Sitting with an old friend – a childhood friend I used to think was like an older brother, who’s now a recovering addict, recovering badly – in the May sunshine at a pub table next to an extractor fan dripping with grease. He’s happy because the beers are in, and the hot weather gives us both a legitimate excuse to suck up some alcohol.
I see his eyes dart towards the codeine packet as I pop one open, and his whole face becomes a yearning picture of need. He’s a flowerhead searching for the sun and something, anything, to pollinate the serotonin stamens of his fractured brain. Out of the empathy of one addict to another I popped another couple from the silver foil and offered them to him. He took them quickly and, as if to prove his familiarity with the vintage, stuck them on his tongue for a while, taking in the repulsive bitter taste full-flavour like a badge of honour: I’ve been there, my friend, I understand.
What slow rush there was, if any, wasn’t discernible over his manic chatter. He moved from subject to subject in a single sentence…to fill the air….to entertain. The hours pass like this, in sunburn and laughter.
In the end, when the jokes run dry and his heartache has left just a small residue of mirrored pain on both our faces, he lets me break in and speak. And, thoughtfully, he listens, even seeming to understand and accept my words. He’s the sinner to my jaded Priest. The sun starts to go down and we walk up the hill to my home. We drink more, smoke some Weed, then fall asleep in our respective rooms.
The next day I take him to the train station. He shakes my hand, sweating for another beer on the way back to Sheffield. The last view I have is of him rolling a smoke outside the glass doors of the ticket office, cutting it fine for the 11.08, calmer than before we had spoken both our words in the sunshine. He would relapse spectacularly a month later; was I and that one May day, and the sun, and the memories, and the tie we both have to getting high, responsible? Would we ever be ok?
He’s been clean for nearly two years. We don’t see each other any more.