I folded three twenty-dollar notes and zipped them into my track pants; beginning the dress-down role I was planning to take on. Each of my silver rings I squeezed off my sweaty fingers and chucked them next to the sink.
Next I took out some black eye shadow and rubbed it carelessly over my lids and a little beneath, attempting to smear it as roughly as possible. I took all the cards and my ID from my purse, leaving only a few gold coins in there for good measure.
Earlier that night I had been drinking with my mum at a bar in Carlton, and whilst riding home on the dark humid bike path that swayed through Park Street, I had a sudden urge to see how hard it would be to score Heroin.
When I got home I watched a documentary on Vice about the use of Krokodill in Russia, which is a cheaper alternative to Heroin, or added to it to make the hit stronger, which had increased the wave of recent deaths due to the extreme toxicity of it.
Maybe I’m fucked up, just like them. Maybe they’re ‘my people’, I thought.
I’ve never tried or bought Heroin; all my ‘street’ knowledge came from books, movies and former mental health patients who I used to eavesdrop on.
Four drinks deep, I find myself on a train heading to North Richmond station, already in character. Head down. Shoulders hunched. I feel like an amateur actor in a non-existent one-woman show. Can other people sense my fraud?
When the train hits Clifton hill, it turns around and I allow myself to swear out loud. A few young girls also look confused and we all get off at Westgarth. I start wondering if it’s worth getting an Uber. It might look a bit suspicious. I’m supposed to be a poor Junkie, I thought.
The girls approach me asking if I’m going into the city and we share an Uber to Richmond. They had all finished work for the night at a food truck in Thornbury and were heading back to their hostel. Two were German, one American. It occurred to me that I was talking to them as me, not my fake junkie persona, and was surprised how friendly they were despite how gross I had attempted to make myself look. I may not have talked to me.
I walked through the gardens of the housing commission flats, intersected by Elizabeth Street in North Richmond. I was stupidly calm and fearless. The streetlights glowed unnaturally over the playground making it appear like a film set. It was quiet and the air was light and lukewarm. I scanned around for human life and spotted a women pacing while talking to herself through a cigarette in her mouth.
Then I saw him, rummaging around in hard rubbish. Lit by a spotlight of fluorescent security blaze hitched on the side of the flats. It was like he was sent to me by the council flat Gods. It was too easy. I sidled up to him with faux anxiety and asked him ‘do you know like, where I can.. score?’ stumbling the sentence out self-consciously.
He bounced up with a wobble from the bin and stared at me, focusing his opioid-tinged eyeballs on my face. They strained to make me out in the shadow of the outdoor fluorescent lighting, like fingers reaching out- two snail antennas trying to feel their way in the wet and the dark. “Yeah maybe. I’m Anthony”, he said reaching out his non-bin hand to me, “whadda ya doin here at this time? Ya don’t look like you use?” he said squinting.
“I’m just out of rehab. I can’t fuckin’ do it, I need something to tide me over” I said without hesitation, surprised at the ease at which the lie slid out.
The original title of this story was “The night I Donated Sixty Dollars to a Junkie”, but after scanning conversations i’ve had with friends that have are still fighting addiction, I was mortified at how how insensitive and lacking in compassion it sounds. Not to mention that I was completely blind to my own moral culpability in the scenario I forced my way into. My assumption was that since Anthony used, it meant he wanted to- which is not true as any addict, including myself, can attest to. I felt like smacking myself in the head like the emoji.
My intentions were at a surface level- to get a story, and perhaps at a deeper level- a pervasive death-drive; a sense of self-destructiveness that began in my teens. What I thought of previously as a ‘favour’ to this man– giving money to a homeless addict to buy us both drugs- now seemed to be so outlandishly privileged and fundamentally short-sighted that I can barely admit it to this page. My biggest fear was that I was putting myself in danger, something my mum would have thought, had she known what I was doing. But it goes deeper than that. Why did I feel that I could use Anthony as a way of amusing myself? Why did I not want to tell my own story? I didn’t consider that I would be hurting someone else.
As he met up with a gang of youths, he protected me by telling me to hide in the stairwell of the council flats. I stayed there for an hour under the blinking lights, listening to the moaning, shouting of the occupants of that floor. I became restless and retreated to the laundry room. Its smell comforted me, but it also made me aware that I was getting too comfortable.
I eventually needed the toilet so bad my bladder was busting the zip of my pants, and the stairwell, although it was swimming in ammonia, was not somewhere I felt comfortable to take a piss. I needed to get out. So, I did the only thing a well-educated white-girl would do whose booze was wearing off and went to McDonalds, ordered McNuggets and fries and slipped quietly into an Uber home.
Anthony tried calling me twice and I let it ring out. I guiltily hoped he would be okay, while fantasising about the fresh feel of make-up wipes cleaning the night off my face and getting into bed.
I felt like a fraud, but there was something earnest in my actions- I craved a connection to someone who kinda knew what I was going through, even though we didn’t use words. Someone else who would risk their health and their life to escape pain.
It took me six months to start writing on this piece, even longer to admit it to another person. It was so obvious once I was sober that escaping pain is a misnomer- it catches up with you eventually, and the original pain you felt is magnetised by the chemicals you use to disconnect yourself from your thoughts.
Next time maybe I’ll just stick to Chicken McNuggets, a cleansing face mask and retreat to bed.