why being off drugs is like being on drugs


There were teen parties in Queens in the 70s, I remember very little about them except the kids who had the parties were rich. They had pool tables and rec rooms. They had amazing all in one stereo systems. Everyone had a copy of Frampton Comes Alive, a double album that no matter whose house you opened it in, some straggling pot seeds would fall out. Everyone seemed to clean their dope in the gatefold of Frampton Comes Alive, the subtitle should have been “and you all can get wasted to the weary wah wah peddle and excruciatingly long guitar solos and say oi, Peter, no, I do not feel like you do, for I am not a rock god but a skinny 14 year old with a cheesecloth shirt and bell bottoms and a peace pendant round my neck, having a bit of a boring time at this party. There were two “sexy” games people played at the racier parties, so chaste were they , we really were innocents.  No one ever got preg playing spin the bottle. If you kissed someone on the mouth it was a huge deal, it meant you “put out” So I never. There was a more mysterious game called seven minutes in heaven. A guy and a gal ( can not remember the selection process, it was less random than a bottle spin) went into a closet and came out seven minutes later. Sometimes one or both were a bit flushed. I was spared the details. Some items of clothing may have been taken off, or unbuttoned.  Those kids for sure would wind up in Juvenile D centres of correction. Or pregnant, or both.

I never liked pot. It made lazy people even lazier, and bores even more boring.  What I liked to do best at parties was to imagine that I lived in the house, that that was my pool table, my dog, my garage with a deep freezer full of emergency pies My double doored fridge that made ice on the outside, my three toilets, each with a different decor and different scented Charmin loo roll that would hurt your bits, from the stuff they used to scent it. Each with different colour schemes a a tin of air freshener to match. Each with a box of matches in case the air freshener did not work.

But I digress. At some point in rehab a kid ,really a kid, 18, came to stay in our flat. He was addicted to the really strong pot they have now, skunk. He was spotty and had a not quite grown into his face sorta face, big tall body, little boy head full of weed. He worked in a chip shop. He had all the irritating habits of a teenager but none of the endearing ones. I didn’t so much want to mother his as to murder him. The trouble with coming off deaden your soul drugs is that feelings start to come back and in my case, some were murderous. I had  science teacher once who told us eight employees a year vanish near the frying vats of potato chip factories. I didn’t eat potato chips for years after, in case I was eating someone’s dad. I started to think of this kid falling into the vat of oil. Though chip shop ones would not be big enough to accommodate his outsize legs. We used to sit in the front room and glare at each other, neither of us having anything going for us. Me, middle aged, fucked in the head,full of sadness for my dead best friend, no drugs to deaden the pain. Him, a spotty oik missing his weed, the only thing to counter the tedium of asking “Do you want salt and vinegar with those?” and stinking that rank smell of hardly every changed cooking oil that seeps into every pore and lingers.

“Why are you here? Why are you not like, at a kid one?”

He had no answer and even if he did, it would involve stopping scowling at me to open his thin lips.

One night he decided to make himself spaghetti. He emptied the whole packet from Asda into a too small pot and the ends burned and the resulting mounds of glutinous mess (you’ve made too much , I observed) he tried manfully to shovel the whole lot down his throat, to prove the portion had been right for him.
“What the fuck has it fucking got the fuck to do with you?”

“Fuck all. I hope you eat the lot and feel terribly sick.”

And when I wasn’t feeling angry I was feeling sad. Once a week a guy came and stuck needles in our ears and we meditated. I meditated murdering him and sticking all the pins into him. Why was I so pissed off. Had the wind changed direction as I came off drugs and did I get like, stuck in an angry person’s head?  I was nicer on drugs, sure, comatose at times, and more vocal when I was angry, actually no I was not nicer on drugs, I was a pain in the arse.  But was just containing all this anger the only alternative. Was the rest of my life gonna be spent imagining teens falling into vats of oil, hippy guys who meant well being pinioned to death with his own acupuncture needles?  Guys ODing on spaghetti? (never saw that in a mafia film. Probably an impossible way to die) Wandering why I never got chosen for seven minutes in heaven?

But but but, something nice was happening in all this, just for a few minutes a day. It was October, a rather warm one, and the way we had to walk from our flat to the centre every day meant cutting through a church yard, and in this church yard there was a really clean early morning smell, and I would not have noticed it before. I gazed at fat spiders in the middle of dew dropped dappled webs and noticed the fine craftsmenship, the beauty of nature.  People who’ve done a lot of acid talk about spider webs a lot, but never in great detail. Really, the most they say is “Wow, ” or “Like. Wow” or least originally, “We should give that spider some acid” I noticed the way the sunlight hit the brown and red leaves, making a sparkling crunchy carpet. I noticed the sound of the birds singing, waves ( when we were at the sea) crashing, going in and out, in and out ever so gently, never getting bored with going in and out, in and out, wearing out the shiny stones, washing away half built or demolished sand castles. I saw telly kid watching cartoons and eating chocolate cereal in his front room, net curtainless, in his school uniform. What a picture of innocence. Invite me in, telly kid. Invite me in to watch cartoons and drink tea and I will make you  a proper breakfast. After school I will take you to the sea and we will skim stones. You will be better at it than I am, making them leap four or five times, and mine would sink, sink like stones. But I would not mind if it would spare me this glut, this storm of feelings.  Gimme telly and sugar and another child, for I feared I had lost my own ones.

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