Three days before he and I were meant to depart, Sean fell backwards from a twelve-foot wall and broke his ankle in four places in what the nurse described as ‘one of the worst fractures I have ever seen’. I may have been partly to blame for the severity of his injury, as I drunkenly insisted at the time that nothing was wrong with him and he merely needed to ‘stamp it off’. To both his credit and stupidity, Sean duly attempted this with agonizing consequences. I recall his leg, hanging, detached and dead, his drained pale face that of a hardened junkie caught fast and unrelenting within a torrid sub-reality of cold turkey despair.
The upshot was that he was going nowhere outside of the hospital for a couple of weeks, and a trip to the shores of Trabelsi was a sub-dream outside and within the nightmare. I was in limbo: I had booked the tickets, given up my flat and my job, withdrawn all my money and the bank’s money from the bank, yet Sean hadn’t made it over the last fence. The glossy travel brochure picture of summer abroad had dulled, changed colour, the thought of going alone, while still appealing, was now a different proposition entirely.
‘Well, I’ll tell yae what,’ G-Dust exhaled old-uncle-like, cloudy streams of thick grey smoke intermeshing from both the reefer and his lips. ‘If yae gee me till the end of the month, I might just come wae yae.’
‘You serious?’ I asked, not expecting him to be.
‘Fuck it. Why no? I just huv tae make sure that ma work are cool wae it.’
‘Your fuckin’ work arnae gonnae be cool with it, are they? What you gonnae say? Any chance of taking six months off so that I can go and get hammered in Trabelsi?’
‘Worth a try?’
‘Good luck, but I reckon you’ve got no chance. Why no just jack it in? It’s a wank job anyway – fuckin’ Librarian? You’ve no even read a book since Primary School. Goin’ nowhere mate.’
‘Na, I’m no losing ma job, and I’ll huv tae see what the old boy and old dear say aboot it in aw.’
‘Fuck, everybody’s gonnae tell you tae go and fuck yersel. If you want to do it, just fucking do it man. You’re twenty-two.’
‘Well, I’m no gonnae huv enough cash if I do, so you’re gonnae huv tae lend me some. But seriously Hill man, if they dinnae keep my job open, I’m no goin. Chances are that we’ll be back in three weeks, so I’ll just ask them to give me that for starters.’
‘Right, well get onto it tomorrow then yeah?’
‘Fuck na, no on a Monday, a dinnae speak tae anybody on Mondays.’
‘That’s cause yer never fucking at work on Mondays.’
‘I went last week.’
‘Well, anyway, I think it’s a fuckin’ great idea, and just think of the shit that we’d be getting up tae while everyone else is slaving away here. Oot every night, the beach, the sand, the birds, it’ll be fuckin’ sensational man. Yer no gonna get so many opportunities G. Soon enough you’ll be tied down tae a bird like everyone else, and then you’ll have nae chance of doin’ shit like this again.’
‘Well we’d probably need tae get a nine-bar an aw. Sell it oot there, make some cash.’
‘How much can you get a nine bar for like?’
‘Five hunner. Which means, if we sell a quarter at 30 quid, we’ll make a profit ae … … aboot a grand.’
‘No it doesnae.’
The combination of G-Dust and myself was marginally more auspicious than that of Sean and me. I remember thinking that the broken ankle was a twist of fate for Sean, for he was the kind who probably would have got knifed or something out there. All three of us were best of mates and had been for some time. We were all losers and wasters in the eyes of our peers. Amusing to be around, very social, and good guys to share a beer with, but just … too wired on drink and drugs for anyone to take us seriously. G had a developed a habit of starting sentences and just tailing off when he forgot what he was talking about. He was losing his adjectives and nouns at an alarming rate and his speech was often like that of an aging Joe Frazier. For my part, I was the prized waster, the boy out of the bunch that much was expected of, the one who ‘really could have done something with his life’. But everyone had only their own eyes, thoughts and feelings. They could only live, at best, for themselves and perhaps later for their offspring – when they created something worth dying for. They couldn’t know.
From the age of about twelve my staples were cigarettes, alcohol, cannabis, glue, lighter fluid, butane gas, correction fluid, petrol, amphetamines, ecstasy, acid, magic mushrooms, cocaine, paranoia, and deep depression brought on half from excess and half from an instinctive desire to leave. People talked in the past tense and I didn’t get it; people talking like our lives were over in our early 20s. Fuck, we were babies, and who was doing anything with their lives anyway? Nobody I knew. For all the drugs I was still sharp enough to pull it off and I knew how to get what I wanted. I guess I was the only person who thought we’d last more than three weeks.
I rescheduled the holiday at the cost of a couple of hundred quid, and waited for G to come to some kind of decision. His work had agreed to give him three weeks off but his folks were completely against the idea having spent the last ten years sifting through the debris of our terrorist youth. I tried to promote the holiday to G’s old man as ‘exploring cultural diversity’, which was met with disbelieving amusement and extreme paternal apprehension. All our parents wanted for us was to settle down, grow up, stop repeating the same mistakes over and over, and gain some kind of focus in order to achieve something in life. I had other plans though, and there was no way I was joining the humdrum tedium of the rat race before I’d experienced something else. Provided we didn’t get killed, I couldn’t see how anyone could question our motives for temporary escape. What could possibly be the worst case scenario? That G would no longer be a stoned Librarian and that he’d have to go and actually get a decent job. That was about it. For myself I didn’t care for the future at that point, I saw only handcuffs and narrow-mindedness in an insular society based on safe bets and predictable outcomes. I knew there was more than that and ultimately it would take two weeks of arguments, nightclubs, and me blowing half my ‘life savings’ before G’s folks finally backed down on the proviso that if we couldn’t sort everything out in three weeks, we’d be on the plane back home. The deal was sealed. Three weeks my arse.
The day before we left, G’s father had warned me that ‘It’ll all catch up with you’ as we sat in his plush upstairs living room looking out over the grand and imposing Forth Bridges. For G and myself the jadedness from an overindulgent two weeks of drinking and using drugs meant little, we were still too young to be drinking and using drugs just to counteract the effect of drinking and using drugs, way too young to give a fuck about petty consequence, too young to have ‘issues’. There was no desire to give up, we gushed liberty and adventurous spirit, and we were perfectly in control.
‘Well, when it all catches up, I’ll just have to learn how to run faster,’ I told him with a straight face, too stricken from the drugs to enunciate the usual immature sarcasm and petty belligerence.
I’m still not sure if his assertion was correct, for as I write this I’m alive, and nothing has been proven. What I do know is that I’ve been running ever since, at all times stunted against an approaching wind however howling or slight; at times falling from grace in the eyes of lovers and friends, yet always rising back through the screams of darkness, and pain, trying desperately to find the location of the long lost map of divinity and truth. Running, to elucidate some kind of function behind the overt madness of the things we are and the things we should be; running faster and faster towards the inevitable, always with one eye in the rear-view mirror, and one foot on the gas.