Part 1 3
Part 2: The Bigger Half 14
Part 3: A Short Step Too Far 26
Spread thin. He admitted to that. Trey, a young junkie over from Massachusetts, a foreign student with a yellowish, rubbery, bloated looking face, like he had water retention or chronic diabetes. In fact, his entire body was like that, still a little popped out from youth, pumped full of blood from his early years spent working out prior to falling foul of the needle. His biceps were what got to me the most. They ripped out the arms of his t-shirt and just looked wrong on him, looked wrong on a junkie. More than any other part of him it were those biceps which stayed in my mind and repulsed me long after his vile little presence had shot town.
“Man, I can’t believe I’m in the company of the HEROINHEAD!
You think you could shoot me up man? It’s cool if not. WOW, I’ve been shot up by the Heroinhead… What an honour, I swear. Man, that was intense!!! ”
He’d constantly say ridiculous stuff like that, prattle on about how great my writing was, tell me he was my biggest fan and that he not only wanted a book of mine but needed one. It was all bollocks of course, the initial wave of deceit to try and stand him in good stead for getting what he really wanted. But the truth was, like so many junkies become, Trey had no compassion within him, not for man, beast nor tree. His had become a motivated character, everything he said or expressed was calculated against some kind of favourable return. He had desperate needs and very little means, save for youth, a fresh tight arse, and a heart full of sob stories. He was at that early stage of addiction where one suddenly finds oneself in too deep,needing heroin to either function physically or psychologically, all choice in the matter gone. All one can do, anyone, is adapt and try to survive off what you’ve got. The easiest way for Trey to supplement the drugs he could harvest himself was to have a support group of people around who empathised with him and would help him out whenever he was in dire straits. His entire personality was a projection of that, a projection of someone who wanted to inspire empathy in others. And if ever he appeared to have human emotions, it was only an appearance, each tear or smile or compliment given for a desired response – then or later. That’s the game he played. In the company of other addicts he would talk of the illness and what hell it is just getting up. Around homosexuals he’d whittle on about his inner torment over his sexuality and how it had left him isolated and troubled and talk of the different façades he was obliged to keep up with different people. If he was near a veterinary surgeon he’d no doubt talk of his love for animals and how he could only relate to beasts. He said all the right things to everyone, tapping the community around him, gradually extracting money and favours from people or worming his way into a position of trust where his light fingers would sneakily start getting to work. One by one, each person who had done him a good turn would realize they had been used and pull back. With the well drilled dry Trey would move on to new pastures where the process would start over again. I understood that about him immediately; that he used people as a conduit to get what he wanted. I warned him to be straight with me, told him I saw through every trick and lie in the book, could predict to an uncanny exactitude what addicts and dealers were up to from the smallest behaviours or words.
“I pitch a straight ball” he said, unaware he wasn’t even pitching straight right then.
“They all do,” I said. He shot me a queer look.
“Come on, it’s this way,” I said, “We’re walking.” And so Trey followed, always a step or two behind, probably thinking he was safe back there where I could not see what he was up to. I didn’t need to see; I already knew. In the three months that Trey traipsed behind me, often sulking like a admonished puppy dog, he would go through a whole range of petty junkie tricks and behaviours: a perfect study for a willing host.
It almost began at the start. He had mailed me saying he was in Lyon and wanted to score. He mentioned my writing and said what a fan he was. In the event that that didn’t sell it he dropped in mention of a full student loan he had and wanted to blow out on heroin.
“I want to get the Heroinhead high!” were his words in that first mail. It was a short message but it told me a lot. It told me that Trey did not have a physical dependency on heroin just then. If he did he would never have gotten on an aeroplane and have flown halfway across the world, knowing that he’d crawl off the plane the other end and be bedridden and deathly ill for the next two weeks in foreign climes. It also told me that he was either a real fan and a false addict or vice versa. If it were more me he was interested in, then he should be quite calm but excited, almost passive where the drugs were concerned. However, if indeed he was an addict, if heroin were the foremost thing in his mind, I knew it would be a jumpy little fuck who showed up, terrified of being robbed.
I met Trey outside the Croix Rousse metro station. It was an afternoon at the end of summer and the public square was crowded. Trey was late and nervous. I spied a jittery dishonesty within him immediately. I didn’t like his voice or the way his eyes flitted about as if he had someone a little way off watching out for him. He was too small and too broad to be any friend of mine. He gave me his hand. I tried to calm any fears he had but it was evident he was scared of being robbed. It was heroin that brought him here. I let go of Trey’s hand. It was sweaty, slimy. He was in a mauve t-shirt with a scuffed black rucksack on his back like a parachute. I eyed his arms but couldn’t detect a single injection mark. He saw me looking.
“Man, I know I don’t have any marks but I’m straight up.”
I didn’t reply. I decided there and then that he would have to take a shot in front of me. If he refused on any count, no matter how valid, he’d get no gear and I’d have no more to do with him.
“OK man, so how much to get us high?”
When I told him the price I saw his silly little brain doing somersaults in his head, making the same shapes like fingers stretching about in a pocket.
“50 euros a gram?” he repeated aghast, the first honest expression he had shown.
“It’s not cheap here… as you must’ve read? And the minimum you can buy is three…”
“Three! Man, I didn’t figure it’d be that much. And what you ripping for yourself?”
“I’m not ripping anything. You called me out, said you’d get me high.”
“150 bucks, damn! Uhmm… er….could I get two? Just to try?”
I was bored already. Whenever this game isn’t easy it’s terribly fucking hard. I could already see this boy would be nothing but hassle, that the heroin here was priced beyond his means but that it wouldn’t stop him.
“What about this student grant you have and want to blow?” I asked sarcastically, now onto him. He gave some excuse about it being fed through in dribs and drabs. As he spoke I could see his mind working overtime, calculating, debating as to whether he should score or pull out. It’s rare the junkie will pull out when the heroin is so close at hand. Still, just to put the pressure on, I warned him: “You better not have called me out for fuck all!”
“No, man… it’s cool. I just didn’t figure on it being so goddamn expensive, jeesh! You know if there’s an ATM around here?”
“Just across the road,” I said. I saw him looking over, eyeing the surroundings, the distance. I had a feeling that if I let him out my sight that he would sneak off, make an anxious walk around town, deliberating with himself over the cash before either sloping off home or calling me and saying he had gotten lost. I followed close behind. At the ATM machine he withdrew one hundred euros, cautiously guarding his pin details with his popped out little body, looking around nervously as if expecting me to try and rip the cash from out his hands. It meant he’d turned up with only 50bucks. That was really gonna get the heroinhead high. During the ten minute walk to the dealers Trey became noticeably agitated, no doubt imagining all the scenarios whereby I get his money and he gets no smack. It was now obvious: Trey was almost as poor as me.
That was the first meeting. Trey was a nervous wreck until he had the gear in his hands and a shot in his system. I made him inject in front of me. He shot a speedball and instantly changed into another person. He begrudging gave me my cut for scoring and then on the coke wearing off and him coming to his senses he inspected his deal and queried the fairness of the divide. Then he retracted his words and said it didn’t matter.
I observed so much to dislike in Trey that night. Sat there watching him I saw something so vile and selfish in him, something undefinable, some kind of pathetic psychosis which manifested itself not in any interesting or dangerous way but as a vile, emotionless, self-centredness. Not even 25 and he had a face that was already influenced by sulking and self-pity.
After that evening I did not see nor hear from Trey for four days. That would be his cycle. It was just another behaviour which gave his real game away. He wasn’t interested in friendship, nor the writing: his only interest was self-motivated and that was junk. Every four days he’d text or mail. “Could you call your man?”:). Even in the smileys he sent I spied something pathetically false and dishonest. But then, on that second call, Trey was still in the dock house: I had no real feelings towards him one way or another. I called my man and then called Trey.
“An hour? Fuck, bummer, man! Will he be around this evening?”
“No. Why? What’s the problem?”
“Man, my money’s being wired into my account but it’ll not be there until this afternoon when banks open in US. Bummer.”
“So you’ve phoned me asking if my man’s on, had me ring and arrange a meet and you knew you had no cash?”
“Yeah man, sorry about that dude. Dint know he’d be there right now. I guess it’s a dead duck then?”
“Well if you’ve no cash, then obviously it is.”
“Hang on, man. Not sure if you’ll be down with this, if not it’s totally cool: could you weigh me in with the cash until my bank opens? I’ll leave my phone with you or my wallet with my ID and licence. Is it workable?”
All though we were on the phone I moved my eyes across as if studying him down the line, concentrating on the silence where his words had been. He could be genuine, but it was a big doubt. I weighed him up as I listened. He didn’t have a physical addiction and couldn’t score without me. The chances were that even if he didn’t repay me today he would in the next days, certainly before he had to score again. But make no mistake about it, he’d only pay back because he’d be more fucked if he didn’t. I wasn’t banking on his honesty but on his greed to reimburse me.
“OK,” I said. “But I don’t want any guarantee, just your word.”
“Oh, man…. that’s real fucking appreciated, bro. Just for a few hours, man… promise.”
I met Trey three quarters of an hour later. He said “real fucking appreciated” and then “man, I can’t wait for your book…. I gotta get that book… never been so fucking hyped for a book”
As we walked along together I gave him a hellishly curious look. Even as I was eyeing his total dishonesty, he repeated, almost punching the air in front of him, “Man, I gotta have that book of yours!” His false admiration was already too much. His first bridge was burnt. I despised that falseness so much. I didn’t want him as a reader and if I could, I would have removed my words from out his head.
We scored two grams. By the time we got to Trey’s, divided it up and got high four hours had passed. The longer I stayed the more Trey was on edge. When I said I was leaving he sat there silent with a frozen look of panic and fake innocence on his face, hoping I’d not have realised about the time and mention that the money should be in the bank by then. As he walked me out and through the driveway to the electric security gate he did his utmost to deflect any mention of the money, suddenly unleashing a barrage of words and praise about my writing, not letting up for a minute in the hope that any thought of the money would get forgotten it in his hype.
“Oh yeah man, because I just loved that one about … God what was his name (flicking his fingers as if trying desperately to remember), that guy up in the loft? The Black House man. God … What an incredible piece of writing… LITERATURE. I’ll never forget that one, man. That was with your mum right? Yeah, man, that was intense. WOW! And all that shit really happened? Fuck, what am I saying “did it really happen!” This is the fucking Heroinhead right here. Man, you kick arse, I gotta tell ya! I can’t wait for your book. You gotta get me a copy soon. I swear. Man, in my eyes you’re like the greatest livin…… “
“The money, Trey… how you gonna sort that?” I said cutting right through his bullshit.
“The cash? Yeah dude, no probs. As I said the cash will be in tomorrow and I’ll give you a bell, man. First thing. I can be around like before ten. But that was sooooo appreciated what you did there today. Straight up. Fuck, there’s not many like us about who’d do that.”
Us? Another lame junkie play. Whenever they come across anyone half decent or generous they suddenly buddy up, inserting themselves into the other man’s honesty. Trey wouldn’t lend someone as little as 50 cents if they were dying. And he didn’t appreciate it at all. As I left and watched Trey disappear behind the closing electronic gates I already knew he would try to skip out on repaying me. I wasn’t too concerned. He had made the mistake of taking me to where he was staying, put up by a wealthy bourgeois woman who took in foreign students each summer. If he did try skipping out on repayment I’d turn up there and make a scene, at least threaten to. Trey would soon find my money or an arrangement. The afternoon was coming down on the city. These were the last days of summer. Feeling drowsy I made my way back towards the metro, drunk on the floral scents and noises of high Lyon.
They never call you first, no matter how much leeway you give them nor how much you pray and hope that for once someone will be genuinely straight up. On the fourth day of receiving no news from Trey I text him three question marks. He replied to that text.
“Man, I got your cash. Just going to college. Will be with you after classes.”
Whenever there is an event separating you from the cash it means that event is going to be the reason why you do not get paid. Trey could always be with me immediately when he had to score, but when it was time to give up suddenly his classes were all important. I eyed his text message and wondered what would be his next move. An hour later it came, via Facebook messenger.
“Man, just contacting you here to say I’ve lost my fucking phone! Still be with you. Gotta go lame internet connection.”
It was all set up lovely. He had set up a fake intention of paying me and now was scheming to concoct a reason why he couldn’t arrange to get around after class. He had already laid the groundwork for having no phone and now he had set up his later excuse as to why he couldn’t mail or message. His story would be one of desperately wanting to pay me back but we were just undone by technology – the same technology which never fails when we need heroin.
As soon as the text came through I knew it was the start of a much longer piece of bullshit. To show Trey that I was onto him I decided that I’d surprise him in his foreign students class. I didn’t expect to get the money, but having this little cunt squirming in front of me would be some reward in itself. Not knowing exactly where Trey’s classes were I made it down to the university for lunch time and hung about in a strategic place where the percentage of students would have to pass. It was over an hour I was stood there when I turned around and there was Trey coming out the university with a phone in his hands. He saw me and I could see his face lose tone immediately. He could hardly talk through shock.
“See you’ve found your phone?”
“Huh? No, man, it isn’t what it looks like. This is a different phone.“I saw the panic in his eyes as he imagined me ringing the number to test him. Suddenly he was mumbling and spluttering, talking absolute nonsense as he played furiously with his phone to knock the volume out.
“So if I ring the phone it won’t sound? Well it ‘s a bit fucking strange you suddenly lose your phone right on the point of having to pay me back. I never believe in coincidences… especially from a junkie.”
“Man, I knew you’d think that! Fuck!” He said that quite boldly, obviously having successfully killed his phone.
“That’s because it’s true”
“No, bro… not this time! I swear to you. I had your cash and was all set to repay you when this fucking class fee came up and had to be settled. If not I can’t continue my course and if I’m not enrolled my grant will be stopped and there’ll be no heroin for either of us.”
“So you haven’t paid me back to help me? Trey, you better have the fucking money and I’m not fucking about!”
“Man, I just paid 250 dollars to keep me in the course. I thought I had more grant money in my bank.”
“Trey, I’ll tell you once more: I want the fucking money!!!”
He saw I was getting angry, maybe on the point of violence.
“Man, calm down. Course I got your money… some of it. I’ve er… a hundred… a hundred and ten. I’ll give you the rest in a couple of days.”
I could tell by the coins and crumpled notes that it was his very last beans, that he was absolutely potless in paying me back. For a moment I felt sorry for him. He probably now didn’t even have enough left to get a coffee from the canteen with his classmates. I was on the verge of giving him a note or two back and then I saw his face and it disgusted me. A face like it was comprised of every low dirty addict I’ve ever known, all manifest in this single kid. I put the cash in my pocket.
“Man, if I didn’t have the cash or was trying to avoid you I’d have backed away when I saw you from behind.”
That was true. Only he couldn’t have as it was indeed his deadline to pay for his courses and by pure luck I was lingering around right outside the descent to the basement where course enrolments were taken. That was why he called me. If he could have snuck past he would have. But no matter how much of a little snake Trey was not even he could slither past me from there.
“I thought you had already paid the enrolment?”
“erhm, er.. kinda, bro, yeah. I mean it’s in my account and I’ll pay it now?”
“So you have all my cash but would rather pay the the enrolment fee?”
“No, it’s not like that. Man, I knew you’d think this!”
I left it. There was no point. I had three quarters of my cash and now knew not only where he lived but where he studied too. He was cornered and so did the only thing he could do.
Barely had all this passed, he had almost incurred my wrath, than he started off on his next ploy. Standing with him in the queue to pay for his course he suddenly asked matter-of-factly:
“Do you think your man will be on?”
“It wouldn’t matter if he is, you’re broke.”
“Hmm mm, maybe not. I think there could be cash in my bank. Give him a call.”
I could already see what he was up to. He knew that once I had called and arranged a meet that I would have to respect that. He was hoping I’d call before he checked his account, arrange a meeting, only to find he had no cash in his bank and I’d have to re-lend him the money he had just returned so as he could make good on the deal. For him it was a sure fire thing. He gets his gear. I get my cut, get high and am still owed the money. Sounds like a good deal. Only I’ve been around too long and know when that starts it never ends. By then I knew how Trey’s student loan worked and how much he received each week and it was clear that he’d never have enough to repay me and still have money to score after. So each time he had to repay he’d be in the same predicament as now.
“Check your bank first and then I’ll phone,” I told him.
It was now raining. Trey knew he had no cash but he’d started off on this latest scheme and he could either flop down in the wet and admit it was all a ploy or he could walk us both to the ATM machine in the rain, knowing he hadn’t a penny, get us soaking wet and then stare at me like a lost child pleading for me to help when it came to light he hadn’t a dime. Junkies never flop down when there’s a chance of getting a payout, and anyway, there was more than just one scheme going. Trey, knowing that I was an addict too, was wagering on watering my mouth with all this talk of heroin and scoring. His hope was that regardless of what happened at the ATM machine that I would then want heroin as much as him and out of pure selfishness and greed re-lend him the money regardless. Without umbrella, and Trey with a black hooded top, we braved the rain and headed of down the Rue Marseille.
We walk fast. Junkies always walk fast. I can tell two junkies on the score from the way they speed walk. Trey and I were junkie speed walking through the rain. I was watching this vile little fuck of a thing, could see him 15 years down the line all jaundiced and wasted, a HIV case for sure – the ghost of it was already in him. I didn’t despise him at this point, but whenever I look at anyone like I looked at Trey on that walk it does not bode well for any friendship. At the cash point he withdrew his wallet and took a big gulp of air. The imbecile! He knew he was penniless and yet here he was hoping a miracle had occurred and money had miraculously fallen into his account.
He put his card in the ATM, dried his hands (sweat not rain) and punched in his pin code. He half closed his eyes, not wanting to see “INSUFFICIENT FUNDS” flash up on the screen. It didn’t. To his shock he was asked how much cash he wanted to withdraw. He almost had a fit, lost between excitement and disbelief. Before drawing his cash he started screaming, “Yes! There’s fucking bucks! How? Fuck, my mother must have put more through. YES!!!”Then he turned to me, shaking and confused with excitement. “How much should I draw man? How much?”
“Whatever you want cause it’s not gonna pay out. It always makes a whirring noise when there’s a possibility of a transaction. That won’t pay.”
He wasn’t listening. He was high out his mind on surprise.
“One hundred and fifty? You gonna go in with me? I’ll take one fifty. Yes!!! Come on.. come on…Please….”
He pressed to withdraw 150 euros. I watched the machine. Trey got his hand ready to snatch the cash just in case the machine realised it had made a mistake and tried to swallow it back up before he got his greedy little hands on it. The machine made no sound. It wasn’t gonna pay. Trey stood before it, kinda half stooped, his eyes glaring and his mouth hung open like it had some kind of a hypnotic hold over him. His hand was ready to pounce, and then the screen flicked to red:
INSUFFICIENT FUNDS PLEASE CONTACT YOUR BANK
Trey’s legs almost gave out. He spun around in the street, jumped down hard in the rain through a release of pure adrenalin rage and screamed “FUUUUCK!!!!” Then he grabbed his card and stood there looking at me, lost, all hope gone. He looked as drained as the sky. Where for an instant he had convinced himself the machine would spit out money he didn’t have, now he wasn’t able to accept the reality of his pitiful condition. I’d seen this before. I’d done this before. Trey needed a slow ride back down to the reality of a drab dopeless day.
“Hang on, man,” he said, after a moment, “that thing was just about set to pay. Let’s try one hundred. I’m sure there must be a hundred in there.”
Each time Trey tried a smaller and smaller amount and each time it was refused ,but each time he became a little calmer. He needed to be disappointed in stages, gradually let down from his high of thinking a miracle had occurred. By the time he tapped in 10€ I stood staring at him in disgust. Even if it did pay out, what fucking good would ten euros be? He needed one hundred minimum, and even that would be my man doing me a small deal as a favour. When ten euros was refused Trey retrieved his card and calmly said “bummer!”
It was bad, but it wasn’t over. In Trey, in the pouring rain, there was still a glimmer of hope: ME.I was standing next to him with my pocket full of the money he had repaid me. His hope now was that he had lured the smack monster out in me and desperate to get fixed up myself I’d start scheming,would lend him back the money so as I could get high. Together we walked back up towards the university. Trey was sullen, like a sulky child, wanting me too take pity on him. He purposely let the rain drench him so as he could sit in a wet heap looking awful.
We took shelter at a tram stop. To keep me there, to keep hope alive,Trey began talking about literature and writing and pretending he had a real interest in that. Whether he did or not wouldn’t have mattered as the last thing I ever want to do is stand around in the wet discussing books. And so we waited under the tram stop, me standing and Trey crunched down into himself, hands in his pockets, his hood on, dripping wet and looking sadly out at the world. Surely on another day his ploy would have worked, but on that day I had writing to be done, had just a day left of a deadline and would not score for all the world. That it also meant this fucker would suffer just a little for his ways made it even easier. Trey made a concerted effort to keep me alongside him. I understood. Being his last hope he felt a little less down while I was there and there was still a possibility of junk. He talked continuously but it was obvious they were blank words and secretly he was just waiting for me to propose lending him the cash. Whenever I spoke he would come alive for seconds at a time only to be disappointed and mooch back down into a wet sulk. When I finally said I was going, Trey just nodded and looking sad and estranged from life, said, “Yeah, me too. Fuck university. I’m gonna go home and just go to bed.” It was a way of saying he didn’t want to do anything without smack, that right now he didn’t want to live and that somehow it was my fault and could I not do something to make him not want to curl up and cry and want to die. There was nothing I could do. I couldn’t help him. I could only postpone the hours until he had to eventually spend some straight time alone, but I could not indefinitely put off tomorrow. Back in the rain we walked down towards the Metro. Our pace was slow. We had nowhere quick to go. A wet European city soaking through our lives.
I stood behind, just off over his left shoulder, my eyes on his stubby, nail-bitten fingers and those surprisingly deft, sleight-of-hand, hands. The only time I took my watch off his ever deceitful ready paws was when studying the side of his face, that babyish but bloated looking head he had, the hair which looked like it was wearing bald but wasn’t . There he was, hunched over the gear like a dark force, his body evolved to cloak what he was doing, using his long-dead bank card to crush and chop and flatten the heroin and divide it into two even lines. I studied him. I had the distinct feeling that his predatory little junkie eyes were watching me, cast down at the toes of my shoes or my lower leg, looking out for any sign of a slip in concentration so as he could shuffle off and squirrel away one of the uncrushed rocks of gear. Oh, how I despised him. He looked like a weasel or a shrew, something you’d find hiding out in a dripping wet hole along the river, like the heroin had such a pull on him that it had sucked his face into a pointed snout-like feature which contained all his sensory organs and twitched and wriggled before it.
“Come on, man!” I said, increasingly incensed at his deliberation over the two halves. His eyes slid across and down to me.
“Not as fucking easy as it looks,” he said. “You do it if you want, bro.”
“After what happened last time? No chance. You divide and I’ll choose… That way there’s no fucking arguments.”
I remained watching as he continuously moved tiny slivers of heroin from one pile across to the other, absolutely terrified that one half would end bigger than the other. In fact, that was part of his dilemma: he wanted one half to be bigger: his half. He wanted to somehow find a way to make the bigger half appear smaller so as I’d choose the optically larger looking deal and he’d gain. So he fucked around dividing up the gram, arranging the halves into various different shapes, playing out a thousand cuts in his mind, until he must have decided that it was best just to halve it fairly and be done with it. When he thought he was done he pulled one last sceptical face and then stepped back, presenting me with the choice. Looking over the halves I could sense him besides me, still scrutinizing the divide, barely able to contain himself from jumping in and meddling some more.
“Now, you’re sure you’re happy with the cut?” I asked, pausing, my eyes on him. He gave a shrug. “Well, you sure or not?”
“I guess so,” he replied with a kind of pained expression on his face, like he was not sure at all.
“OK, I’ll take the left,” I said, with absolutely no deliberation and wearing the slightest of smiles. As I knew it would, the haste of my choice startled him. His body jerked to attention and he lurched forward, over the two halves, with a quizzical look on his face like he had missed a trick. The blacks of his eyes widened and in them I could see his half shrinking in size. To allow his brain time to process what it thought it was thinking, and to also leave himself with a hand of control over events, he reached across for his bank card and began siding my half out the way, over towards me. Normally I’d have paid no mind, but there was something awkward in the way he was separating my half: holding his bank card low down at a flat angle so as much of its surface area as possible touched my heroin.
“Hey hey hey… fucking stop that!” I said. “Slide yours to you, not mine to me!”
“Huh? Why? What does it matter?” he said, innocently.
“Give me the fucking card, here….”
I carefully extracted the card from him. When it was safely out his possession I tapped it down lightly on the CD case we had divided the heroin on. A fine line of smack and a little showering of dust fell down: a small fix worth.
“That’s why,” I said, sweeping it back into my half. As I prepared to scoop my deal into a wrap he suddenly stopped me.
“Hang on hang on…,” he said, “… it doesn’t look right. Your half’s twice as big as mine, LOOK!”
“Fuck off! It’s just yours is piled and mines now dislodged. Now get yours covered before it gets knocked over… or gets any smaller! ” He looked like he as going to cry, like he was caught reverberating between the adult pressure of behaving honourably and with a semblance of pride and his illogical junkie instinct of believing he was always being hard done by.
“Man, come on…” he said.
“Trey, You divided it.”
“I know [_I _]divided it… but it looked even until it was moved. Come on, man, even you must admit yours is much bigger?”
I shook my head. His distraught self-pitying junkie face made me hate him. I wanted to punch him, and not just once.
“It’s OK,” he then said, in a low voice like his entire world had crumbled to pieces, “it’s my own stupid fault. I split it. I did.” I didn’t look at him. I didn’t need to to know what kind of a miserable hard-done-by sulk his face was collapsed into.
“Fucking divide it again!” I said, tossing the bank card at him. He collected the card and his pitiful little expression left him. Immediately he returned to normal, hope alight in his eyes, like a man who has gotten an unexpected reprieve. He was hyper with it.
“I swear it looked even but it was the way I had piled it. And the end of my half was tapered and not built up… just wasn’t paying attention, dude.”
“It’s in your fucking head, Trey. There was nothing wrong with the cut. It’s psychological. Every fucking junkie imagines the same fucking thing: that they’re getting the smaller half. You watch, you’ll cut it again and still be convinced that somehow I’ve tricked you, that somehow you’re not getting as much. I’ve seen it a million times over!”
“Nah, it’s not like that. You’ll see.”
Trey swept the gear back together. This time he sorted it into a finger, squared off both ends and then used the bank card to level the top down. When it was a perfect oblong he laid a piece of paper besides it, marked on the paper how long it was, tore the paper off to that length, folded it in half and then laid it back down alongside the finger of heroin so as the crease in the middle showed up its exact centre. At that point he put the thin edge of the bank card through it and dissected the gear in half. He looked at me and gave a subtle nod.
“Now you’re sure it’s evenly split this time? You’re positive?” He said he was. I looked over the halves. Once again I showed absolutely no hesitation.
“I’ll still take the left;” I said. As had happened before Trey leant forward with a ruffled look on his brow. He looked at the two halves like they were fucking with him. Then he leaned back in with the card, about to disturb them once more.
“Fucking leave it!” I cried. “You said you was happy with the split, now fucking leave it…. they’re even!” They were even. Trey just couldn’t accept it. He tossed his bank card into the wall and flopped down into a pitiful childish blob on his bed, sat sulking and staring off somewhere out across the floor.
“What? You think yours is smaller again? Jesus! I fucking told you this would happen… I fucking knew it. I’ll tell ya what: take the fucking left half if you think it’s bigger… you can have it!” Trey remained where he was on his bed. He shook his head in stubborn refusal but I could tell my offer had piqued his interest, that his eyes were no longer lost in a world of woe but pricked and primed like dogs’ ears.
“Your last fucking chance, Trey… I won’t offer again: do you want the left half or not?”
Trey looked at me apologetically and then slowly rose and went over to inspect the two halves. I could feel his shame, his embarrassment for the childish way he had earned this second reprieve; for the way he had wangled having first choice.
“OK,” he said, “I’ll take the left.”
I reached over, turned around the CD case and pulled what was the right half over my way. I saw Trey looking, then saw him straighten himself up and that questioning look come to him once more. His brow lowered heavy over his eyes as he watched what I was sliding across my way and what was left for him. I knew what he was thinking… he was caught in that vicious circle, but even he was too embarrassed to remonstrate a third time. Instead his whole demeanour deflated and a lost, woeful expression hijacked his face. He sunk down into himself like his whole body had given up and was silently weeping. To tease it out of him, to further provoke his suffering, I looked at his deal and said:
“Is it just me or does my half seem so much bigger?” He looked at me, his regard a melange of envy and hate.
“Hmmm… that’s what I was thinking too,” he said in a half sulk, like he didn’t want to be heard but needed to say the words.
I stared at him and shook my head and told him there he had lost his fucking soul.
What Happened The Last Time
Now, this was a story of thirds. He had spent so much time shooting a speedball and then trying to figure out where the hell he was that we were being pushed out the dealer’s house as his wife was pissed off at our presence.
“We gotta go,” I said.
“Hmmm. Yeah bro I hear ya,” he said, sitting there jittering away and rolling a cigarette in a way only crack fiends can do.
“Like now, Trey!”
“Yeah, yeah… just getting my shit together, dude. Rolling this cigarette. I’m good.”
“OK, well I’m gonna divide the gear as there’s no time to go to yours.”
“Cool, man. Go for it.”
I opened the two grams. The dealer thought I was about to measure out another fix and told me no more, that his wife was about to blow. I assured him I was just dividing it. I quickly arranged the two grams into a straight even line, split it in three and asked Trey to OK it was a fair divide. He gave a jittery look at the gear, his mind skittish and his face twitching like it was full of spiders. He was in that silent world of hyper alert crack prickles – nothing being able to hold his concentration long before his mind was off on something else. He nodded while looking at the gear, his mind completely wired. I could feel the static electricity in his hair. The split was two to one in his favour. Once he had given the nod I scooped my third up and wrapped it in an oblong of aluminium foil. Trey’s deal was left on the table. I told him to wrap as we had to get the hell out of there.
I saw the soberness come over him like a changeling. Any man who sobers up that quickly has either had a huge shock or has just died.
“Is that mine or yours?” Trey asked, staring ghostly at what was on the table. He damn well knew it was his. It was his sly way of saying it looked more like a third.
“It’s yours. Now get it wrapped, we gotta go.”
“Man, that’s two thirds?”
“It’s two thirds of what we got, yes. Minus what we’ve used.”
Trey pulled an ugly face. I knew then that he had slipped into his real guise, that that was the skeleton expression on which his skin was hung and would always revert to in moments of instinctive honesty. Not wanting to lose me as his contact, just as he quickly as he had found me, Trey swallowed the doubt he felt over the fairness of the divide and said: “It’s cool, man. Just don’t look two thirds, that’s all. Not used to grams an shit.”
“Well it is two thirds. Though, even if it were slightly light, you’ve nothing to grumble over. You’ve had a speedball and a shot of brown on the fuckin’ house.”
“Yeah man, no… that was appreciated, bro. Fuck! I’m in France and I got high! Fuuuck!!!”
In the lift down to ground Trey purposely took out his little wrap of heroin and observed it again. He didn’t say anything but made a point of letting me see him deliberating over it in his mind.
“Fucking put that away! You wanna get us arrested? It’s hot here doing that shit. Fucking serious business here in France.”
“For real, man? For a gram?”
“Yes, now put it away.” Trey closed his fingers over the wrap and then put his clenched fist inside his front pocket of his hooded top. Walking down towards the metro, the night settled in good and this stretch of city all closed up and deserted, I could feel Trey still playing around with the wrap of heroin in his pocket, feeling out the size and thinking that he’d been half-robbed and that the thief was there walking besides him. I could sense his squinted eyes, bejewelled with a special kind of hatred that only junkies reliant upon each other can feel. Trey needed me, and even supposing that I had robbed him, he was obliged to smile, speak to me graciously, even thank me for it. It was evident he wanted to say something, there was that feeling in the air in the way he was walking and thinking, not saying a word and subtly dragging his feet so as I wasn’t gone too quickly. As we approached the metro station where I’d leave Trey for the evening I said my goodbye.
“OK, Bro, laters,” he said. I looked at him. He had said goodbye but was still standing there in front of me as if the night wasn’t over.
“Man, you sure that’s two thirds what I got? This is expensive shit and it just don’t look like it’s two thirds of what we got.”
“Trey, don’t do it, mate… I’m warning ya… Don’t.”
He knew I was serious and he also understood that I would not suggest finding a place where he could inspect my cut against his. It was the end of the night and it was ending like this regardless of anything he thought.
“OK, man,” he said, “no biggie.” And with that he kinda wriggled more comfortably into the rucksack that was on his back, pulled his jeans up a notch, and going on, alone, he held up a hand. I watched him from behind as he gradually trudged on and I didn’t like what I was seeing. This young man, an American, disappearing into the dark of a continental night with tragedy stamped all over him. I felt a cold, timeless wind on my face and for just a moment I felt terribly sad. Not for him; not for me. Just something in this world which is indescribable. As I descended the stairs to the metro a warm air came up to meet me. It carried the familiar smell of carbon dust and electricity, something musty and deep and damp. Standing alone on the deserted platform I stared down the tracks, deep into the dark of the tunnel, waiting for two lights to appear from nowhere and come and take me home.
The Scales of Justice
By now I despised the very shape of his body, his stocky pumped up torso, those rounded shoulders ready-made to sink in despair and swallow his neck, legs a little too short; thighs all too muscular, and that arse, God, the way it popped out an inch too far, self-publicizing the fact that it would be all accommodating for the almighty dollar and yet was closed for any kind of business in his private life.
Over months I scrutinized him, a weird kind of hatred having built up in me from witnessing all his little scams, his superficial facial expressions, how he’d pat down his pockets as he said he’d lost money, the way he had of balancing his phone up on the side when taking a shot, a depressing, grungy, American rock song drifting out of it as he dug for a vein, how when he’d struck home he’d close his eyes over and stand there swaying to the dirge filtering around the room; then the immediate retreat he’d make into himself and that utter coldness he showed towards anything living when he finally had what he wanted/needed. He was still romancing this life. He worshipped the needle. I didn’t hate him for that, maybe I even envied him for it. My romance was gone. It went with my lungs and my lover. Nothing left of it at all.
But as Trey annoyed me, so the anger and dislike I showed towards him must have been reciprocated. I never hid my contempt of him or his schemes. I shouted him down in the street and made him look a fool in front of my dealer. I subconsciously abused the power I had over him, knowing he would have to accept anything I said if he wanted me to continue scoring for him. As a consequence to that power Trey must have had a natural and festering dislike for me too, his building up in trying to restrain himself from blowing or biting back. And not only that, after everything he was also required to bow to me and keep me cool and also give me a share of his smack every time he scored. So as he annoyed me so I and his own fashion of living, the reliance he had on others, annoyed him. His life style was too far out of his own control to not be embittered by it. He often cursed heroin, but just as often as he cursed it he embraced it and sung jubilantly of its qualities of sedation and psychological pain relief. It’s a love hate romance most debutante addicts go through before either dying, quitting or learning how to control and supply ones habit on the way to long term and chronic drug addiction. At what stop Trey would eventually alight is anyone’s guess. Personally, I think he will continue to live a parasitic life of addiction until he can suffer it no more, go on to prostitution to gain financial independence, learn he caught HIV in his younger more desperate days of addiction, and having an existence so bleak at that point will look back to these days in Europe, as dire and as frustrating as they were, and see them as some of the better days of his life. Its a tragedy and one is allowed to feel sorry for him at this point… at least until the end of the sentence.
Sympathy over! The little shit. A quarter split this time. Three for him; one for me. We were in the dealer’s apartment, sat staring at the floor awaiting him to return with his main stash of smack. As soon as the dealer’s key turned in the lock Trey straightened up in his wooden chair at the dining table, his chest poking out like a bimbos and his biceps ripping out through his t-shirt.
The dealer – who now also disliked Trey – made a point of fingering him up out the chair he was in so as he could sit down in his place. It wasn’t the dealer’s chair or his usual cutting up spot: it was a power thing – a way to let Trey know it was his house and his rules, that he had the heroin and thus he had the power. Trey got up but didn’t take another seat. He lingered around the dealer, his nose poking right into the his affairs. Even as the dealer was measuring and weighing up the four grams Trey was there with his bank card asking if he could take a small measure to cook up. The dealer looked at him like he was a retard, not being able to restrain himself for even a minute. He warned him off from touching anything until it was weighed and bagged and told him to stay away. Trey paced around the room. As he passed me he said: “What the fucks his problem, man!”
The dealer looked up from weighing out the smack. He didn’t speak English but he understood tonality and he understood the word FUCK.
“What did he say?” he asked me in French.
“He’s just desperate for a fix,” I replied, “never mind him.”
The dealer nodded and pulled a face like he was tonguing a loose tooth.
“You want, er… shoot shoot?” he said to Trey, mimicking the act of injecting.
Trey nodded enthusiastically… too enthusiastically. “Yes, a shot… yes, please! I need a shoot shoot of your beautiful heroin, Monsieur!”
Trey was unaware that the dealer was being sarcastic and he also didn’t seem to realise that his utterly false comment about “beautiful gear” meant nothing in French. Trey seemed to think that his manufactured charm was so sweet and endearing that it transcended language itself.
The dealer, just nodded. He was hatching something. This was his house. He called Trey over to see the heroin on the scales. I joined them. Three grams to the point. That was Trey’s deal. The dealer pointed to the weight on the digital screen. “Threeeee,” he said. Trey gave a thumbs up, literally. The dealer lifted the little square of plastic with Trey’s three grams on it up from off the scales and put it down to one side. Next he took another little cut of plastic, placed it on the scales and measured out my gram. He asked us to OK the weight. I nodded. Trey kinda deliberated and then took out his bank card and mimicked scooping a little corner of the gram and putting it to the three grams. He saw the dealer wasn’t quite sure what he meant and so he made a tiny size with his thumb and forefinger and said “just a pinch, man.. uh puhti puhti pew.”
I asked Trey what the hell he was on about. He said that the weights were fine but that my deal was a bit larger than one third of his and he wanted the dealer to take a tiny scoop from mine and add it to his three grams.
“Are you for fucking real? I asked him, “they’re weighed! Mine is exactly a third of yours.”
“Oh man, come on. There’s no way I’ve three times your worth. Serious, Man! And them scales…. those little electronic ones, they can weigh up a point or two either way. And DID you see what he did? He weighed the gear on the plastic… probably another point lost there.”
The dealer asked me what Trey’s problem was, if he was disputing the accuracy of his scales. When I explained Trey’s gripe the dealer closed his bag of unweighed heroin, put it in his inside jacket pocket and then got up from the table leaving both our deals and the scales there for us to sort out between ourselves.
The way Trey hot-footed into the dealer’s seat was like a game of musical chairs when the music stops. I had no intention of taking the chair myself but by the way Trey bundled past me and slammed himself down at the table I felt I had lost. Trey lifted my gram off the scales and put it on the table. He cast a quick glance to the dealer who was now sat over on the sofa flicking through foreign TV stations. On seeing that the dealer wasn’t taking any notice of us Trey started going through the options on the little scales. He didn’t say what he was doing but it was obvious he was checking that the dealer had them calibrated to 0 and hadn’t weighed us up short. After a moment Trey’s face changed, he looked pissed off and began pushing and holding buttons until it was clear he had entered some parameter he couldn’t get out of. The dealer noticed. Trey was then hitting the buttons in such a way with his stubby fingers that he could damage them.
“Man, what-the-fuck!” he said. “These things have got the fucking time and everything on them!”
The dealer came over and snatched the scales out of Trey’s hands. He stared at Trey and Trey said “Sorry, Dude… was just checking them out.” The dealer told me to tell Trey not to touch any of the buttons. When he gave the scales back to Trey they were set to 0.
“Man, do you mind if we put the four grams together, re-weigh them and then split from a whole?” Trey asked me.
“Do what you want… just be fucking quick about it.”
Trey placed his three grams on the scale. It weighed to 3.2. His deal wasn’t under it was over. Then he added my gram to it. 4.2.
“What did I tell ya, man…. these scales are never accurate.”
“Maybe they’re not accurate now? Maybe the first reading was correct and this one is false?”
Trey didn’t answer. He didn’t hear. His brain had stuck on pause the moment he had convinced himself that his guile had made him a petty gain. Objective truth held no importance to him: he wanted fuck all to do with it. Trey was all about subjective truth and subjective reality. In that way there were no lies, no theft, no games or dishonesty. And whenever justice was served, it was always – in his mind – completely unjust, life kicking him in the ribs again.
Trey, now in the dealer’s chair, with the dealer’s scales, with four measly grams of heroin, did the job of dividing the cut himself. He lifted the four grams off the scale, put my empty wrap on the platform, and then weighed up my gram. As the dealer had done he asked me to check the reading. I didn’t check but said it was fine. He gave me the gram and alongside him I bagged it and tied it secure. As I was doing that Trey reweighed what was left.
“3 point 1 this time, dude,” he said. “You need to tell your dealer to get some new fucking weights.”
I wasn’t watching Trey. I had seen his face too often lit up from the glow of sitting in front of his heroin, knowing that the next few days would be peaceful no matter what atrocities were to happen in the world. But then, suddenly, I was watching him: his face frozen in terror and his mouth caught in the word “NOOOoooooo…..”, a high-pitched beeping noise coming out the scales in front of him.
…ooooo!!!! What-the-fuuuck!!! DUDE… HELP!!” Trey, startled by the beeping, had somehow managed to spill his heroin. It must have been an involuntary reflex while lifting his deal off the scales. He hadn’t spilled it all. The actual square of plastic was tilted off the edge of the scales with a good gram still on it. The rest was strewn across the table, to the edge and over. Trey was sat there frozen, his hands raised like he was being held at gun point. His eyes were strained down, passed his air-filled chest, down to where his lap was and where the heroin would have fallen. When he was sure everything had settled down he ever so carefully inched backwards, away from the table, his eyes strained down all the while.
“Quick, there’s some on my jeans… bud, help get it up.”
Over at Trey I used an old metro ticket to collect what powder I could from off his thigh. I salvaged a good bit but some had dispersed into the fabric of his jeans and more had cascaded over his thigh and sprinkled down the outside of his calf and onto the floor.
“How much on the floor?” he asked, panicked.
“Not a lot, but it’s hard to see.” When I had salvaged all I could Trey stood up, stepped back and knelt to inspect the ground himself. He kept saying: “Man!! Man! I can’t fucking believe it! What the fuck, dude!” When Trey rose he was red and flustered and angry. In silence he scraped together what was on the table and collected it back on his wrap. During all that activity we hadn’t noticed that the beeping had stopped. The dealer was stood there with his little black electronic scales.
“What the fuck was that,” I asked.
“The alarm! Your friend somehow set the fucking countdown timer!”
When Trey weighed the heroin he had left there remained not even two grams. An entire gram was somewhere within his jeans, on the floor and between the joint of the table. He sat there just staring at what was left, utterly distraught but lost for anything he could say. Slowly he went into his rucksack and took out a needle and a little aluminium cooking cup. Usually the dealer would turn you on to a free fix for business but today there was no chance of that, not for Trey anyhow. Trey sat at the table with his empty cup, reluctant to put a measure of his own stuff in before knowing if the dealer would give him a freebie. When the dealer didn’t look over Trey made deliberate noises and fidgeted looking around the table for something until he had the dealers attention. The dealer looked over, saw what Trey was doing and then seemed to come over irate.
“No no no…” he said, wagging a finger. “Tell him he’s not shooting here!”
Trey understood but thought it was a joke. He continued on. The dealer walked over to the table and with his index finger flicked the metal cup off the table and against the wall.
“No shoot here!”
“Huh?” went Trey, shocked.
“You tell him he must ask before doing that in my house… In front of my wife… His blood on my table! He fucking asks in future!”
He was right. You always ask a non-injecting user permission to bang up in their presence and certainly in their apartment. I had known the dealer for over five years and I still asked before pulling out a spike. Trey seemed to have no concept of the horror of the syringe or what it was associated with. He had barely known the dealer a month and here he was blatantly taking out his old syringes and getting ready to cook up without even the good grace to ask. I told Trey that he wasn’t allowed to shoot in the apartment today, that he must ask before doing. I can’t explain Trey’s reaction, but I understood it… I understood that drained, grief-stricken appearance, the sudden welling up of pain in his eyes and his total desperation to get out of their and relieve himself of the horror he had lived in the past half an hour. I felt sorry for him. After any shock the junkie needs a fix. Not five or ten or thirty minutes later but immediately.
“Get your works. Go to the toilet. Get your shot but be fucking quick about it!”
Trey gave a cast across to the dealer wondering if he should follow my advice, what could be the potential consequences if the dealer cottoned on to him in there shooting. Whatever he concluded he must have thought it was worth it. He gathered up his kit, put it in his bag, made every appearance like getting ready to leave and then excused himself for the toilet. As I waited for him the dealer gave me half a gram for what Trey had spilled. I put it in my pocket for myself. That’s when we heard the music. Floating out the toilet and down the hallway and into the living room. Trey, so into his habit, so utterly selfish in his needs, could not manage even a single shot without his choice music on and swaying away to the dirge of some gruff singer growling on about the horror of addiction and the sweetness of death. Of course, I knew what the music signified but the dealer didn’t.
“What the fuck?” he asked. “Does your friend shit to music?”
I thought over the words, thought of Trey, swaying there like having a cosmic orgasm, the syringe embedded in the fat of his arm, the pastures of heaven across his face for a while.
“Yes, that’s exactly what he does,” I said, “he shits to fucking music.”
The dealer grunted, shook his head, then holding the remote control, pointed it at the TV and began flicking through the channels, not staying on one for a second, the blur of a continent all hissed and merged together, nothing of interest anywhere to be found. After a moment his eyes closed over and the TV settled to a stop. Trey flushed the toilet; all business was done. One and a half grams, the price for such a life.
The last time I had seen Trey he was marching back and forth outside the 24hr pharmacy, fighting with himself over whether or not he should buy two syringes for ten euros.
“Man, ten fucking euros!” he kept saying. “Ten fucking euros!” He looked at me. “Should I buy them or not, dude?”
“I can’t tell you what you should do,” I said, “but I can tell you what you will do.”
“Man, I’m gonna buy them ain’t I?”
“If you’re any kind of a junkie you will.”
“Man! Fuck!!! You sure ya don’t have a spare rig at yours?”
“Just old ones,” I said, then beating him to it: “… And no, you can’t boil one clean.”
“This place is a fucking joke, bro. Ten bucks for two damn pins! I mean, it’s insane… tell me it’s not insane?”
I couldn’t tell him that. It was insane. But there were many insane things in this world and, more often than not, sane people did them.
“I’m gonna try again,” he said, stopping and pinching ahold of his brow. “Gonna bring on the charm offensive… Maybe have her warm to me.”
Trey flashed his best, most contrived smile. The old black woman behind the security window of the pharmacy didn’t even notice. All she saw were two half-mad glaring eyes and a kid with the sweats and slightly jaundiced features asking for syringes with the neon blur of the city centre behind him.
“And if I buy two boxes?” Trey asked.
“12 euros,” the old woman said.
“Give me three boxes then,” Trey said. He begrudgingly handed over the money, snatched his syringes, and left. “Man, I worked a fly one there,” he said, rejoining me. “You only get charged the night fee once, so in a way, I just saved twenty euros.”
I looked at him like you would someone you were deeply concerned about. His maths were all wrong; his logic too. I walked him back down towards the metro stop and said goodbye, knowing he was heading back to the States in two days and feeling sure, hoping, that I’d never have to look upon see his scheming, treacherous face again.
_ _ _
He was gone a while but not while enough. He had left such a foul taste in my mouth that I would have needed at least an entire spring to rid me of it. And I wasn’t the only one who had been left paled by the memory of the villainous little fuck. His house-lady, a chemistry professor from the upper bourgeoisie, had happened across his foulness too, looking into his unlocked room one day and finding it laden with used syringes and cooking cups. For the last month of his residency she hadn’t spoken a word to him. It was just further reason why he could not possibly return. Not only had he flopped all his courses, burnt his bridges with me and lost his heroin supply, but he had also fucked up with his proprietor and lost his place of lodging. There wasn’t much to come back to, just hardship and struggle and trouble on every front. So when there came a rap on my door, four months into the new year, and I opened up to find him standing on my doorstep, I first considered the possibility of the existence of ghosts before accepting what my brain so clearly thought my eyes were seeing. But there could be no mistake about it; it was him, Trey: “Hey up dude,” he said, “thought I’d just call round and see how you’re cooking.”
I stared at him. He was like a cloud that had drifted in front of the sun. He reminded me of days I didn’t want to live. He read the hesitancy on my face, saw my mouth twisting into the shape of an awful excuse to get rid of him.
“Trey… er… the place, it’s in a fucking whirl,” I said. “It’s really not laid out for company.”
“Straight up? OK, dude, no biggie. Then I wont keep you. Just thought I’d knock around and offer you a bit of stuff. But as you’re… …”
“You got gear?”
“I’m pretty cool, yeah. But look, hey, your place is in a jam, bro.”
“Well, it’s not in so bad a jam to turn away free smack! Of course you can come in… fuck, you’ll have seen much worse than this!”
And so, against my better judgement, I let Trey in. And like that he was back, his rucksack being unhinged as he entered the room, something a little different in the space around him and a cockiness in his face which I had never observed before.
“Man, if I didn’t enjoy a break from this shit,” he said. “Can you see I’ve lost weight? Yeah, bro, been working on my pecks… training again. My face is less puffy too… healthier looking. Don’t ya think?”
He eyed me for a response, something pathetically melancholic in his regard.
And then I had it; read his eyes. His vanity had done him over. I nodded, knowingly.
“Oh, so you’ve read the texts I wrote about you?”
“You could say that. Not very flattering, bro.”
“The truth rarely is,” I replied.
“The truth? Man, I don’t look like no bloated diabetic! And what’s with all that about my chest and biceps? Man, that just about killed me, dude.”
“It’s just writing Trey. You’re lucky to be written about at all.”
“Lucky? Dude, you’ve a screwed up fucking idea about what luck is.”
“You did some pretty shit things Trey.”
“Dude, you were way, way off! Especially on my physique.”
Of all I had written about him, that which had aggrieved him most were the descriptions of his outward appearance. How rotten I had painted his insides he couldn’t give a damn about. His septic interior was of little importance to him. Trey obsessed about his physical attributes, his money-maker: how attractive he was; the tightness of his arse; how little or much his cock bulged through the crotch of his pants. What lay under his mask of skin didn’t concern him. I guess he reasoned that he would have been paid, possibly have drilled the well dry, long before that would ever be a factor. Maybe if he were heterosexual he wouldn’t have taken it so much to heart? Would have put my words down to some kind of competitive undermining? But as it was, my physical depictions of him had hit home so hard that he had actually dieted and worked out. And it showed. But what showed through even more was his noxious underskin, and that would probably remain just as toxic for as long as he straddled the dope line.
“So where’s this gear?” I asked, ending the awkwardness.
“It’s number fucking four,” he said. “Scored it on the Dark W. My vendor sells grey and brown, number three and four. You wait till ya hit up a spoon a this.”
Trey laid his rucksack down on the bed and poked steadily through it. I watched his hands carefully. This boy had such a propensity for dishonesty that I’d not have been surprised to see him try to steal his own stuff. And then he straightened, his freshly stream-lined torso tight against his top, his right hand held up, pinching ahold of a little button bag of powder, wriggling it about so as the contents shuffled down neatly to the bottom. The light hit Trey just right. Lit him up so honestly in that small moment of life.
“Here check this out, dude,” he said, moving over to me with the bag. I cast my eyes briefly over the contents. It was a weird pinkish colour; fine powder.
“You sure that’s gear?” I asked.
“Number fucking four,” he said. “Won’t get quality like this from your guy.” I smirked. We were of different generations. No. 4 meant absolutely nothing to me, shouldn’t mean anything to anyone. It was talk you heard online but had no relevance on the street. On the street you bought blind and the only test was in the vein. In there, carried to the brain, it was all heroin: good, bad or average.
“Get your spoon out then,” Trey said.
I eyed the gear again. It really didn’t look right and I wouldn’t have put it past Trey to hotshot me in revenge. I told him I wanted to taste it and gave him a small square of foil to put a sprinkle on.
“OK, bro,” he said. “But you need to shoot this shit… serious.”
On a small square of aluminium foil Trey sprinkled out the tightest measure he could without giving nothing at all. I smoked it flat, without a tube, in a single burn. Barely had I inhaled than I was spluttering a cough and then wincing from the acrid burnt taste in my throat.
“What the fucks that?” I cried. “That isn’t smack!”
“Not smack? Ha! I told ya, you gotta shoot this shit.”
There was a time when I would have shot anything, did shoot anything, but I had learnt to show caution in the world I mooched about in. I didn’t know what this crap was, where it came from nor what Trey had added to it himself. “Give us another sprinkle,” I said.
“It’s a fucking waste, bro… but if you insist.”
I eyed the heroin more carefully now. It was undoubtedly two distinct powders. And powder, certainly as fine as this was, always roused my suspicions.
Trey fixed his shot. It cooked quick and clear. Too clear. Water clear. “It’s fucking good shit, man,” he said, noticing the sceptical furrow of my brow. “Been using it for over a week now.”
As Trey dug for a vein I smoked what he had measured me out. Within three burns it had turned black, bubbled to a crisp burnt death and was gone. It tasted like paracetamol. There wasn’t the slightest hint of the distinctive heroin taste in it. But, regardless of how it tasted, from the tiny amount I had smoked, I could feel something, some heaviness in my head and neck, a loosening down of my muscles and limbs.
I looked over to Trey. He was stooped over where he stood, the rig he had fixed with held in his hand.
“Trey!” I shouted, “get that fucking needle capped and sit down before you go out.”
“Yeah, bro.. just doing it,” he said, his free hand patting around blindly on the surface he had cooked up on, searching the cap. A second later and the uncapped needle fell from his hand. Trey was out on his feet, ah sweet lullaby, his eyelids shut down on life, all his problems gone for another short fix of time.
It never fails to amaze me. The junkie will nod out on the world, will be incapable of capping his rig, sometimes even incapable of removing it. His body will double up over itself so as it looks like he’s sucking his own cock. Frying pans can burst aflame and cigarettes can burn down and fizzle out between the fingers. But make a move for the addict’s gear, cast even just a shadow of thought to that end, and that cunt wakes up without fail. Somewhere deep down, embedded in the junkie’s psyché, is a deeply suspicious and healthy concern for his drugs. And so it was, as I neared Trey to take another dose from the heroin which lay next to his cooking cup, his eyes opened to see my fingers quietly lifting the button-bag of powder clear.
“What the fuck you doing, bro?” he said, like he’d been waiting for it.
“Taking a final hit,” I said.
He wiggled a stoned finger. “Here,” he said. I handed him the heroin. With the last of his conscious resources he tapped me out a final dose. Then he pocketed what was left before taking to the edge of the bed to nod off in peace.
I didn’t smoke what Trey had given me. He was right: this stuff needed to be fixed. I prepared my shot and rolled up my trouser leg so as I had access to my inside calf. As I prodded and poked for a vein Trey’s eyes opened and settled their focus on me. A faint look of content spread out in his lips. It was as if he had woken to an old, familiar film which calmed and soothed his very soul. The shot itched through my thigh, up my side flank and into my shoulder. As it dispersed across my brain I felt an old familiarish shutter go down on the day. Trey and the world merged, and then disappeared, into the after afternoon.
The light of day had fallen dramatically when I heard Trey up and about, sniffing and scratching and checking his phone. The late afternoon was deadly still and dull. You wanted no-one to move a muscle, no light to go on, no disturbance at all. Only to sleep and breathe and for everything to remain just where it was until evening.
“Man, I gotta shoot,” Trey said quietly, stoned. “Gotta get over to Bron for this fucking robot convention. You wanna come along and watch robots with me? I’ve a spare ticket somewhere, man?”
“Robots?” I asked.
“Yeah, bro: robots. They fight, you know: robot battles… Robot wars.”
I did know and I would have gone if it were with anyone else, but not with Trey, not tonight, not with the heroin he had left which was not even enough for himself. To go would just mean walking off the slight effect remaining in me, and unlike him, I had no more ammo to push the world back again.
“Nah, I’m good. Will stay in and maybe try to write.”
“Your call, dude,” he said.
I escorted Trey to the door, said farewell and watched as he shuffled into his backpack and disappeared off in the direction of the bus-stop. And if he thought for one instant he had fooled me, that I didn’t know the real reason why he had turned up at mine, he was very much mistaken. His surprise call had nothing to do with affection or generosity. No, it was made for one very calculated and specific reason: to let me know he now had his own supplier of heroin; that he was free from my shackles and didn’t need me any more. I guess he figured that the price of half a gram, to let me know, was worth it. Good for him, I thought, it’s less trouble all fucking way round.
- – -
Hey, bro. W’assup?
He’s on, but I’m not calling.
Y’re obviously wanting 2 score. U only evr msg or txt when u want 2 score.
Score? Of ur guy? Those rubber bullets he sells? Nevr, bro. NEVER!
At least it’s smack what my guy has. That crap u turned up wth last month was fucking fentanyl or smethng. There was no heroin in it.
Dude, Why’d u say that?
‘cause it wasn’t heroin. It wasn’t #4 or whtevr nonsnse u was told. That shit doesn’t have a fucking number… wasn’t a speck of smack in it – grey, white or brown. Gave me a weird, anxious nod as well.
Man, u noticed that 2? Thought it felt a bit strange. Did me tho. Will get more soon, put u on2 a proper gram this time. Silkroad is down at the moment, bro, so just laying low and playing it cool.
So u do need to score?
Don’t need to, no. Was just wondering how u were?
Well, I was fine b4 u messaged.
I waited for a reply; watched the three blinking dots on Facebook’s messenger screen and the bulletin: ‘Trey is typing’. Then Trey went offline. No message ever came through. He must have decided to bank his pride, lay low and suffer until the Silkroad was back up and running.
It was some days later when I knocked up my dealer. He opened the door and stood there in just his boxer shorts, looking like a slumberous depiction of hell. It seemed to take him a few moments to recognize who I was. His room was cast in semi-darkness; his pitbull, Bruno, curled up asleep on the bottom of the bed. He stumbled his way past me and shooed the dog clear. Then he gave a sleepy smile, rubbed his eyes clear and flicked the light on. He bent down and snorted a line of something off the table and then shook his head to rattle the drugs up his nose and to his brain. He pulled on some light trousers, a top and then opened the curtains. His cache of heroin was sitting in a large bag on the table, a second bag full of coke just besides. I nodded towards the heroin.
From his thumb and forefinger Theo laid a tiny dark brown rock down in front of me. I heard it rap on the glass of the table. This was good stuff. He wouldn’t lay me on a freebie if it wasn’t. As I cooked it up in a shot he warned me to be careful, that he didn’t want the same thing happening to me as it had done my friend.
“My friend?” I asked
“Yeah. The young rich American kid.”
“Trey, yea… that’s him. Almost fucking went under on me. We all but carried him out and packed him into the lift.”
“He was here alone?”
“Passed by a couple of days ago, said you had sent him as you wasn’t well.”
“I never fucking sent him. I’d have asked you before ever doing something like that. And how do you mean, rich?”
“It’s what he said. Kept talking about the cash he had and how cheap France was. Said he could live like a king over here.”
Ah. Now I got it. The dirty fuck had not only veered around me and cold-called my dealer, but had also spun stories of riches which he’d picked up from reading the texts I had written about him. The little shit. Of course, I’d have done the same, but I would never have made someone dislike me so much that it would have mattered. As I drew my shot up into the needle, sucked the filter dry, I imagined it was Trey, dehydrating and withering away, writhing about in the pain of his own sobriety. It was then that I decided to fuck him up, to put him out his misery once and for all.
I cast a furtive glance over at Theo. He was sat watching some crap about top-end luxury yachts on Youtube. I knew I could ask no favours from someone like him, that the dollar ruled his world and there was no loyalty to anything but paper. He would serve Trey in secret behind my back if it meant him having an extra customer. By the time Theo eventually sussed on that Trey was broke, was just another down-at-heel punter on the precipice of ruin, it would be too late. So, I began my attack on Trey, determined that by the time I was ready to leave that he would be no more welcome at Theo’s than he would at the Westboro Baptist Church.
“Theo, I hope you didn’t buy the bullshit of Trey being rich? The guy hasn’t got a fucking bean.”
“Course he has! All these American students are from wealthy families. There’s no way they could be over here if not. Trey’s got cash alright.”
“He’s got cash, just not very much. He’s on a fucking student loan. Gets 250 dollars a week or something. Haven’t you noticed he doesn’t even have credit on his phone? You need to be careful with dealing with him. Seriously. He’ll have you locked up. It’s why I put the block on him months ago.”
“Why so?” Theo asked.
“The guy’s a fucking liability. He’s been scoring heroin online with fucking bitcoins. The police probably already have him under surveillance. And if they do, then you and your cousin are in it deep.”
Theo pulled a sceptical looking face, gave a little side tilt of his head as if weighing up the dangers and concluding that they were negligible, no more risky than selling to anyone else. I thought for a moment. I didn’t really want to do what I was about to, but Trey had riled me too much, so I did it anyway.
“Theo, I think you may want to look at these messages before you serve him again,” I said. “Trey sent me them just a few hours before he came to see you.”
I showed Theo the messages on my phone. He couldn’t read English but saw his name and his cousin’s name and the word heroin and the word shit followed by a slew of exclamation marks.
“What the fuck is that?” he asked.
I pulled the phone away. “Oh, it’s nothing… don’t worry about that.”
“I am worried. What the fuck was that?”
“Look, Theo, if I tell you you must keep it to yourself. You musn’t tell your cousin. Do you understand? He’ll fucking kill Trey if he hears about this. You need to promise me you’ll not tell Emil.”
“Ok. Now what the hell has he written there?”
I took a deep breath.
“Well, none of it is very nice. He says your heroin is shit and you’re both thieves and that he doesn’t need you and that next time you sell him cut gear he’ll rat you both out. But worse, worse than that, he’s used your real names and talks blatantly about scoring dope of you.”
Theo’s face went. It sometimes did that when he got angry and was about to lash out. Last time it happened he had attacked an old, feeble addict, went for him with a butcher’s knife before splitting his eye open and fracturing the socket. Theo’s face was rippling with the same rage I had seen that day. This time he didn’t grab a knife but snatched my phone out my hand to look more carefully at the messages.
“Are these all his?” he asked.
“Yes. I always delete mine.”
“And where does he say our heroin is rubbish?”
I took the phone off Theo, scrolled down to the culprit message and enlarged it. Theo stood glaring at the words. His thoughts seemed to block and back up in his head and for a second he seemed not to know what to do. Then he turned, let out an animal howl of frustration and punched his fist into the wall. He removed his fist and made the same animal sound again, like he was existing in absolute pain.
“Calm down,” I told him. “At least we’ve weeded him out before he’s had time to cause any real damage. Hopefully.”
“No!” Theo said. “Wait until the dirty louse comes here again… he’ll need heroin as a fucking painkiller then.”
Poor Trey. Only two days ago he had swerved me and successfully cold-called on my dealer. He was probably bent over at his right now, enjoying an especially heavy nod, imagining how easy he’d have it for a while. And what’s more, if I knew this little cunt even half as well as I thought I did, tomorrow he would be back out in the world, back out on the score. How sore he was gonna feel this. But, as much as I despised Trey, I didn’t want him hurt, and a visit to Theo’s would not do his future prospects in train station toilets any good at all.
When I arrived home I called Trey. “So, you finally did the sensible thing and veered around me straight to the supply?”
“Had to, bro. Couldn’t keep on as it was, you always leaving me dry. If you wanna flex your fucking power over me, then be prepared to to get by-passed, dude.”
“Well, congratulations Trey. You played a real smart one. Though I’m not too sure how welcome you’ll be around Theo’s any more.”
“You reckon? Them guys think I’m made. He was fucking drooling last time I saw him.”
“I don’t doubt it. Though he hadn’t read your Messenger texts then… wasn’t aware you had been scoring on the dark web and buying bitcoins with money-orders. And if that isn’t bad enough he also thinks you’ve threatened to rat him out. So you can have him… we’ll share the dealer.”
Trey knew I was serious. I could discern his panic on the other end of the phone. His stir was just starting, probably thinking of the amount of heroin he had remaining and wondering how the hell he would make it last until he could cop from some place else. The dark web, if a marketplace were even up, would take days and I knew Trey didn’t have days. I sensed his hate and rage boiling up, bubbling about furiously in the radio waves of transmission. He despised me and I felt good being despised by someone so cold and lacking in empathy. All his conniving and trickery had finally been put through, his greed to save himself half a gram had lost him everything. I would have felt it cruel if he hadn’t have brought it all on himself. Trey had been out to fuck me all along, looking to lure me into being tricked at every chance he had. He had left me debts to pick up, called me across town at night only to say he had no cash, had created headaches and arguments and bad feelings over divisions of heroin so small as to even matter. When he needed something he would act as my best buddy, harp on about how great he thought my writing was and how stoked he was just to walk besides me. Yet, when he had what he wanted and no longer needed the human race he became as cold as a mossy stone. His situation now was not from a cruelness on my part, it is the only way it can ever end for people like Trey, people who just aren’t as clever as those they are trying to fool. Trey had fallen into the self-deluded crap that many such junkies become afflicted with. He thought he was getting away with it, fooling the world, just because no-one ever said otherwise. Every time he met me, regardless of what antics had taken place previously, he did so as if the slate was clean, as if his bullshit and theatrical attestations of honesty had somehow shone through, like he still had all nine lives intact and his character was with a pristine a record as it had been when we’d first met. The only marker Trey had for success or failure was getting his drugs or not, and, in ensuring he did get them, all was justified and nothing was important. Equally, when he needed more, his desperation was such that anything he had done previous he felt was minor and forgiveable, that nothing was so serious as to warrant leaving an addict suffering withdrawals as punishment for past crimes. So he had turned up each time, befriending me anew, his hair getting oilier and his stubble rougher and his hands needing to go further down into his pockets to make it. But still he smiled and talked like he adored you, like you adored him, like you hadn’t began observing his hands, hadn’t started questioning his words, wasn’t watching him like a hawk so as he never found any real chance to fuck you over. Trey took the drugs, tried to take more than he deserved, tried to leave you in a place he wouldn’t like to be left himself. And always, forever always, saying “Thanks bro…. that was fucking appreciated, man. You sure as hell saved me there.”
I wished Trey good luck and closed the phone on him. He would have to learn that the worid doesn’t inherently cut us a bad deal, that sometimes we generate our own fate; ensure that hell comes to our door one day.
Bro, I need something, read the message I received a day later. At the and of his text was attached a winky smile: ;-) It looked fucking evil.
What u need cannot b bought. Nothing doing.
Man, don’t make me beg!
Beg Trey. I’d like to see u beg. Tho begging is fuckall 2 som1 like u, just the easier step b4 the real treachery begins. I’ll tell u what, if u can b honest I’ll score for u. Do u think u can b honest?
Have only evr been, bro. But go on, shoot.
The day u owed me $$$ and suddenly lost yr phone…. remember?
Well, right now, I want the truth. I want u 2 deconstruct yr behaviours & explain 2 me the reasoning behind each & evry act & decision u made. If u can do that, admit evrything u’ve denied, I’ll score for u.
Man, what? Y’re fucking w/me, right?
No, I’m not fucking wth u. 2day, if u want heroin, u’re gonna take a walk thru yr own felonious self, reflect & deconstruct & give answers to all yr fucking scheming.
Man, I lost my cell phone!!! Y’re fucking paranoid. I lost it! I’m not admitting things I nvr did!
Cut me anthr slice of that same bullshit & yre on yr own. The truth, fuck u! Like the truth that u knew u didnt have my cash & had set up a convenient way whereby I couldn’t contact u?
Man. If u want me to say that I’ll say it, bro. But that’s not how it was.
And it went on like that. Trey denying everything, then begrudgingly making false admittances, before finally owning up to the real truth and telling me what I already knew. It took almost an hour for the whole saga of the borrowed cash and phone, and then the ATM machine, to finally come out. Trey admitted everything, every sly and crafty thought which had gone through his cunning little brain. When he had quite finished, he text: Sry bro. U know how it is… I needed stuff. So, we cool now? You gonna phone yr guy?”
The fool! He thought that was the end of his ordeal.
“I’ll call, yes, but we’ve a way 2 go yet… all those times u called me & was either short on the readies or broke. I told ya, u’re gonna have a good look at yourself 2day. I even want 2 hear u tell me y u turned up here at mine, after all that time, 2 turn me on2 a shot? What the real motive of your visit was? You’re gonna tap out evry despicable thing u’ve evr fucking done!.
Trey knew, as well as I, that there just wasn’t time enough left of the evening for him to go through all that – that’s how much bullshit he had fed me over the months. He fell silent on the phone. I could hear him working up like a wind, breathing, waiting, getting more frustrated each second I let him blow up. And then, finally it came, the wind of humiliation broke his sails and Trey lost it, knowing I was never going to score for him whether he told me the truth or not.
FUCK U!!! he messaged. FUCK FUCK FUCK U!!!!
During the course of that week he sent me countless messages, all insults and teeming with rage and hate. I never replied. I let him carry on, go further and further than he was ever tougher to go. And then, out the blue, on receipt of his latest message, I phoned him. He answered, hope in his voice that I was gonna ask him if he needed anything. Very calmly, I said: “Be very fucking careful Trey.” And then I closed the phone.
- – -
I saw him from a long way off. He was walking down the Rue de Hénon, his black ruck sack up on his back like a huge fucking tick. Theo saw him too. From the driver’s seat he gave me a large, wide smile. Sat at the lights we watched Trey, his short but muscular thighs making his trousers look a cheap, regular cut. He had his headphones in and held his phone in his hand. It was a fresh, crisp day, blue, the sun distant and white. The first buds were in the trees and rags of feint cloud were strewn across the sky, ripped to ribbons by high, spring winds. Theo moved on past the lights, accelerating to catch Trey up and then slowing as we drew alongside him. Trey felt the presence of the car and turned to look. The driver’s window descended, revealing Theo’s cropped head, dark shades, nose, mouth… pistol. Trey’s face froze in an assemblage of fear; panic and confusion ghosting through his face like rippling water. He scrunched up into a defensive ball, trying the best he could to cover his head against any bullets. And like that, his arms up, his eyes closed, he started running, skittish, down the road. He bumped into a man, scrambled past, and still covering his head, scooted left. Theo cruised straight on by, the electric window rising, the sound of the day being replaced by the whir of the car’s fan-heater. Trey was running for his life, legging it to safety, to wherever would save his rotten soul next. Theo laughed a hearty laugh and tossed the replica gun down in the foot compartment my side. As it clattered about his Pitbull stirred in the back and shoved its large head between the headrests. Theo put a hand back and stroked it, let the dog lick the metallic taste from his fingers. “The young rich American,” Theo howled. “How strange the American boys run!”
At home that evening I thought of Trey and decided to phone him to make sure he’d got the message clear. But Trey had pre-empted me, pre-empted the end of his stay in France. His phone was dead, just a recorded and slightly disturbing robotic voice saying :
I felt something, but it wasn’t sadness. It was some feeling, some rogue wind from the end of last summer, something that had existed then in the belting hot of the afternoon on the Croix Rousse. I saw Trey, fresh and vibrant, t-shirt and shades, coming across the square. And then I saw the sky and then the sun and then imagined an early evening plane en route to Massachusetts. For all the foulness it was both our calling, and alone in my room, on my bed, in the darkening light, I thought of Trey and I thought of writing and I thought of life, and I wondered when I’d next rise and live again.