. I had them in the marital home, after, I suspect, we unwisely let a world travelling friend store some of his shit in our attic. I remember when the bedbug guy came, costumed up like a ghostbuster. Me and my husband sat in the front room, all our belongings in bin bags, as the bedbug guy set off a small nuclear device in our bedroom and threw all the bedding out the window. “Look at that gigantic bird, ” I said.”It’s like paleolithic. It’s from another geological period all together, get the camera.”
“It’s not a bird, it’s our duvet.”
“Ah, bedbug guy chucking our bedclothes out the window. The neighbours will think we had a terrible marital spat, or maybe just a really crap sex life.”
The husband watched in his detached way, pillows, pillow cases, duvet covers, the stupid drape like thing you drape over the end of the bed cos that’s what they do in the adverts for classy bedding, even though ours was probably from Argos, IKEA if we were feeling flash. All floating or flying down past the window.
“It’s a metaphor, it means something more than it is,” I opined.
He may have told me to shut the fuck up, but probably didn’t, though I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did.
Bedbugs are something I really know lots about. I became obsessed and stalked the bedbug man, who also killed mice and rats and roaches and ants. I followed him around, watching him kill stuff. Not just in our flat, in other peoples’ houses. I went round with him in his white van. I asked him what he used, like was it Agent Orange and would I die cos he was suited up and I wasn’t? Nah, it was prolonged daily exposure that created health and safety issues, I would be OK. I wrote an article about it and made some good money. But that was a lifetime ago.
Years later, not that many, I was plagued again. I wrote a ten page letter to the director of the rehab. I couldn’t come off all high horsey and say I’m paying three grand a week to be bitten by, like, poverty bugs, cos I wasn’t paying, the council was. In some respect I thought it was karma, Job and his sufferings, bring it on, every affliction and plague, withdrawal, broken ribs, bad feet smells, some other junkie’s feet, not even my own, and bedbugs. A decision was made. We would have to temporarily vacate the flat, move to a B and B and we’d be given a fiver a day for food. F threw a wobbly cos we had to hottest wash all our clothes and all his flash sportsgear shrunk to the size of a six year old child’s. As I was about the size of a six year old child I didn’t give a shit. I just wanted to stop itching, and hurting, and withdrawing. Valium withdrawal is in class of its own. Even the heroin guys shudder about Valium withdrawal. “It’s longer and it’s worse,” they said.
T, my appointed buddy or minder and a vision of raven haired, long legged beauty and zen, she was to be my room mate in our bed bug free B and B. I was having panic attacks about every ten minutes, so she shared some of her sleepers with me. This is not the done thing, but it got me through the relocation crisis.
It was an Indian Summer, in the high 80s in old temperature money, fuck knows in centigrade, but it was summer in October and our B and B was a five minute walk , 15 minute stagger to the beach so we checked in , and went to the beach. L, the girl whose dad made her stuff drugs up her bits, F, well into his gangsta rap and sports wear, the girl from Oxford whose name I can’t remember but she was a smackhead, the nicest one I’ve ever met, with three kids in care, T, the zenned out cool girl about to “graduate” from rehab, and me. We went down to the beach, I staggered behind, and one of our lot, not in our flat but from our rehab, went into the water, dressed head to toe in black clothing. Well why the fuck not? At one point I remember having to use the toilets, and some baldy guy came up to me and said, “Do you even know who you are with?”
And I was like, politically, spiritually?”
And he was like, “No, right now, do you know if you are gonna take a piss you have to do it with two other people from rehab?”
“Yeah, but they don’t have to take a piss. This is a long walk from the Tracy Beaker theme towel I got at a second hand shop. I know I am in rehab, on a beach, and I have to wee. I will not use drugs in the beach toilets, that would be insane. I will wee, probably find the loo roll dispenser empty and not wipe and get a UTI, to add to my various Biblical plagues. So it goes”
“That’s Vonnegut,” I added.
“I have no fucking idea what you are talking about.”
“That makes two of us. If you don’t trust me, wait outside the bog and you can piss trial me, except you can’t cos I would have already taken a piss”
I don’t remember lots else about that day, except thinking I would move here, and live by the sea. In the evening we went to an all you can eat for a fiver Indian buffet. I hate Indian food, and my stomach was in full rebellion. But I got a plate and filled it up and the others, further on in recovery, appetites restored, helped themselves. At night, bed bug bitten and sunburned, I fretted. T gave me a sleeper, but it wasn’t strong enough so she zoned out while I watched a b and B free film, The Lovely Bones. In it, a seventies girl like me, skinny, into David Cassidy and bell bottoms and English boys, gets murdered. Her mother goes insane with grief, as I did, and runs off to some immigrant lettuce picking place. I watched this movie intensely, cried my eyes out, tried to wake T up, to say man, this is really truly what grief is like, this is why I did drugs, this is why I am here. But sun kissed and Indian buffet bloated, she slept like the dead. I tried to focus on the bit of the film I liked best, where Heaven is a place full of PJ parties and David Cassidy posters from the magazine Tiger Beat.
“T, wake the fuck up, this is like my life story, without getting killed”
But she slept like the dead.