Heroin(e) by Vincent Wood

It was beautifully sweet, painful, fucked-up love. I knew it was love because I hadn’t fucked her yet, which is what I did to everyone I didn’t fucking like. If I hated you, I fucked you, because I hated myself. I tried to fuck with her head to compensate for the lack of fucking fucking, but she turned that right round on me.

The only thing Daddy ever taught me was how to fuck with a woman’s head: “Fuck ‘em in the head before you fuck ‘em in the bed.” Ha-Ha. Sick old man.

But this was something else, something far more than a sweet and simple fuck.

Mummy always said I wouldn’t find love because I had no soul, but she was wrong because, Mummy dearest, this was love and this went far deeper than the soul; this transcended hearts and souls and gods and demons—this was beautifully sweet, painful, fucked-up love.

Not that I could have fucked her anyway; once you’ve crossed the line from user to addict you lose the desire to fuck and, most of the time, the ability as well. I think that’s because once you take up the needle it replaces everything else in your sick, sad little world. You don’t need anything, not substance, not sustenance, not sex. You just need to know where your next hit is coming from. It reminds me so much of sex—but on a whole different scale. There’s the preparation, or the foreplay if you like. Both need all of your attention, a lot of focus, because if you make a mistake you know you’ve ruined it. You kiss a neck or stroke a leg in the right place. I measure out a hit and warm up the hob to the perfect temperature. You say the right words, throw some meaningless compliments their way and watch them melt. I heat up the spoon and watch the golden brown powder melt. You gotta cook it for just the right amount of time; too little and you get lumps that you just can’t get into a syringe—too much and you might as well be injecting fucking tar into your veins. You’ll get no fucking hit whatsoever out of it. It’s this part of the preparation, the seduction, that I’m particularly good at. When it comes to cooking up I should be on fucking Masterchef.

“And on tonight’s show we have Nathan Clay preparing the perfect skag hit.” Ha-Ha.

After preparation comes protection. You scrabble around for a condom. I pluck the carefully placed needle next to me between my thumb and forefinger. You wrap up not knowing where they’ve been, not knowing who used them before you. I take the bleach and soak my works in them knowing damn well where this needle has been before and who has used it. You don’t want a disease passed through bodily fluids and neither do I. You get them to tantalise and titillate you one last time to make sure the blood is rushing to all the right places. I get a belt and wrap it round just above the elbow and then starting hitting the crook of my arm to make sure the blood is rushing to all the right places. You check one last time that everything is a snug fit because you don’t want any of your little swimmers getting through because you don’t want a baby. I fill the syringe and then squeeze the tiniest bit out just to make sure there’s no air bubbles in there because I don’t want to die. After protection comes the actual act. I locate my spot and, when I’m certain it’s the best one, I penetrate the vein. I draw back the plunger, taking in a little blood, and I watch it mix with the substance in the tube. Finally I push down, plunging in. And then comes the orgasm—except this is far better than any orgasm you’ve ever had because, truth is, you can have a bad shag but I cannot have a bad hit. Take the best fuck you’ve ever had, multiply that by a thousand and you’re still way, way off from what I’m feeling. I let the ooze seep through my veins, filling my whole body from head to toe with an indescribable feeling. It relaxes your whole body, letting any stress or anxiety or anger or any negativity at all evaporate out of you, and makes you feel…cosy. Not warm slippers and a biscuit with tea cosy, but almost… safe. Like when you were a child and something in the world just seemed so wrong that you had to scream and thrash at the perceived injustice of it all, then your mother comes over and holds you so tight that you can’t move any of your limbs and she doesn’t say a word but just holds you there until all the anger and all the fear is gone, because in your mother’s embrace you know that everything will be fine. So, in effect, heroin has replaced my mother. Ha-Ha.

I’d like to say it all changed when she came along, and it did, but not how it should have. I became more twisted, more deluded and was using more often. If skag could kill all other emotions surely it could kill this. I used to think that there was no such thing as love, just hormones and geographical convenience and so I thought if I could fuck up my body enough the feelings would stop. Simply change the chemicals rushing around your body and you change the emotions they produce. It was a science experiment I was only too happy to indulge in. Of course it didn’t work, and by the end of it, I was certifiably crazy. It’s hard to say which did more damage to my already fragile mental state; the copious amounts of shit surging through my body, or her. Most people would probably say it was the drugs, but I’d like to think it was definitely her fault. But then I don’t know what I think because I’m mental. Ha-Ha.

She was always there for me, as far as I can remember. Not that I can remember much. My head was as broken and as battered as the rest of my body, everything was just white noise now. I couldn’t sleep because of it, the noise constantly buzzing in my skull. I used to be able to form thoughts and ideas and they would just fly around my head like they would with any other person. I could create images and see things in my own mind, but now it was just noise; fucking white noise.

It would start off like an un-tuned television, just that fuzzy sound in the background lingering somewhere at the back of my head, never bothering me but always there. Then I stopped dreaming. The first sign that I was losing my mind. Once you start losing your dreams you know you’re losing your creativity, your ability to have subconscious thought. Then the white-noise started getting louder, no longer just a background noise but a piercing howl echoing through my brain, screaming, screaming, screaming. The only way to stop it was to shoot up, and then I’d be fine for a couple of hours but it would always come back. Louder than before, louder than ever. It must have been around then when she asked me to stay with her. She knew I couldn’t take care of myself. All she asked was that I didn’t bring my habit home with me, which I agreed to because we both knew that once I was out of that door all bets were off.

Her sister was not very happy with her bringing me back to their flat since she openly despised me. I didn’t hold this against her because that’s what everyone does. No one sees a human being, they just see a junkie. I was no longer the boy who smiled at dogs just because they always looked happy, no longer the boy who could recite all the lines to the Dirty Harry, no longer the boy who laughed at his own jokes before he had even told the punch line. I was now just an addict; this was how people saw me and they were right – Just an extension of my own addiction. This is how her sister saw me. She’d call me every name under the sun and tell me I was a liar and a waste of space. Sometimes I fought back, showing flashes of my old sense of humour, pointing out that she was a civil servant yet had the nerve to call me scum. Ha-Ha. But more often than not I’d lie there on the sofa and take the abuse because, for the most part, she was right. What really annoyed her, really riled her, was when I woke up in the middle of the night screaming, which I did habitually. Screaming at the screaming going on in my head and she would burst in also screaming, but she would be screaming at me. Screaming for me to leave and never come back, and on several occasions I came close to actually doing so.

On one night when I woke up screaming she stormed in with a kitchen knife and threatened to cut my useless junkie throat to which I replied I wish she would in order to put me out of my misery. She said she was serious but I didn’t believe her so, grabbing her wrist, I held the cold steel against my throat and, for a brief second, I imagined it. The blood gushing from my jugular, one giant surge of blood and adrenaline, a bit like one last hit to go out on and all it would take is one little flick from her. Of course though, my beautiful saviour calmed the whole situation down, telling her sister to go back to bed and she would sort everything out. When her sister had retreated from the room she took me by the shoulders and turned me towards her, training her eyes on me like dark gems boring into my soul and shrouding her in mystery, like a riddle that needed to be unravelled. She said nothing to me but wept silently, all the while touching the scars on my arms, letting her tears fall and run down the tracks forever burned into my skin.  There we lay on the bed together staring at each other. She was so fragile and dainty that I wanted to wrap her up in my damaged arms and never let her go. There I fell asleep wondering how someone so physically delicate could have a spirit so passionate. There I slept, and, for the first time in my life as an addict, I dreamed, and I dreamt of her.

After that night I knew what I had to do. I knew what she wanted me to do. She wanted me to give up, for good. She wanted a real human to love because it’s not easy to love a silhouette of humanity, it’s not easy to love an empty husk that walks and talks like a human but thinks of only one thing and acts only to obtain this one thing, and this person is just one thing. Just a junkie. I’d tried giving up before and knew I couldn’t suffer that again. The sickness, the shivers, the twitches, your skin itching, your bones grinding together, being too tired to sleep and too hungry to eat, just craving one thing and one thing only and you’re prepared to do anything to get it. I wasn’t going to go through that again. I would have tried, for her, but what was the point? I knew I would have failed. I just wasn’t a strong enough person and, sometimes, knowing your own weakness is what makes you strong. At least, that’s how I wanted to be seen. I wouldn’t have been able to cope with the disappointment in her eyes. I could cope with the scars I gave myself, but the hardest scar to bear is one that isn’t yours. I wasn’t ready for that burden. She would see my failure as her failure to save me. This was definitely the best way out. I was saving her from me.

So there I was, thinking that this wasn’t how things were supposed to happen. Thinking that the thought of dying at sea had always appealed to me. Being washed gently away, no fuss, no need for a burial, just drifting away being taken by the tide to my final destination. It wasn’t how I was going to die, but I’d be thinking about it while I was dying. I had managed to get my hands on enough heroin to kill a small rhino, so it should be enough to see off a dangerously underweight smack head. Ha-Ha. I wrote her a note—not to explain anything or to justify myself. Truth is I don’t need to justify myself to anyone. People always ask why would I do heroin, and they always seem to be surprised when you say, “because it’s fun,” but that’s the truth.

She’d be reading the note now, “I’m sorry I’m such a letdown.”  I melt the powder gently. She’d be reading, “I’m sorry I ruined your life,” now. I fill the syringe, no need to bleach this time. She’d be reading, “I’m sorry I could never say sorry,” now. I tighten the belt and tap the crook of my arm. She’d be reading, “I’m sorry I don’t make any sense but the drugs have gone to my head,” now. I take the needle and plunge gently into the raised vein.

I’m thinking of dying at sea. I’m drowning. The first wave crashes over me and I am pulled under, but the wave breaks and I force my head up for air. Another wave comes and pushes me down once more but again I struggle to the surface to breath. As I swallow in the air another wave comes and engulfs me but this time it doesn’t break and I don’t return. I drift off slowly, this is how I wanted it to be, drifting off slowly out to sea.

She’d be reading, “I’m sorry I never told you I loved you,” now.

Vincent Wood is a graduate in Creative Writing from the University of Greenwich, London. This is his first foray into short story writing outside of education.

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