03 August 2008

Surrendering To The Undertow extract


endless lull XIII: The Trough

Rick and I were on top of Townhill. It was a clear night and I could feel the chill of autumn slowly creeping up from behind. I was waiting, looking after Rick’s car, while he picked ‘a little something’ up from his mate’s house. I was leaning against his car, looking out over the city. The train station was down to my left. I could just make out the tracks, heading due east out of the ugly mess. It was also possible to see the docks. I thought how I’d never really seen the docks. I’d only seen them from above, the huge cranes and whatever else they used to repair battered sea-vessels. Twenty years before I was born, young boys still used to dream of running away to sea. That didn’t happen anymore. When I was an urchin, there were no playground discussions about stowing away on a ship or signing up with the navy as soon as we turned sixteen.

When I was ten years old I had a friend, who was obsessed by trains. He loved going on them, spotting them, studying them, dreaming about them. I liked having a friend obsessed with trains, until he was completely ostracized by all the other boys who were learning about how cool rugby and surfing were. From then on, all you were allowed to like was rugby or surfing or you were a bit of an oddball.

Anyway, even he didn’t get very far, two train stops away in fact, maybe three. He ended up at British Steel in Port Talbot, amongst a nightmare industrial landscape that inspired Ridley Scot to turn the book he was reading as he passed by, called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, into the film, Blade Runner. But at least my train spotting friend went somewhere, at least he went with the sucking feeling you get when you are in a trough. From the trough, up and into the peaking wave, you will be pitched into glory or misery. Or if it is a serious enough wave, a deep enough trough, into ecstasy or agony.

Rick came back after a long twenty minutes and I decided that it was as good of a time as any to tell him I wanted out. I no longer wanted to be a part of any of his capers, no matter how much money I was making. I had a bank account now, with a couple of thousand quid in it. Enough was enough.

Rick was high, very high. He was chewing gum, his eyes were bursting out of their sockets, his cheeks looked hollow, sweat dripped of his forehead and he couldn’t keep still.

“I’m fucking up there, I am Mun.” He announced as he stared at me with a crazed glare.

“Yeah, I can fucking see that.” I replied casually not very impressed but trying not to make my disapproval too obvious.

“Listen, boyo, do you know any students, like? You see I’ve got to unload some of these.” He opened up a sandwich bag full of about hundred or so red pills.

“I know a few from the pubs down in Mumbles yeah, but…”

“Right then, let’s fucking go. LEEETTSS MAKE SOME FUCKING MONEY BOYO!” Rick was about to burst with excitement.

“Rick, term hasn’t started yet. Most of the students aren’t in town yet and besides…”

He interrupted me again, “Yeah, but there are a few of the fuckers around, the ones that come back early, the ones that never leave, the ones that get sucked into the whole Swansea scene, those cunts are the ones that are game for these innit?” His eyes glared down into the bag of pills and back to me with raised eyebrows.

I finally raised my voice. “Rick, what I’m trying to say is, I don’t give a fuck because I’m not pushing drugs onto anyone. Fuck it. I’m done with the whole thing, sorry mate but that’s that.”

I could see that Rick was about to boil over, “Mate? Mate?…” He shouted repeatedly as his eyes darted around as if trying to find the words he needed to get me to see his point of view.

I knew he was about to give me an earful but he was soon interrupted by a tall and bulky skin head, dressed in a track-suit and slippers who was walking our way. As he got closer, I could see the faded tattoo on his forehead, that said Joshua, surrounded by a couple of old and not so old scars.

“Now then boys, what the fuck is going on here, then?” He said without humour.

I said nothing, this was Rick’s territory not mine. “Nothing. Just sorting out some business.” Rick said trying to calm himself down.

“Well, keep it the fuck down! You twats don’t want too draw to much attention to yourselves ‘round ‘ere like.” He snarled, “Do you?”

“No you are right.” Rick looked down at the ground, as if he was subservient to Joshua.

“Course I’m fuckin’ right mun. Now listen, I’m sick of middle class twats like you coming up y‘ere and gettin’ into shit you ‘ave no business with.” Joshua continued to escalate his confrontational tone.

Rick could remain cordial no longer, “Now listen y‘ere. I’m no middle class twat, you cunt! This twat ‘ere might be,” He indicated in my direction, “but I’m not!”

Joshua began to laugh at Rick’s pending rage. “Rick, mun, I’m just kiddin’. Just playin’ around like.”

Rick shuffled his feet, “Aye, I knew that, Joshua you fuckin’ idiot!” and spat out a mound of chewing gum, as Joshua chuckled.

Rick took a deep breath and continued, “Joshua, you arrived just in time. I was trying to tell boyo ‘ere, that there is some good money to be made at the moment but he won’t listen.”

“Orite there mate? ‘ees right you know, there is some bloody good money to be made, if you know what I mean.” Joshua spoke to me, now in a friendly tone.”

“Yeah, I can see that but I’m not into it.” I tried my damnedest not to sound hostile, even though I knew Joshua was trouble.

“Listen. I hear Rick y‘ere has done a lot for you and now you are backing out?” Joshua asked.

“Backing out, or whatever you want to call it. I’m not into selling drugs, all right?” It was time to make my position clear.

“You fucking twat, you absolute fucking twat.” Rick was shouting at me.

“Fuck off, Rick, you’re fucking high as a kite. I don’t want to get involved in that shit.” I was also beginning to loose my temper.

“Too good to sell drugs are you?” Joshua walked towards me. By then, I could see that he was also very high. His pupils were dilated and darting around in all directions.

“No, I just have no interest in doing them and definitely no interest in selling them.” I lowered my tone. “It is just not my thing.”

“Well then boyo, if that’s how you feel then I suppose all that is left is to give you a parting gift. A ‘thanks for everything’ type thingy.”

I said nothing, what could I have done?

Rick came for me first, as I anticipated but I was able to duck his punch. I should have gone in for a counter attack but I was too busy trying to plan how I was going to get out of the situation safely. He slapped me in the face on my way up after the duck. I remember the drool leaking out of his mouth. It disgusted me and so I punched him in the mouth and I felt one of his teeth go into the knuckle of my middle finger. His mouth was bleeding. Then Joshua hit me square in the jaw and I don’t really remember much after that.

I think Joshua held me down, while Rick cracked a few of my ribs and battered my face a few times. It didn’t last long and didn’t really hurt. I decided not to struggle, just to wait until it was over to deal with it. Rick was screaming about me being a cunt and something about me probably being a pig and how he never wanted to see me around his mother’s house again, after all she’d done for me, this is how I treat her. It was nonsense. He was high and now with this stream of emotion he was choosing to deal with Jackie’s death. I was just the punch bag. The ‘parting gift’ or gifts (aside from the beating) were four of those red pills rammed down my throat. Joshua pinched my nose, while Rick crammed them in and forced me to swallow.

By the time, I picked myself up of the roadside, Joshua and Rick were long gone and I was starting to feel the effects of the pills. Maybe, I should thank them because they probably helped hold off the inevitable oncoming of pain. However, it didn’t help me make any sense of what had just happened to me and how the hell I was going to get home. I walked over the top of Townhill and into the city center towards the bus station. As I made my way through the city center, I was more than aware of all the faces staring at me. Was it obvious I was on some sinister uppers or did I really look that bad? I stared into the window of a closed men’s clothing shop. Reflected through the immaculate images of bronzed and chiselled models on the posters advertising the end of summer swim-wear sale, I saw my mangled face and blood encrusted hair. It made me laugh. What a mess, I was. There was a poster of some idiot holding a surfboard, in a way in which you knew he had never surfed in his life, towering over me, eyes squinting, mouth pouting. The board was plastic and he was wearing some ridiculous shorts while crappy waves broke on some tropical beach somewhere. Not a blonde hair out of place, chest, bronzed and smooth as a baby’s arse, perfectly sculpted pectorals and abdominals- this was the consumer society’s quintessential ‘Surfer’. If I was unsure of who I was a few months ago, I now had no clue what so ever.

There was a bus to Mumbles due in ten minutes, the last one for an hour. I went into the toilets and washed my face as best I could, then paced around waiting for the bus. I didn’t have enough change for the fare so I asked the bus driver if he went past the hospital, which I knew he did, and he let me get on for free, assuming I was going to the Emergency Room. When we passed the hospital and I didn’t get off, he didn’t say anything. When the bus stopped in Mumbles and I finally disembarked he simply shook his head at me.

“Young people, humph.”

I raised my arms, I didn’t have an excuse and even so, I did not feel like I owed the driver any explanation.

I walked to the sea front and along then along the promenade towards the pub. It was an exceptionally high-tide. The sea was gently lapping over the wall and onto the path. This was the most sheltered part of Swansea Bay as it faced the opposite direction of the open sea. I had no clue as to what the sea was behaving like around Mumbles Head, towards Bracelet and Limeslade Bays. I was completely out of touch. What a disappointing summer. A shit summer. I was glad it was over. My heart was starting to race but it felt pretty good. I felt energized and ready to move forwards and onwards. It didn’t matter where, as long as it was away from the here and now. I walked on, picking up my pace. I thought I would just keep on going and going, get some air in my lungs, work things out. I though, maybe I would walk around the cliffs to see if there was any swell.

Until, Gareth approached me from the opposite direction, walking slowly with his head help high.

“Gareth! O Gareth!” I shouted towards him.

“Hiya, all right… Fuck man, what happened to you? You looked fucked. Somebody give you a kickin’?”

“They did indeed but that’s OK. I’m feelin’ pretty fucking good right now. Clear and able, able to move on, you know?”

“What the fuck are you on about? Are you speedin’?”

“I think I am yep, I believe I fuckin’ am on some form of amphetamine at present, yes.”

“But you’ve never done that shit in your life, what the fucks going on with you, who kicked the shit into you?”

“It doesn’t matter now Gareth my son, doesn’t fucking matter at all. What matters is, me making some changes, seizing the day and all that shit, getting the fuck out of here, regaining some perspective on things.”

“Things didn’t work out with the twat Rick?”

“No and thank fuck that is now all over and done with, hey how’s the surf? Have you been surfin’ recently? What was it like? Did you get down to the reefs at all?” I motored on.

“Fuck. You need to chill out a bit. What the hell did you take?”

Suddenly, Gareth’s tone made me feel like shit. Like, I had lowered myself somehow, into the dirt, the muck.

“Listen to me!” I shouted at him. “I didn’t willingly TAKE anything. It was FORCED into my fucking mouth after they finished kicking shit into me.” I lost my patience but I was fully aware of fragile emotional state that was changing by the minute, by the second even.

“You know this has got to be the bottom of the pit for you. I really hope you don’t sink any further.”

“Fuck off!” I spat out.

“OK OK, Mate" I’m sorry... Let’s go and get you cleaned up.”

Gareth had been staying with Stu and Michelle of recent, so we went back to their place and I cleaned my wounds. Most of my injuries were on my face but my ribs hurt as well. Either Rick or Joshua must have continued to kick me after they knocked me out. My face did not look as bad as I thought it did, after I washed away the blood. It looked a bit bruised and puffy in places but there were no serious injuries apart from a swollen lip and the gash in my knuckle from Rick’s teeth.

“C’mon” Gareth said. “We’ve got to meet the others down the pub.”

I wasn’t really looking forward to it but neither did I want to ride out the pills alone in a house. It was far from pleasant but Stu and Michelle were sympathetic. Although, I could not help but think that they were getting some enjoyment from my pitiful condition. I had just returned from the toilet, where I had puked up my empty stomach and saw that my cock had shrivelled to the size of an acorn. I slumped in a chair trying to deal with the horrible effects of the come down, staring at Michelle. I could just imagine her saying,

"See I told you. I told you all that loafing about would eventually end up with you in the gutter. I told you that you didn’t have everything figured out. Sometimes you just have to knuckle down and get on with life. You live in a dream world and look where it has gotten you! Eventually, you have to get a job, join the rat race get on with things. Get on with life."

She did not say anything of the sort but if she had, she would have been at least half right. It was time to get on with life and the first step to doing that was getting the hell out of Swansea. Michelle smiled at me, with what I took for a forced look of concern. I bolted for the toilet one last time.