rehab part 5- I get on the train and go

Standard

Rebab and such like, facilities for the nervously impaired, always looks great in movies with beautiful chicks. Think young Natalie Wood on a rolling lawn, with a starched white nurse, probably drip feeding her narcotics simply for being a teenager. Winona Ryder hanging with Angelina, eating Ice Cream in New England. Beatrice Dalle, heavily sedated before her lover snuffs her out and goes home to eat a life affirming pot of stew in Bette Blue, sweating in his wifebeater, remember all the great shags he had before the amor went fou. Even Cuckoo’s Nest with the hideous Jack Nicholson looked kind of fun, and everyone was sedated. Best of all was Valley of the Dolls, poor little Patty Duke, sitting in some sweating machine to slim down or calm down or something. Patty Duke was girl next door cute, also on piles of real drugs in real life, you know. And in the film bonkers, on shitloads of precious and marketable sedatives. So what I wanted was to be put in a sweating machine, on a rolling lawn, with a Valium drip, and somehow, I would get off drugs by being on more drugs, the same ones I liked. This made perfect sense to me at the time. And at the end I would emerge fresh-faced and dewy and forgiven, and get out, find another dirty doctor, but just HIDE it better this time. Or plan B, which was that I would be so sedated and lifeless, a Native American would come and suffocate me with a pillow. And everyone would be all like, “Oh, we should have just let her take drugs forever, then she would still be alive.”
But here’s the thing about rehab. They don’t give you drugs, they take them off you, and Valium is one mother of a drug to withdraw from, if you’ve been on and off em for most of your life. I was running for the shelter of my mother’s little helper waaay before I was a mother.
The people on heroin were off it in a week, sometimes less. They got sleepers and , I think, Valium, as part of their detox. I was the only Valium queen I think at the time I was there, and my detox took a month, gradually cutting down, but even when it’s gone, it’s not really gone, because it has a very long half life, and lurks about in your piss and blood and saliva for ages after you’ve taken your last one.

I can’t remember much about the train journey to Bournemouth, except my broken ribs poking out at jutting angles. My upper torso looked like a broken toast rack. When I arrived at the centre I was photographed (I still have it, I don’t recognise that woman) given some coffee, watched a bit of a film, and then saw the doctor, who made me spill all my drugs on the table. He let me keep the suppositories to stop throwing up. The rest he took away.
I was then taken to the flat in Boscombe which would be my home for the next three months. There were five bedrooms, dorm style, with wardrobes, a single bed, and a communal kitchen and living area. One lovely woman who had been there for a while was my “buddy” who looked after me for the first few weeks. Apart from her, everyone else in my flat had been on heroin and most had been in jail at some point. She had been on heroin, but not in jail. Every night we had to go to a 12 step meeting, either for Narcotics or Alcohol or Cocaine. I preferred the cocaine ones because the people, even off cocaine, were rather zippy and energetic. I didn’t like the Narcotic ones because the people there seemed from another planet. They would speak in street slang and prison slang and drug slang and talk really fast about sticking pins of brown in their pound coins with me going, what’s a pin, what’s a pound coin, what’s brown, and my translator would say, needles, heroin, testicles, and give me an extra strong mint.
There was one meeting, mostly guys in their 60s who had been young in the 60s, and they would laugh and say, “Back in the 60s man, drugs were really drugs, everyone had everything, and you got the chicks and the drugs and the music, and now here were are in a smelly, cold room drinking coffee and eating Rich Teas, but I love it man, I love this life.” But when they talked about the 60s, it seemed so much better. How on earth could being in this overcrowded room with guys who had like, had their legs amputated cos their veins had collapsed, drinking Costco decaff, how the hell could that be better than being high on drugs and having sex with beautiful women also high on drugs, while listening to, maybe Hendrix or the Byrds or Motown, I dunno, better music than Alan Dull Ray, who was on permaplay on the music channel in my rehab flat share. It was also the year PJ Harvey’s When England Shakes came out, and a friend of mine got me a copy and that CD was my salvation. I still get weepy when I hear it, and used to think , if I had only learned the zither and were multi talented, I could be in a puffy sleeved white frock making an award winning record, instead of stinking of stale rollies ( everyone smoked except me, they told me I was “Isolating” and I said, I hate the smell of rollies in my hair.) And when I used to sit bunched up in a chair, to hold my falling apart body together and my ribs in the place I approximated they should be, they said I was sitting in a defensive posture. I said I was holding my ribs in.
On one of the earlier days there, we had a “fun” afternoon out, bowling. There was a guy there with so many morphine patches on him, he was permanently on the nod. And therefore could not grasp the concept of bowling and for the short bursts of wakefulness, would try to participate, once, by being the ball and rolling himself down the aisle to knock the pins down. He ran, rather staggered, away a few days later. There was F, in and out of prison all his life, and now an all singing feel the love of recovery sort of guy. He chastised me for bringing a negative vibe into the house. I said I was on downers, and coming off them, and yeah, it sucked, and if I couldn’t say it sucked here, where could I say it. Then there was the chancer, the wrongun in a high achieving family. His best story was about bringing different girls home and his bed was in a tight spot, so that your feet hit the wall. He was caught cheating when his regular girlfriend noticed footprints on the wall that did not match hers. She said, “Those are not my feet,” and left.
Those are not my feet. I love that line.
There were days when it didn’t feel like rehab at all, but some strange awayday trip. Once day, during a glorious Indian summer, we all went to the beach, and I realised perhaps some normal family, like I was once part of, were on a budget break, and looking at all of us pale, thin, ghostlike apparitions standing at the sea front in dazed wonder.
We attempted a game of football, those of us who could stand and run. I sat on the side, feeling the sea breeze on my face, starting to think , maybe I will come out of this, and come to the sea, and the sea will be enough.
And a dog came and joined in the football game, and scored a goal. The woman who owned the dog came up to my new friend N, and myself. She was trying to work out the nature of our gathering. And trying ever so hard to find the right, English stiff upper lip way to ask what a bunch of half dead junkies and alkies were doing on the beach, playing football with her dog. “What is the nature of your gathering, what brings you all together?” And N piped up , “Drink,” and I added, “Oh, and drugs as well.”
“Freddie, woo hoo, Freddie, ” she shouted in a voice that was a bit too shrill to disguise her panic, to call her dog.” Then we’d head back to the clinic in the van, gather in the common room and get our post and notices and for those of us still on them, our pills. I was the last in my flat to get my detox certificate. It was laminated. I got a round of applause. It was better than graduation.
But then I had to write a Dear John letter to my drugs. My immediate response was “but they will never write back” and my key worker said, “Well, they probably have nothing new to say anyway.”
I have never written a letter where I have to break up with a guy. I usually just tell them, or leave, or both. But drugs, I’d been with them almost all my life. The letter went right back to my Lower East Side days, remembering how I loved to stick my thumbnail in the carved out V in the blue pills. I remembered all the doctors I had seen, the cute French one who gave me piles of em, the dirty one in East London who always looked cagey and miserable, the words typed ( as it was in those days) on the label on the bottle, “Take as needed” or something to that effect, or “as prescribed,” which amounted to the same thing, which was pretty much always. The nice one who I lied to about all my other supplies. The Turkish one I told I needed for flying, and that I flew a lot. The near investigation from the DEA over the forged script. The ones the junkies would lower down in little pails on Delancey. You put your money in, they would reel it up, and they would send the pills down in the little pail.
I found it hard to write to the pills themselves, so I wrote to the people who gave them to me. I said thank you for getting me this far, but now I have to figure out how to do it, life, without you. To the pills I couldn’t say, we had some great times, because we didn’t. I just wrote, and I still mean this, you were always there for me. But I really friggin hate that expression, often uttered in soap operas or in talks about good friends, “You were there for me.” I never knew what that meant. I still don’t. I thought it would be funnier to write to Crystal Meth, so I could say, “You were my rock” but I never liked Crystal Meth, after finding some in a paint box and staying up for three days, during one of the hottest NYC summers on record, fanless, air conditionless, and up. After various attempts, I just wrote, oh, why don’t you just fuck off and leave me alone. But as soon as I wrote it, I wanted to ring it and say, “I take it all back. All is forgiven! Can we still be friends?” And maybe I put it in the letter, I can’t remember, I just remember the pills never wrote me back. And that kind of says it all, really. TBC

rehab part 4

Standard

Paul’s widow and dogs came to live with us while I floated through the days in a valium and vodka fog. Then my mother got cancer on the spine and I had to go to New York.  She was in a terrible hospital in Jamaica. The ER looked like a war zone, cops handcuffed to guys they had whacked or shot or something. People splayed out on trolleys, bleeding, crying, throwing up. No one could tell me what was going on with my mother. I was meant to stay for three weeks but stayed for six. She went to some adjunct  surgery rehab unit. I visited her there and it was full of very old and nearly dead people. Every day they had a recreational activity. One  day I went there was an Elvis impersonator. The worst ever. Most of the elderly folk just nodded off in their wheelchairs. One didn’t move the whole time and I thought she had died, during a really bad rendition of All Shook Up.  One guy threw an incontinence pad at him. Not full like, but still. All the people in the room were too sedated to clap, or maybe it was because he was so bad. Another time there was a country singer. He got a better response. One guy, he must have been 100, sang along to every song and did a smashing duo of “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goalposts of Life. ” The singer said, “I know people make fun of the song, but it’s deep and meaningful if you listen very carefully to the lyrics.” Most were comatose so they didn’t, but I still think its a bit of a shit song.

My mother was also going through steroid withdrawal at one point. This made her strong and angry and she threw stuff and begged me and my sister to get her out of there. To establish if she were really crazy or just steroid crazy, they sent a shrink who asked her where she was, what day and year it was , and who the vice president was. She got them all right. I was so loaded I didn’t know any of em. Bidet? Boden. Bodrum? The other guy, the white one who says nothing. That was the best I could do.

I came back to London under the impression she was not long for this world, even if she could name the veep. The docs said the prognosis was poor. Within a few weeks I tried to go back to tie up loose ends, but wound up throwing up (I never throw up) in the bogs at Heathrow, I think I overdid the pre flight jitters drink and drugs, and I had to go back out of customs, I do remember the customs lady saying, “We’re expecting a storm. If you miss this flight you won’t get on another” I said that was OK. I can’t remember anything about the trip back to the family house. I do remember staying a few days and when I started to piss thick syrupy stuff, and all my clothes hung on my yellowing emaciated frame, I had a great idea. I would move out. I would move to a bedsit, just like when I was young, and I would clean up and come back all fresh and new and make pies and help with homework in a nice way instead of the mean shouty  way I was not helping. I went to the High St and looked in the handwritten notices in Hamdy’s newsagent. There was a bedsit going for 60 quid a week. This seemed impossibly cheap.  I went to look at it. It was a very cold room with wall paper falling off with damp. There was no heating. There was a two plate electric ring for a cooker. Bars on the windows, and very little floor space after the bed. The loo was downstairs and also freezing and you fed 50 p pieces into the metre for a very shallow, cold bath. There was a damp wardrobe. The bed sank heavily in the middle, even if you weighed six and a half stone.

I love it, I told Dennis the landlord. It’s just for a while. I moved in, covered the walls with pictures of friends and family, mainly dead ones, and went to Hackney Central to find a dirty doctor. A dirty doctor usually treats crack whores, but if you pay him 50 quid he’ll write you a script for whatever you want.

 

So my weeks had a kind of rhythm to them. I would get up and go to the Somalian internet cafe.  They called me Michelle Obama. The head guy took me to his house in Tottenham to meet his wife because she had no friends and could not speak English. I cooed drunkenly over his baby and every day I put money in the jar to save starving Somalian children.I would take my pills, drink, and write. I wrote a fair bit of shit, book length. I sent it to a publisher who said I would regret saying what I said about my children. The gist of it was that I wish I had not had them, because I could no longer look after them, but it was angrier than that. That kills me now, to write that out. I love them with every fibre of my being. I knew my presence was fucking them up, but perhaps my absence was as well. I couldn’t work out which was worse. It seemed better for them for me not to be there at that time. 

This exodus lasted a little under a year. I went half heartedly to a groups with a view of getting into some sort of recovery programme, but I was terrified of losing my safety net. From the earliest I could remember, my favourite sound was the rattle of pills in a little brown bottle.

 

I spent my 50th birthday looking for door knobs and kitchen fittings with my friend Helen, who got me flowers, which I stuck in their paper in the sink, where they stayed for about a week. It was pretty much my worst birthday ever. Looking at kitchen fittings for my friend’s kitchen. I tried to get a job helping a woman who was wheelchair bound with ME. She said I looked like I needed the chair more than her. I house sat for a friend and sliced the top of my finger off on a mandolin slicer. I bled all over her bed and had to go get sewn up at A and E. I told the doctor not to give me anything that didn’t mix with Russian Standard. He gave me some hard ass psychedelic painkillers and they knocked me out proper for a few days. I saw dancing bunnies. I actually thought I had died, but I couldn’t find any of my dead friends, only dancing bunnies. 

Then my friend Helen, who works with addicts, she got me an interview with the drugs and alcohol team run by the council. They don’t have that much funding but if they think it’s pretty bad, they raise the money. It was  strange situation, but not so strange. I had to have rehab lessons.  A guy, a dude, he was like Huggy Bear, he said rehab was “some scary shit, you gotta watch your back, don’t rat on people who use, don’t use yourself but don’t rat, and watch your arse. You get real sick the first week they don’t give you the drugs. It’s some bad shit, you got shit comin outta your mouth, your arse, your ears, all that poison, man, then you feel OK, but you still want the shit ,I won’t lie.”

 

This was very different from the woman I saw at an interview at the council. Same building I was married in, same building we registered Paul’s death in, same building Paul was married in. Well, right next door. This woman gave me some brochures. They looked like hotel brochures. Nicely made up beds, jugs of water, people sitting in circles, looking well. 

“You get to choose?”

“Yes.”

“And you pay?”

“Yes”

I looked through them. One was by the seaside in Bournemouth. I had been there on a family holiday once and wondered why all the people on the beach were not Martin Parr seaside beetroot red and fat, but pale and thin and sickly. Very soon I was to be one of those pale, sickly thin people on the beach. I said to the lady, “Ill have that one. I know the seaside there. When I am better I can swim in the sea.”

“Look, it’s not a holiday.”

“I know, but when I get better, it’s a nice place to be better.”

There was no answer to that. She said that one had a good rep and it was a good choice. Gazza the footballer went there. Well, maybe not a great example, but he was doing well at the time.

I had to wait a few weeks for all the forms to go through. You only find out the night before you are going. I paid Dennis a few months rent in advance, tried to pack a suitcase but was so pilled up I fell out of bed onto the hard edge of the suitcase and broke two ribs. I called my friend K who called an ambulance. The ambulance guys said they can’t fix broken ribs. They have to fix themselves.  I fell asleep in the suitcase and K came to take me to Paddington in the morning. I was on my way to rehab and shit scared. And in enormous pain. Don’t ever break your ribs if you have to take a rattly train trip. Don’t take drugs. Don’t do anything I ever did, except have kids if you can. That’s something I will never ever regret and I hate myself for having regretted it just a bit, when I was on drugs.

My kids rock. Whereas I was something that crawled out from under a rock. Marry a good guy or gal. I did that too and don’t regret that, though I am sure he did. If you are on drugs, do try to get off them. Try hard. Quit, and stay quit. Dance every morning. You can’t dance well if you are on drugs, even if you think you can. You can’t, you look like an asshole on drugs, dancing. TBC

rehab, part two

Standard

We were living on what I now know was a rough estate then. It was an ex council purchase. To me , I rebranded tower blocks as skyscrapers. And our maisonette, I rebranded as a good family house. This was when the kids were still quite small. There had been a murder, which my kids saw but probably don’t remember. I remember them handing out tea and squash and biscuits to all the cops and ambulance guys and I thought, oh, they think its a party. I had given a towel to wrap around the woman whose leg had been shot in four places. Her friend had been shot in the head in a car in front of our flat. He was dead, slumped over the wheel, thick ketchupy blood gluing his head to the steering wheel. I heard more than I saw, but I saw the aftermath. When the cops came to question me later, I couldn’t concentrate as I was fixated on his shoes, which were black, shiny Winkle pickers. Are cops allowed to wear shoes like that? He kept asking, so how many gunshots did you hear? And I guessed five or six, it’s not a sound my ears tune in to quite naturally, as they would say, if someone was (improbably) blaring the Ramones from their car speakers. Me, I just wanted to know where he got his shoes, so I could send my husband there.
That night, under the sodium haze of street lights, a special van came and two guys wearing Ghostbuster gear came to scrub the blood away with special chemicals.
The ordeal distressed me. I lived on what was then called Murder Mile, and turned a blind eye to a lot of dodgy stuff we saw going on, largely cos my husband was against living there in the first place, but I wanted, with two kids, to get into a larger physical space than the two rooms we had occupied. I’m a short-term thinker. Largely I felt immune to urban blight, because I had so much internal anxiety that real problems, murder, rape, robbery,over drug dealing, these things were happening around me, I tended not to notice. I didn’t look up when I walked but down, to navigate pit bull poo. You may think all people living on estates look downcast, but actually, we just don’t wanna get pit bull poo on our trainers. It’s a practical thing. So I didn’t notice much. But there was a bigger, psychological reason I did not notice much.

Like Lear in the storm, my mind was not free so my body was not delicate to these things. I was too wrapped up in my own shit. A spaceship could have landed with aliens and demons and robots to wipe out all of humanity, and I would have put the kettle on and told the kids to get out the Rich Teas for the aliens.Because we had to embrace multiculturalism. With tea and biscuits. We had to stay calm. Or at least look it.

I went to see my local GP. He was a Hassidic Jew, and most of his other patients were of this persuasion. His surgery was always full of pregnant women with five or six kids already. They were all in their early 20s, the husbands, bearded, portly, preoccupied, looked much older. But then anyone with a long beard does.
This doctor, he mainly dealt with these stressed out housewives and their eight billion immaculately dressed kids. He understood how hard it could be, how you never get to clock off. So when I went in there and said I was feeling anxious, I had seen a murder, he said, “Perfectly natural. Would you like some Valium?”
I wanted to get down on bended knee and propose to the guy. Hasidism are quite stylish. They knew from the get go that black was and is the new black. Great hats. They are like Goths, with God. And look great in masses, in the snow.

I’ll join your tribe, I’ll shave my hair and wear a Jayne Torvill sort of wig. I will get cankles and dress modestly. I will be fearful of dogs. I will have two kitchens. Milky and meaty. I will drive badly. I will have many more children. I will shag you through a hole in a sheet. I will make chicken soup for your soul if you give me drugs for my head, for like, ever.He asked, “What do you like, fives or tens? How many do you want?”
This was a far cry from NYC, where it was impossible to get a script unless you bought one off a junkie or went down to a stretch of Delancey where they would sell the tens for two bucks each. or you had a room-mate who was an optometry nurse and could just rip a sheet off the script pad, which I persuaded her to do, and proceeded to write myself a ludicrous amount of drugs on script on what I thought passed for doctor’s handwriting. How nervous can your eyes be? Oh, about a hundred tens worth of optometry anxiety. The drugstore guy wasn’t buying it. I skipped out of the place sharpish and next thing I knew, me, the roomie and the eye doc were all under investigation from the DEA. I moved to England.

And in this green and pleasant land, I could get my lovely floaty Valium fog totally legally. Oh sweet Jesus, no sorry, Moses, he’s yer man in this case, I’ll have as many as you can give me, ta.
And that went really well. For those who don’t know what Valium fixes, it fixes everything. It’s a proper medicine show compound. Whatever hurts, take two fives or a ten. It just won’t matter anymore. And when that stops working, chase it with neat vodka. Then eat a few extra strong mints and make tea for the aliens. No one will notice. You will blend in, you will be like normal people. Swig Pepto Bismol straight from the bottle so you don’t get an ulcer. Keep sedated and carry on. When you can’t eat anymore, shove anti sickness drugs in suppository form up your arse in the back of taxis. People have sex in the back of taxis. They don’t care, as long as they get the fare.
And it all works, until it doesn’t. For me , that point was when a good friend died a slow and painful and extended death. I got religion,(not my birth religion, Judaism, which has some good USPs but they are not big on afterlife. I needed one with a Heaven. Or concept of. And I got more drugs, just as a plan B. Maybe religion was the plan B. I just knew that a combination of spirits and spirituality would keep me functioning. If the Good Lord is willing and the bile doesn’t rise, I’ll be OK. Most people get religion after the druggy bit, but I cut to the chase, I wanted two safety nets, one immediate, and one unseen but I felt certain He was there. No matter how badly I behaved, He would be there.

But for the short-term, there was Valium, and we had our own bar in our flat. We’d always wanted one of those 60s style semi-circle gold and glass mini bars. We got one by accident in one of our rented flats, but now we wanted our own. We got one on eBay, and my husband went to pick it up and he said the guys were selling the bar (I mean, why would they, who in their right minds would not want to just, like, stand behind your own bar all day, dispensing drinks to your favourite customer,yourself, for free?) because it was just time, they’d had enough fun. And really, you can’t understand the concept of enough fun until you’ve had it yourself. Enough fun. It’s the opposite of fun.

But for a while we had great fun at the bar. We had a lot of parties that went on forever and wound up with women crying in the kitchen. Always a result. We had optics. We had stools. We had salty snacks. It was really a great bar, even now, I can’t see it as playing a part in my downfall or anything. It was just so pretty and cute and everyone wanted to know where’d ya get it, and I didn’t want to tend house anymore, I wanted to tend bar, and keep it stocked. it was like a Wendy House for dysfunctional grown ups. You could just spend all day pouring drinks and then scooting round the other side to be the customer. My little Wendy bar.

Look I couldn’t advise you not to get one, especially if you are a Hipster and like all things retro, including incipient liver failure. It was just the wrong toy for me at that moment in my life. Because I could pass as cute and kitsch and pretty and unique, something that was ultimately destructive ( to me) and not even that original. I mean, if you want to do retro drinking, just watch Mad Men or Bewitched. Buy some LPs and a Dansette. Wear your mother’s clothing. Wear blue eye shadow. Squeeze cheese from a tin on to Ritz crackers. But don’t, fucking don’t, get loaded and think it’s cute. It’s boring.

And I actually thought I was OK, though my trousers kept falling down and I kept falling asleep. But I didn’t notice or care and then one morning my husband came down, I had slept in the spare room for some reason, we hadn’t had a row, I can’t remember why, but he came down and shook my gently or not so gently and told me our very best friend was dead.
And that’s when I went crazy and into total fuck everything mode. Well not fuck as in sex, fuck as in fuck it. Time from now on, as Caitlin Thomas wrote when Dylan died, was just leftover life to kill. I’m getting too depressed to write anymore. TBC

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

Standard

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.