I introduce this blog with a fictional post, to send a message of hope, and to suggest that miracles do happen.
The monster is talking again. Deep inside the lower part of your brain he lurks, a black, imaginary figure from whom there is no escape.
“I have brought you a cup of grey dust and a plateful of ashes, but I promise you better things when I take you back to the carnival. I will make you safe and well, as long as you have the £30 downpayment. Don’t bother about the smallprint where it says you have to make up the rest with your soul. Who needs a soul anyway?
Every morning, as soon as wakefulness pushes it’s unwelcome way into your life, your limbs ache and and something wriggle beneath your skin. You suffer nausea and cold sweats. Often your head aches. You feel that you cannot move, but you know you must. Somehow you unravel yourself from your dirty sleeping bag, which barely keeps you warm anyway. You have to make it to the seller of lies, who is also just a victim, taking your money to fund his own habit.
So you give him the money for the drug that makes you die yet another death, because each smalll death takes away a few moments of suffering.
And as you go alone through the curtain, into that dark carnival; where there are no family, no friends, in a bedsit half a mile away your dealer is also pulling a blood-smeared needle from his vein.
As the drug wears off you reflect, as so many times before, that winter arrived too quickly, and has stayed for too long, the rain making the bright colours of the cheap carnival fabric fade and run.
The magic was lost long ago, and although you knew it; have known it for years, still you hoped, and still you had no willpower to resist another visit, because you think it is better than the agonising alternative.
Now, as you walk towards your daytime pitch in the centre of town, you remember your mother’s laughter, as she stood in the kitchen watching, while, at twelve years old, you mimed crawling through an imaginary narrow, black tunnel which curved downward. You couldn’t manage the downward slide in a convincing way, and your efforts drew your mother into tears of mirth.
She laughed so often; at your antics, and at every mildly humorous thing.
Her laughter turned to racking sobs as the tunnel became real, and your descent was no longer mimed. When you had finally stolen all she possessed to fund your addiction, she made the decision to take a one-way ticket out of the county.
The only things she gave you before whe left were a piece of paper with her email address and the name of the town she was moving to, scribbled across it. That and a promise that she would always love you unconditionally.
Your last meeting with her was a week before she got onto the coach. You told yourself that you didn’t say goodbye at the station because you felt so resentful. You told yourself that unconditional love was a strange way to describe the act of deserting you.
But the real reason you didn’t show was that you had to meet your dealer.
As you approach your pitch in an unused doorway beside the chemist shop, you see someone who looks familiar, bending down to put something in the place where you normally huddle. Omwo? It looks like him. Tall, with Omwo’s distinctive, wide-boy walk, but this guy is dressed more smartly, and isn’t Omwo dead? Or had he moved away and got clean? Everyone, including Omwo himself, thought that he would wind up dead before the rest of you. He used to say “I’m on my way out.” On My Way Out. OMWO.
You look to see what he left behind. Just a folded sheet of paper, probably a religious tract. You’ve seen it all before. You leave the leaflet where it landed, but you’d really like to catch up with Omwo, if it is him. So you look in the direction he went. He was there only a moment ago, walking along by the wall of the multi-storey car park, but he’s disappeared, although there is nowhere he could have gone.
So you sit on your sleeping bag, place your empty bowl in front of you, and concentrate on looking hungry.
Pickings are poor, because most people can see what you are. They evade your searching eye, cross the road. They don’t want to fund your drug habit. Still, it’s a place to rest.
Was that Omwo? Is he dead? So many have died. If you die, how long will it take for your wasted body to be identified? For your mother to be informed? How long before she will learn to laugh again?
Black ink has splilt over your brain, and is spreading into the hidden cavities. Confused, you mouth an unhelpful incantation, “this is a bad day, this is a bad day.”
It is not the hope of a miracle that causes you to pick up the leaflet that lies beside you. You just want to mop up the ink blot by surrounding it with innocuous narrative.
The words “Narcotics Anonymous”, written boldly on the front don’t impress you. On the back, the place and date of the next meeting is handwritten. Vaguely you realise that it is this evening, and you think “Big deal”. They have nothing to offer you. It’s all very well for them; they weren’t so ill so deeply intrenched they were stronger they had people who loved them they had more reason they had……
There is a sheet of paper inside with something that looks like a poem printed on it. It is headed “With love from your Angel”.
It’s not a poem, but a page of quotes, or slogans or something. They look a bit soppy, but you read them anyway:
“Guilt is the gift that just keeps on giving.” Cynically, you raise your eyes to heaven.
“To thine own self be true.” What does that mean anyway?
“You are not alone.” Now there are tears in your eyes as you realise that it was you who left your mother, not she who left you. She just couldn’t live in such close proximity to your absence.
“Let go of old ideas.” Your head drops, and your hands cover it as you weep shamelessly, while passers-by evert their eyes and choose not not get involved with the troubles of another half-dead junkie.
Gradually the racking sobs subside, leaving you physically weak, but with the miracle of determination, and alongside that determination, one truth piles on top of another.
There is space and light where only a while ago there was nothing but ink blobs.
You make yourself a promise to get clean from drugs.It is a promise you have hearf-heartedly made before. It has been said that a promise, once broken, cannot be mended. But it occurs to you now, as you glance upwards at the optimistically blue evening sky, that although a broken promise cannot be mended, a new one can be made.
You know it won’t be easy, and you know there will be pain, but pain is as familiar to you as breathing, whereas fellowship has been missing for years.
You wonder whether you will see Omwo this evening.
You stand up and retrieve your bowl, pocketing the change. There is enough for you to have a shower at the leisure centre.
It would be disrespectful to go to Narcotics Anonymous without making the effort to clean yourself up first.
You incant “I will recover, I will recover.” You feel as if you’re halfway there.
You don’t know it yet, but before the year is out you will revel in your mother’s laughter again.
©Jane Paterson Basil