i wake up smashed in the chair and an empty bottle of bombay sapphire rolls off my lap onto the brown carpet. i’m in the midst of an amphetamine psychosis, my body has simply given out but i still don’t feel tired. the cd player in the corner is blasting primal scream and i’ve completely lost my bearings, there’s a loud buzzing in my head and gretchen is riding martin on the sofa. gretchen is my girlfriend. they are fully clothed but her denim skirt is pulled up around her waist and she’s arching her back, eyes closed, riding him goodstyle like a whore and i don’t even think martin is fully conscious actually, lying on his back silently making these feeble attempts to thrust into her. i sit and watch for a while, not because i am into that kind of thing but because i just want to see how it makes me feel. i watch for a few minutes but i don’t feel anything and i realise there’s nothing in this for any of us so i get up and walk past them into the kitchen and klak is in there. klak has taken some acid and he’s got a saucepan full of something lumpy and yellow on the kitchen worktop, trying to get the gas ring lit and he’s twisting at the dials on the cooker and banging it with his fist. “the cooker’s busted,” he says.
“yeah,” I say. “know if there’s any more drink anywhere?”
klak doesn’t reply he just stares at the cooker and says, “chicken curry.”
“know if there’s any more drink knocking about anywhere?” i say again.
he stabs repeatedly at one of the buttons on the cooker. “the cooker’s busted.” he says.
“yeah, i think they cut off martin’s gas supply ages ago, he never pays his bills. hey, you know if there’s any more drink knocking about anywhere?”
“the cooker’s busted,” klak says again like a tape on a loop.
i come out of the kitchen and go into the spare bedroom and get my bag of belongings, check my passport is in side pocket and come back out. in the entrance hall i find a bottle of whisky that’s lying on its side on the floor, unscrew the cap and swill down another librium capsule with it as i head out of martin’s 10th floor apartment into the dim hallway.
the elevator arrives with a high-pitched chime and i get in and put my sunglasses on as i ride it down to the street. i walk along the street drinking the whisky. i wander past the shuttered hifi shop and the florist and some dirty kebab joint and past the designer shoe shop. it’s 5am, still dark and the streets are shimmering in the discharge of orange street light.
i flag down a taxi and i get in and tell the driver, who says his name is omar and looks to be middle-eastern of some description, to take me to o’hare airport. omar’s hands drop from the steering wheel and he turns and says incredulously, “you want me to take you to o’hare?”
i say, “yeah, o’hare airport.”
“o’hare airport… chicago?”
“yeah, am i not speaking clearly or something?”
“o’hare is like over a 1000 miles away or something, dude.”
i take another swallow out the bottle of whisky and gaze about looking for some point of reference and ask dreamily, “what city am i in?”
“dude, where did you come from anyhow? you’re in las vegas, man.”
i adjust my wayfarers and smile and stare out the window nonchalantly and with a blasé wave of my hand tell him, “okay, take me to… the… airport.”
omar nods and shoves the box into D and we glide away. his eyes look at me in the rear view mirror and he says, “so, you fall out of love, yeah?”
i go, “eh, what?”
and he says, “you. you fall outta love? see, i get a lotta men in this town in my cab who… with a woman, you know, they fall outta love and they’re all a bit like you, they’re looking for answers in the drink.”
“no, omar,” i sigh. “not this time. don’t be giving me any shit, okay?”
omar laughs and shakes his head, his dark persian eyes flash at me in the mirror and he goes, “okay, man. i’m sorry.”
on the flight home i’m stuck rammed against the window by a huge, fat snoring american
black man who takes up both the middle and outside seat and when he wakes up he starts rolling around gasping and snorting for air and flailing his big sweating flabby arms about and i’ve no idea what the fuck’s up with him but they have to wheel out an oxygen tank on wheels from the back of the plane and give him oxygen. the plane lands and the little drama is over and i have no idea what ruse he was pulling but he walks off the plane and into manchester airport sweet as a nut and there doesn’t look much wrong with him at all to me.
i park the bmw in the street and go up to spyder’s flat, bang on the door. his redheaded girlfriend tammy is bunched up on the sofa wrapped in a dressing gown and apart from raising her head and giving me a weak nod when i first walk in she doesn’t speak to me at all she just sits there zonked out, staring intently at a film on tv. “listen, skin, don’t take any notice of her,” spyder tells me. “she’s taken a shit-load of ketamine. stupid bitch barely knows where she is.” i don’t know what film she’s watching but it can’t be much good whatever it is because hugh grant is in it, wearing a tuxedo, and a whole swathe of other dickheads along with him. “long time no see,” spyder says, slapping me on the arm. “so how did life go in vegas, bro?”
“i fucked it up big time,” i shrug. “didn’t work out so i’m back here for good.”
“yeah, you always fuck everything up,” spyder laughs. “so what can i do for you, skin?”
“how about you give us an eight ball of blow,” i chirp, clapping my hands and rubbing them together readily.
“sure thing. and this stuff’s the bomb.” spyder smiles as he disappears into his bedroom to sort the gear. he reappears a minute later with the crank still smiling and says handing it to me, “i’m telling you this stuff will blow your knickers clean off.” i smile and hand him the dosh and he stuffs it in his jeans pocket and then for no apparent reason whatsoever spyder picks up his guitar and starts singing a neil diamond song, solitary man, and i tell him it’s a great rendition, man, but i’ve got to scoot.
i don’t open my curtains. i am slumped in the armchair alone in my dark room drinking whisky and watching a fistful of dollars on video. i snort a line of spyder’s shit-hot crank off the glass coffee table in front of me. i turn down the tv and pick up the phone and i call
trixie and when she hears that it’s me she sounds startled and she says, “skin? so what’s new with you?”
“well, i’m back,” i tell her. “back here. back home. i’m right here at home now.” i find myself fumbling over my words. i didn’t think hearing trixie’s voice would have the destabilising effect on me that it does.
“you should never have just taken off like that in the first place.” trixie says coldly. a long excruciating pause hangs in the air between us and i stutter and i stutter then i ask her if she wants to come over and watch some tv and do some blow and i fumble on, going blah blah blah and telling her if she doesn’t want any blow i’ve got plenty of drink in, she can just have some wine with me if she wants. she cuts me off gently, saying that i am clearly out of my face again and she doesn’t think so. “not this time, skin” she says plaintively. “i don’t think so. to tell you the truth, i don’t think so at all anymore.” and then trixie puts the phone down slowly and calmly and she is gone just like that and the suddenness of it cuts through the room like a scythe.
i tap out another line on the table and refill my whisky glass. and i turn the volume up on the tv. i turn it up and i turn it up and i turn it up, i keep pressing the button on the remote until it’s as loud as it will go. until it’s so loud it’s impossible to hear anything else in the world.