rehab part 3


Oh, OK Paul is dead. We don’t know the details. Cops came in, our friend went in first. He was hunched or slumped in a corner. Dogs needed walking. Our friend walked his dogs. Someone had rung his wife, who we hear had just screamed. A really long scream. Takes big lungs. I know that dead husband scream. My mother had screamed it in Liverpool, at the top of the stairs, before melting into her nightgown and evaporating in 1967, when my father was killed. It is a particular pitch, that scream. I think it must be the one that makes light bulbs explode, and the light dims forever or it feels like they will be forever, before you go, oh hey, I can get another light bulb. Or a torch. Something. Life will not always be this dark. Only you can’t see it at the time. You can’t see anything.

We cried, or I cried, maybe he cried, on the bed some and then I said oh, we have to call his parents. By which I meant, I have to ring his parents. We threw some clothes on, went round to his flat and there were  men taking him away, all covered up. We went next door to our friend who lived next door to him.  A lot of our mutual friends were there, pacing, smoking, red rimmed eyes. I went into a room and rang his family house in Belfast. His mum answered. I said Hi, it’s Michele and I have some very bad, bad news, the worst news.

His mum was very composed. A little confused because I was not sure how to tell the story, what little of it I knew. He had not been answering his calls, he had not walked the dogs. He was doing , or not doing things , and this was unusual. I didn’t know the details and didn’t really want to. I know when I think of this phone call, these terrible feelings come up in me , as if it is happening right now, even though it isn’t, it is four year later now. I said , look, it’s about Paul, and it’s bad, really really bad. We couldn’t get hold of him, they couldn’t get hold of him, and then they found him.

Where did they find him, she wanted to know. I think at this point I had led her to believe he was just missing.

In his flat.

“I’m not sure what you are saying. Are you trying to tell me my son is dead?”

“Yes, I am trying to tell you your son is dead. Yes. I am so very sorry.”

She said something to her husband. We agreed it would be best to stop talking just then, and maybe talk a little later. 

All I really remember about the next fews days is ringing people to tell them, then taking lots of drugs and ringing the same people to tell the same story. And taking the same drugs. And telling the same story. And more drugs. You get the picture. And some would say, “Um , yes, we had this conversation.

A few hours ago. And yesterday as well. Are you OK?”

“No. I’m the opposite of OK. The total opposite.”

I didn’t say that. I said:


“Oh, sorry, I’m going through a list. I guess  I didn’t tick you off the list. But really, the reason I’m calling is Paul is dead and we have to do a funeral and of course you will come, I’ll let you know.”

About 16 months after those dark, eternal days, ( in the inbetween time I had left my husband and kids, moved into a damp bedsit , did drugs for a year solid and nothing else solid came into it. I staggered down to a room in Hackney Central where we sat in a circle while a guy stuck pins in our ears, to get off drugs or drink. It didn’t work. So I got into rehab. That did work.) I went to visit a friend who was outside this particular circle of friends, and I told him the bare basics. My best friend died, I went crazy, left my husband and kids and lived in squalor for nearly a year, then went to rehab but I’m OK now, so like are we still friends, you and me?

And he looked confused. He said, “Wait, this guy was your friend. Not your husband, you are talking about him like he was your husband.”

“Oh God, no, we never, no, no it was never like that. No sex, not that kind of love.”

And this friend is quick witted and I thought I had fed him a line which would be along the thoughts of, just what I am saying, no sex is what wives have with husbands, or don’t have. I rest my case, you are talking about this guy like he was your husband.

But he wasn’t my husband and even if he had been , that would have not been an excuse to go and create the massive shit storm I did.

And here’s the thing about bad grieving. It’s a selfish animal if you let it become so. It not only consumes you, if you let it, but no one else is allowed to be sad too, you have to be the saddest, because that shows you loved the hardest and most.

Well I have tell you now, with the wisdom of hindsight, that’s a load of horseshit. TBC

They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, yeah, alright then. Part One.


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.