This lockdown reminds me of a time in my life I don’t talk about much, and it feels like many lifetimes ago. Now I am a responsible mother of two with a whole new life, it’s an entire world away. At the moment a lot of people are out of what they would consider their ‘normal’ routine. The events throughout the day that gives us stability and said routine is gone. I feel like I’ve had an experience of similar before and I will explain.
Imagine this place, there is no concept of time, no clocks, no phones, no tv, there are no days of the week, newspapers and calendars are also absent. What wakes me is bright sunlight streaming in through the undressed window. And maybe the sudden awareness that the usual heavy volume of traffic is increasing contributes too. But mainly the insidious heroin withdrawal is my alarm clock. What felt like warm sunbeams on my face has turned to sweaty, prickly unbearable flush through my body, the early warning sign. Up until the small hours on a crack bender, (the word sesh hadn’t been invented at this point) this early morning (or perhaps mid-afternoon, who knows) luminosity feels like a personal attack.
Night Time nor darkness are my parent and neither can tell me it is time to sleep. Only the conversion of all the powder and rocks that my paper will buy, into shit that I can put into my bloodstream, or physical exhaustion, or running out of money-making options for a few hours. Only they dictate the end of my day. It’s never the blissful relaxing sleep I crave, it’s anxious, in and out, restless opiate-induced darkness. I always wake up just as tired as when I dropped off.
I am always hungry, no one decides when I eat. Not even me. The gods of fate are the only ones that can provide. Is there room in the bag for a sandwich when I am shoplifting? Will I bump into someone I know who will share food with me? Will the McDonald’s scam work today or have I used it too often at this one? “We will see what they say today” I tell my empty, noisy stomach. Even if I raise £2 more than what I need for this score it cannot be for food, I would only be £8 away from more drugs, £6 if I go to ones that I know well and buy from the most. I’m so hungry that I daydream about food but it will never be a priority. On payday (or pay night as 12.30 am to 1.30 am it goes in) if I’m lucky a late-night chicken shop will still be open and I can fulfill that particular fantasy.
But I’m on the way to a dealer's house to score white and brown so whatever I can’t eat on the way there will be discarded and cold as instead, I choose numbing crack smoke and an injected heroin chaser. So goodbye burger, goodbye chips, goodbye sandwich, goodbye crisps.
I don’t see friends and family much anymore but I do get to sit in rooms where I regularly see unwashed penises and vaginas, while people scramble to insert their loaded hit into their groins. I get to sit in cold rooms, broken people exchanging war stories as we weld our crackling rocks to metal fibers that have seen better days. Seemingly destined to fulfill its upstanding dishwashing role, this little scourer has ended up in the wrong part of town. Just like the foil that never got to begin its culinary ambitions, instead it is the silver canvas for the dark lines painted with the most expensive paint ever known, costing much more than mere money. It can be the most exciting room you’ve ever been in, buzzing and heaving with a throng of like-minded people. But pretty soon it starts to feel like the loneliest place in the world.
When your money is finished and your wraps are empty it’s an exclusive club you no longer belong to. You’ve overstayed your welcome and it’s obvious as the other members begin to exclude you before the eventual decline into begging for just a bit more begins. Little do they know they will soon be in the same boat, shortsighted and living in the moment, king for half an hour is all that their ill-gotten gains have bought them for now, but they like all will be back for another round of this game. Play well or you will be at risk. Dangerous people, substances, environments, intentions, and thinking means that anything can happen within these four walls. A lawless society with many rules and if you don’t play by them (or know them) you will feel the harsh consequences.
I can go where want, no restrictions. Well not strictly true, I can go as far as my doctored ticket (a flasher), my ability to climb over or under shit and my legs can take me. The irony of being invisible out in public, whether being screamed at, in tears or passed cleanout in the street it’s like donning an invisibility cloak. But sticking out like a sore thumb when in a shop, near your handbag or trying to find an open tower block to smoke the crack that is burning a hole in my pocket, is not lost on me. I wonder what makes it so obvious as my skinny frame battles through the city crowd. My hands and arms covered in track marks, little bruises, and smears of earlier blood. My clothes, ill-fitted, unmatched, and unclean. My eyes are heavy with the weight of my situation. Under barriers and over train station walls, walking for miles, perfecting smiling at bus drivers, and giving enough eye contact that they don’t look at my flasher. Some days I travel far and wide, other days there are inspectors, closed barriers, fines, and feeling too fucking ill to walk very far at all. It feels like I’m always on the move but I’m getting nowhere. Like a proverbial hamster wheel, I have never put in so much work to achieve what felt like so little.
I have lost the ability to regulate my own life before, last time imposed, and driven by the petrifying fear of going into withdrawal. This time by the government to prevent the spread of this virus. I have felt locked down and restricted before, but this time around despite really being so, I feel like I am truly free.