Carla Dow | Chinedu Onochie
I sit on the prickly green carpet and try to force myself to focus. I am as detached from my decision now as I was from Steve’s rigid body yesterday. I am now as I was then, an impartial bystander waiting patiently to the side until the decision is made.
The thin carpet tiles scratch at the bare skin of my ankles poking out between jeans and pink socks decorated with tiny flowers. My eyes stare but do not see what is before me, only a murky pond of green haze. I think about yesterday. I think about tomorrow. I try to decide. It is not an easy choice.
The past is the only definite thing I have, as fixed as words chiselled into a headstone. It is the only thing I can be sure of. The future is everything the past is not, it is as hazy as a breath of smoke that will disappear to nothing if you wave your hand through its belly. We all have a past, but not everyone will have a future, Steve came so close to losing his. That is what the Brown will do to you. Heroin.
Even the sound of the word, the feel of the letters rolled softly around my mouth and through my dry cracked lips, causes my mind to fog over with simultaneous hatred and desire. I long to escape the mental image of Steve’s wide staring eyes, the gurgling choking at the back of his throat, the cold clammy feeling of his lips on mine. I lust for the cosy warm stupor that could soothe the sharp edges of the past and shade the uncertainties of the future. My eyes flicker over to the crumpled baggie, the bent spoon that lies innocuously beside it. Just waiting for me to make my choice.
My ass has numbed against the hard floor, my ankles ache where they protrude into the unforgiving surface. The tiles of carpet are green; dark green like a forest, like a fir tree, like a Christmas tree. Now I look closer I see tiny flecks of red and blue mixed into the fibres like colourful glass baubles that hang on a festive tree, jolly decorations for other people. My vision blurs again and I see nothing but the haze. The Big H.
I wait for the choice. I think backwards. I run my rough fingertips over the forest of green. The carpet tiles feel like the prickly soft side of a Velcro strip, the side that is hooked into by plastic spikes, grabbed hold of and held onto, whether willing or not.
Should I? Maybe just one more? A little softener to help me through, to cloud out the heavy burden of yesterday, to calm the hectic memories that charge across my mind like a stampede of bulls raging at a red cloak.
The Brown haze that I long for is the comfort that Steve was inviting, but did not reach. The safety net he was searching for, but fell through. Whether it was over-indulgence or a dirty hit, I do not know. All I know is the remnants of the rancid taste of his mouth from when I puffed my breath into his flattened lungs.
I’ve had a dirty hit before. It made me feel like my brain and skin was on fire and that my head was going to explode. But this was different. I thought Steve was going to die. I was glad then that I could remember the first aid course the hostel made us do and that bit where you roll the person on their side, tilt their head back. I was glad I had the courage to call for help. Now I am not glad. Now all I can see is the empty staring whites of his accusing eyes blaming me for the bad bundle that nearly wiped out his tomorrows.
But if I let myself sink into the haze, I could lose my hostel room. I would have to sleep in the underpass again. The narrow concrete tunnel is no barrier to the biting fingers of the wind, no protection from the teenagers who come to laugh at me when I am trying to fade into the Brown haze. It would mean a return to stealing from shops or from old folk’s houses. I am no good at all that, I always get caught. Besides, I do not like the feeling it brings.
I close my eyes, the weight of my shoulders suddenly too heavy to hold up. I lean against the cold uncaring metal frame of the bed and feel the posts dig into my spine. I wonder how long I would need to sit here before my whole body lost feeling.
I make my decision and another line is weaved into the fuzzy knit of my future. The memory of Steve’s hollow eyes blurs and I escape from beneath his unflinching stare.
Just one last time. Then I’ll stop.