The eternity heavy slow movement of dark wood and brass rotating doors spin in soporific circles, the age-old cafe off the high street. where we can watch the junkies waiting on the corner. The tourists horse-driven in carriages smile inanely at us waiting. I gaze dumbfounded around the vast cavern inside. Aching and waiting, the dreadful madness of pernicious drugs. I don’t feel comfortable, dark globes of stolen light of night hang from the nicotine brown ceiling, their throb barely piercing the gloom, sipping on acrid coffee, thick like green mucus, coughed up from cancerous lungs, arrangements of leather chairs, hardwood circular coffee tables and the hacking cough of aging patrons desiccating in dark air. We are waiting.
She glanced at the pale blue flesh inside her elbow, time to take a walk.
Through the gleaming metallic caverns of the shopping mall, rain streaking lead down plate glass windows. Across the paved sweep of pedestrian walkway. Into a tight packed square sweeping up a hill to the old town. St. Francis Street, where a dying old man leaned from his warm covered-balcony, coughed then vomited onto the awning of the shop below. Turning right into Painter Street, where this geezer, wet-look gel quiff, all buckskin and rockabilly, asked me for a light. With that I spun around in the towns concentric spirals of ancient narrow streets. Painter Street, Cobbler Street, through Spoon Road and Knife Street and deep through Axe Alley.
The Dreams Part One
The stained yellow purple bruise of Madrid can be unbearably hot in summer, but in winter the abyss of divine enjoyment is amazingly adrift and there’s never enough smack to go round, to feed all the hungry mouths of all the waiting veins. So the cold crept into every mildewed flophouse, until the transient passage of spring raised it’s numbed out head to catch me furiously chasing the dragon, my teeth dropping out onto the foil. Suddenly everything stopped spinning, as each of the participants in this adventure discovered precise desires for ambiences in order only to realise them. Cut the foil to the desired size, suspended in that quivering moment of lust tongue sliding in extended focussed seconds across you lips. The panacea for all human woes, the treacherous path of renewal, I was remade, vomiting, to work ceaselessly towards the organisation of new chances, to contemplate the deepest blood-poisoning sins.
We’d been doing all sorts of substances, but nothing really blew my mind, I was beginning to wonder if I had a mind to blow. Then we switched the lighter flame to full and burnt the shiney surface, Frankie sat on stool covered in white toweling sucking translucent syrups through alabaster straws. Everything stopped spinning and sunk into a calming two dimensional image. Untouchable and untouched. My destiny, my evil destiny lay in wait for me at last. When the surface is more or less blackened, wipe the foil with a dry clean cloth. And so we entered the realms of emptiness, no dreams, no thoughts, no love, no pain, no dreams, just as Frankie had prophesied, strung out on the single moment when pleasure and pain hang in perfect balance.
The perfect sunny Saturday when spring lifted it’s first stupefied head, a cup of milky coffee, a cigarette and plenty of dragon to chase away the day. Place the desired amount on the matte side of the foil, switch the lighter flame to medium, and forget you were ever bored. Let’s eat cake, dissolving liver into a swamp of sugar fluid, psychobiological reaction sears through my language and razes it to the ground. A junkie – a person who takes heroin – is immune to boredom. Hold the cardboard tube about one centimeter from the scoop, gently burn the powder into a droplet, sucking hard on the tube. Follow pursue the theory of the derive and inhale the plume of smoke rising from the droplet. Suck hard inhale hold repeat, as necessary. Shivering stillness calm repeat, as necessary, repeat. No hunger, no piss, no shit. Then it hit me predictably in the stomach, and behind the eyes. I sweated momentarily, then threw my guts up in the road “Oh look I’m vomiting gloriously”. How much the image of love elaborated and propagated by this society has in common with drugs.
Passing through the portals of hell in a slow breeze driven barge gazing out through pinprick pupils on a world blanked out. I am immortal and cannot be harmed. Days that pass in the smoothness of contemplating the next fix. Soothing into flat surfaces, the blood-coloured droplet liquid, then walk a little, sucking up the medical plume, score a ten bag bolita, some pills and some powders, crackling foil smooth shine brightening my eyes into the familiar cold-blooded reptile stare, get me home to drop or smoke the whole fucking lot, admiring my twisted eyes in the mirror, passing the gates of another death evaded. Live to die for nothing another day, hung on the string of spit that links our barely touching lips, envying your easy needle manner, yearning in my veins. Paused unable to consummate the initiation into nothingness. Until spring raised prematurely it’s numbed out heads. Then I took the intravenous challenge, with a celebratory gram and a set of shiney new works.
No, I’ll never smoke heroin again.
She stared at the chain of bruises following the line of a vein, time to take a walk.
This is the drunkenness of sense, swarming out of the Bordello and through narrow Cobbler’s Street, howling off into the night. Veering and trotting towards, St. Mary’s encrusted archway, her spire squat and scheming, stained the horizon. We were the Mad Medieval gentlemen “preparame caballo, caballero” “Prepare my horse, my man” echoing through the mid-week peace, bouncing off the darkened sky.
She read the marks over the vein, like a map or oracle, time to take a walk.
Scuttling, pockets loaded with successful shoplift mission, past the plate glass pedestrianised shopping mall paranoia and here slip right through into the old town narrow cobbled streets to hide in. Steering by the spire of St. Peter’s, we turn confusing circles and spirals, double backs and alleys and concealed back entrances, an inscribed spinning mandala of deceit and escape.
At the top of the spiralling path, almost on the summit of the sun-dried mountain, squatted Dog-Shit Ranch in all its foul aspect. The wind howled around the excrement paved patio and deathwatch beetles clicked their way through hopefully varnished exposed beams in the roof. This is the dreadful madness of pernicious drugs, after the mind has been abolished by the venom of the moon. Sometimes the fixes wore off before we’d made the journey from the dealer to the town to the bus to the village and climbed to the summit of the mountain to Dog-Shit Ranch and we’d have to turn around to go back to town to score twice the amount and then go back to the ranch. Usually by taxi by this time.
The good-looking widow at the base of the mountain stood guarding her homestead with a broom and bucket of disinfectant. “¡Escandalo!” she screamed at us every day, as we fought our way through the packs of half-starved dogs that roamed the foothills. Here is a weird deceptive life under the moon of witchcraft and abominable deeds of uncleanness and sorcery, junkies.
“¡Escandalo!” echoed up the path that spiralled its dozy way up the mountainside to that place known as Dog-Shit Ranch.
The fiery sense is balked, the moon has no air, a ladybird crawls the trail of a vein, time to take a walk.
Skirting the sunken pelote court and up the slippery hill where many had fallen, flailing in the sooty snow of the gutter. And wheeling left into the broad spread at the crest of the hill, crowned by St. Vincent’s spire in semi-profile, gleaming big clock face hovering the hour in the misty air, “Observe the time, my child, and flee from what is evil”
The Dreams Part Two
And so we literally drifted into those beautiful Madrid days, when the veins seemed to raise themselves up from the skin, taut and ready for the needle’s slicing tip to slip inside, too far, not far enough, now, slacken the belt and draw. Lo! The voice of the turtle is heard in our land. Floating comprehension in corrosive chemicals. Through the groggy panes of a jamboree bag of multi-colour sweetie-pills, we did nothing, the initiation image shifts sense under the knife. Wander in hot sunshine and score drugs and race home licking our lips and wounds.
Pain levels shifted, pleasure outweighed pain, unable to withdraw, and the needle won the days of wandering sunshine. For lo! Winter is past and the rain is over and gone. Spring lifts it’s drugged out head to watch with uncomprehending joy at the blood spilling into the syringe barrel. Vomiting with the chemical dignity of a street junkie, the Princessa waited in the parlour eating bread and syrup and cherry flavoured laxatives. Days wandering in sunshine meeting and waiting, drifting and aching and race home to drop drugs into open mouths, or smooth them through canuto tubes or shoot them into aching veins, revealing the company of heaven, it’s winged secret flame uncoiling the splendour within me.
And I drifted, literally, from bushy tailed eager English teacher into superstitious unwashed smackhead, and Frankie…He closed his eyes in the peaceful sleep of the unborn, chanting the mantra of the sensible junkie – someone who injects less than three times a day – take regular tests, never share needles, always use condoms and take care of your teeth.
In our silences when the smack takes us dreaming drifting in damnable unnatural unreal fuck, uncomprehending spring sunshine pushing down on the plunger shooting into the brain, the thrusting of the plunger replaced the uncontrolled animal thrust of sex, the needle not the drug, the veins literally taut and ready, watching the syringe flush and fill again, one more time. The moment is gone, wished away by string spit thrust passion now and out again. I sold the typewriter for one and a half lousy fixes of Ajax and literally lifted myself down into unwashed suspicious junkie, and Frankie…well, he was out on the streets again slashing at the paper flesh of his unwashed arms. The veins seemed to offer themselves up to the needle, pushing down against the plunger blood filling the syringe, the smell of you, your taste in my mouth, swamping in and burning again, and shoot again, one more time then out again. Out on the street wandering, wondering, thinking up something new to score to prolong or enhance or change the shifting scenery. I became a jamboree bag of sweetie-coloured pills crushed and mixed with the blood in the syringe, and Frankie…well, overnight he became a slobbering seething smackhead, slashing at the unwashed flesh of his paper-thin arms, lifting the veins out on toothpicks, waving them for all the world to see. Gouging a hole in the usual vein with a bic biro, he sprinkled the powdered smack into the dry lake-bed of the gaping artery, where it mixed with the liquid sugar sludge that slid through his system. He closed his eyes in the peaceful sleep of the unborn. Hanging on a string of spit that stretches out from the mini-milli-centi-metres between our lips.
Then up and out, out on the streets where the needles call my name, wandering speechless in hot sunshine spring raising it’s dumdum head in profound contemplation of the blood filling the syringe and push down on the plunger, flush and fill, shooting with both guns thinking up something new to take the edge of the hot spring sunshine boredom. Only to find myself lucid, furiously scribbling reams of reasons in the dead of night in a hospital lavatory.
No! I’ll never smoke smack again.
Coagulant she said unaccountably. He looked at her, sucked at a weeping wound and spat the greenish pus over his shoulder, into the crackling coals of the open fire.
I was waiting again, at a train station, waiting alone, watching a bag-snatcher working the precincts. This was a weird deceptive life. Activity swirling around me, but I was unshakable, untouchable, I was in the waiting room of the dead. The sudden still centre in the vortex panic around me. I was neither alive nor dead, I was simply waiting, a warrior pacing for battle. This is the poisoned darkness which is the condition of the rebirth of light.
Her arm hung louchely limp across her lap, time to take a walk.
Alone in psychogeographical disorientation, scanning fearful the wide unfamiliar streets. Eyes searching for the guiding spire of St. Michael The Invisible that I never can find. I am exposed and vulnerable cut out from winding old town close walled safety. Manic buzzing mopeds and screeching police cars buffet and tear at my ripped raw nerve endings. A flicker of recognition and slip right here, shuffle unsurely out onto Sleeping Pill Square. Cut across the square boldly now knowing the streets around. A big ‘HI!’ to all the dealers skulking on the benches. Then uphill clattering steep stepped gap between the crumbling buildings, finally, caught up and concealed in St. Mary’s buttressed heavy brown skirts.
The Dreams Part three
In an unlit room hung with distinctly patterned tapestries, having lived through another spiked breakfast, a Gitano oracle woman runs her fingers across my naked back, reading the bones like arcane Braille. I am bourne aloft to nirvana on a pink blood stained cloud, the fluttering of angel wings shimmering over my body. Then the abrupt unexpected clarity of early evening drops over drab ugliness, sweeping away syntax. How many papers can I get for this? There is no use in this frantic pursuit of sanity. Get yourself fucked if you want to, take some drugs, vibrate the structure, pulsate with the rhythm. The elaboration of knowledge on the basis of a systematic experimentation of the bodily functions. Mum! They’re playing with their blood again!
Anticipating teatime to the siren call of a distant ice-cream van. Difficult to recall, the adventure tormenting my clouded memory blind image, struggling to elicit everything transforming itself into heroin currency, How many papers can I get for this? Mazipam robes chains midnight mass television Halloween. “What would you do all day if you didn’t have to look for a fix?” Frankie asked suddenly one day. Enter houses under going demolition, wander in catacombs forbidden to the public, hitch-hike endlessly without destination.
We fled Madrid in an unpaid flurry, suitcases, jars of chocolate spread and assorted dirty hypodermics, the vision of a Portuguese strawberry farm glowing promise beyond the visible horizon. Flat dun-coloured land, nothing but motorway for hours, jolting into hard white olive groves, the lunar landscape of the horror hills. We bled into the side of the road.
Until we were picked up by a refrigerated articulated peristalsis inhibited deactivated sex drive cold-turkey machine, a lorry to the terrible Costa Hell. Drive on, take me south.
I sat enthroned in the princessa passenger seat, filing my nails pupils paralysed behind heavy sun glasses and tight blue T-shirt. Frankie rolled back his sleeves and flexed his tattoos, how I envied him, sitting there burning up in my glorious hell of my own devising, I lie back, losing heat, repenting cold drop into cold water. A junkie is a person who jacks up more than three times a day, times when it all comes rushing back. Stomach cramped with opiate hardened stool, eyes like saucers, blood dripping from my rotting gums, can’t keep still for the stabbing pains in my legs and I have terrible visions that I am back in that web of hell THEY called London. Then I demanded another injection.
We walk down to our destiny, we jacked up on the bench, glow up and out and fuck fuck yes now slacken in out yes no forever. A derive pursued without noticeable interruption for almost a year, I thought I’d had a dream.
…Until Frankie got skanked scoring an afternoon fix, and we landed down in our destiny again, Methodona Valley hospital for the summer.
No! I’ll never smoke smack again.He cradled the vein in his arm, time to take a walk.
The solid block on Musketeer Lane, on the side of the hill, glaring down on urban Madrid’s southern dereliction, sprawling patterns of tower block estates and subsiding open ground of gating camp, writhing in the heat haze.
On Hardlands Highway I stand dumbfounded, as always, newspaper dirt rubbish gather around my feet, leaden heavy traffic storming around me and over my mind. This is the poisoned darkness.
I was crying, rattling, banging at the door, bursting open suddenly through into glaring white light, into what used to be Doc. Gordon’s place. But there was nothing there, a single bare light bulb left on in the middle of what was once a teeming jungle of psychedelic exploration now vacated, a psychic vacuum. The books, the bed, the desk, the medicine cabinet – all gone. I poked around in the dust for a while, but Doc must have left in a hurry, not leaving even a letter or forwarding address.
In a burst cardboard box in a corner I found the blue china cat, half-read paperback of somebody else’s novel and a Xerox of my own incomplete novel. I scanned the manuscript, looking for notes, clues, that Gordon may have left. But there was nothing. On the back of the eleventh page the Doc had scrawled in pencil just one word “Dysfunctional?” and a telephone number. My old telephone number. I perched myself on the dirty window ledge and did a whistle stop tour of my memories of the dear old Doc. In the Bordello, the birthday trip, the lecture tour, a supermarket in California, in the ether.
We were in a coach across the damp flat dullness of Belgium, coming in from a cheap citybreak in The Dam. As we were coming up a voice behind us whispered in a Dutch accent “Another of the beat poets is dead”.
We both involuntarily touched our empty pill-pockets, as people touch wood to ward off calamity.
But still Belgium fell away, swept away by a sudden psychic overload.
Everything buzzing with significance, burning and glowing with hitherto hidden meanings. I watched as the world turned strange.
Crashing in with fragment memories, reminders, forgettings. Times interleaved with other times, a series of transparent visions superimposing over each other.
Richer and richer image colour darkening blacking out.
Until all that remains is a whistling noise and the little white dot in the middle of the screen that people used to say they’d seen on the telly.
Dear uncle greybeard, I used to have the notion that I could swim the length of the ocean if I knew you were waiting there for me, lonely old courage teacher, who stood watching my boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe, the sacred river, carrying me to an oblivion of my own devising.
I realised suddenly that there was nothing here, the Doc had moved on, the room faded from my memory. In the poisoned darkness which is the condition of the rebirth of light, I realised there was nothing here to come back to after all.