‘I’m going out, back in five, promise,’ I said calling down to my children, knowing I wouldn’t be back for a day or so.
Not waiting for an answer I slam the front door and hurry away from the East London council house. The fresh air isn’t helping to relieve my guilt. I’d promised to stop taking drugs more than I can remember.
Stopping at the crossroads, the corner shop is in view. Looking to the sky I beg to a God I’ve long forsaken. I beg for the strength to stop taking today and the strength to be a better mother to my children.
The closer I get towards the shop the faster my heart beats. This could be it. Taking the final step, I push the shop door open, stopping in my tracks when a hoarse voice calls out from a stationary car nearby.
‘Sarah’, a woman said.
I turn around folding my arms to see who who’s called my name, not knowing what to do with myself. Like a timid animal, I make my way over to the pristine car toward the woman. She beckons me closer as she takes off her Prada sunglasses. Reluctant to move, I lean towards the car windowsill, getting a good view of her dark eyes and the scar that protrudes between them.
‘The name’s Dale. Laticia Dale. And I’m here to collect the money you owe my client,’ she said, taking out a piece of paper. I take a step back as the blood rushes from my face but she doesn’t seem to notice. Writing something down, she hands the note over pouting her lips, with her eyes seeming to fixate on me. Avoiding eye contact, I take the paper. Reading it I start biting the inside of my lip.
‘This is the amount you owe, for the smack supplied,’ she said tapping the steering wheel with her fingers.
‘It’s wrong. You’re wrong, two hundred…double?’
Looking me up and down, she raises her eyebrows.
‘You didn’t think I was fucking Santa Claus did you? Why don’t you ask your dealer for it?’ She said, breaking into laughter.
Stepping back, throwing my hands together on top of my head, I stare at my trainers. Leaning against a lamp post for support I try to stop swaying.
‘But… I can’t get that.’
The last thing I hear as the car pulls away is, ‘You’ve got six hours. Don’t forget, Santa knows where you, and your children live.’
Staring at the rear of the car as it drives away, I can’t help but think of the calmness in her voice. That scares me more than anything.
Finding it hard to swallow, my legs begin to wobble. I need water. It takes a lot of energy to keep upright. Getting clean is a losing battle when nobody loves you enough to care and I feel as though I’m marooned on a desert island. Six hours to find two hundred pounds, or else and all I can think about is heroin. Feeling myself slipping again, I run to the one person who may be able to help.
Standing at Lamar’s door I pause. We have a lot of history. He’s been my dealer, ex-boyfriend, and even a friend a long time ago. But right now he would be my personal cash withdrawal machine. Banging on the door I can hear the sound of smashing echoing from inside.
‘Who the fuck is it?’ he says, opening the door ajar and looking round.
As the door opens further the smell of alcohol seeps out towards me.
‘Lamar, it’s me. I need you. I’m in trouble,’ I say, moving closer.
Seeming to ignore me he wipes forming beads of sweat from his upper lip and grins.
‘My girl…I’m ‘bout to do a chase. You look stressed, wanna’ join?’
Not giving me a chance to speak he grabs my arm pulling me forward through to his living room. The first thing I can see is heroin laying like a mistress on the coffee table, ready for a hit.
‘Look Mar, I’m over this stuff’
‘Oh, come on sweet thing. One little lick’a brown sugar keeps the doctor away,’ he says, pulling my hips closer. I watch as he prepares it, heating it, syringing it and preparing the needle for it. This is the last time. I mean, I can stop when I want. I’m not like those druggies you see on the streets, I haven’t let it consume me. Lying on the leather sofa I swallow in anticipation. I look around for a sign trying to remember my priorities. Instead, I see a broken telly, a towel hung above the window, and rotten floorboards. Before I can change my mind I feel the needle plunging the sugary liquid into my vein. I can feel his lips on my neck and his hands between my legs but everything is becoming heavy.
‘Stop. All I want is money,’ I say, failing to push his grimy hands away.
‘You’re earning it,’ he says, biting his lip.
I try to deblur his face, I try to cry out but he’s disappearing and I know I’m passing out.
* * *
It’s so easy to judge when you’re not walking in my shoes. Have you ever heard the expression carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? Well, imagine waking up to screaming children knowing you’ll spend the better part of your day washing cars in a rundown car park. You’re on your feet all day. To be entitled to the giro, you’re ordered to work selling The Big Issue but still manage to get fired. You pick the kids up from school. Do your food shopping, and walk home in the rain. At this point your mind is heavy, your body is aching. After running yourself a hot bath you submerge allowing all your worries to melt away in that moment. Double that feeling by an infinite number and you’re chasing the dragon.
It’s a serene silence. Utter bliss. Bright colours and soft edges inhabit my world. There’s no pain anymore. A pulsating energy seeps into my bones as I drift into oblivion. Letting the trip explore wherever it wants to go is an infinite freedom. There are no bounds to an unparalleled silence, until I feel a familiar tug. The colours fade. A shuddering echo smacks corners of my mind I thought were hidden. As the selfish sound pulls me from salvation it becomes clearer. A memory of this morning plays on a loop.
‘Mummy, I’m hungry,’ Jocelyn had said.
Rubbing my eyes to focus I rolled over towards the sound. Aching from the lumpy mattress on the living room floor, I sat up to find my four year old staring at me. Taking a deep breath, I got up and edged towards the curtains across the room. As the light spilled in I closed my eyes, cutting myself off from the world for a moment. It was all too much. The sound of coughing brought my mind back. Turning around I shivered. My gear, now spread over the floor was in pieces. Useless. That had cost last week’s dole money.
‘Joccy. Get that out of your mouth,’ I had said delving my fingers down her throat and retrieving the small plastic bag. A wave of guilt had hit me as Jocelyn answered my actions as a four year old would. Throwing herself onto the mattress crying,
Taking Joccy and sitting her on the sofa, I wiped away her tears. Not knowing what to say, I tried to imitate my own mother,
‘That was mummy’s food, yucky food’ I said, making childish faces. ‘I’ll go and get some Joccy food, stay with your sister.’
With that, Joccy grinned and skipped out of the room singing,
‘Joccy food, Joccy food.’
The moment the living room door closed my palms were sweating. Looking in the cracked mirror propped above the gas fire, my dark cheeks were burning red. I needed to get out of the house. Steadying my hands I packed the gear away into a box and placed it in a cabinet in the kitchen. Digging through the washing pile on the floor, I put on the least soiled clothes I could find. Unearthing jeans that rattled with change took a while, but I found them. Pulling them on, I called down to the kids. I needed to get out. Slamming the front door, I could only think about one thing. Without heroin I would stop existing.
* * *
Waking up on the sofa I have goose pimples, I’m naked. My first thought is to do another hit, forget everything. But I can’t. The moonlight is shining through the holes in the towel at the window, my time is running out. Sitting up I lean my head in my hands and muffle a scream. Dale would take my children and then come for me. Looking around for my clothes I see Lamar and all becomes that little bit clearer.
He looks pathetic, spread out on the floor in stained boxers with vomit protruding from his mouth and a needle lying next to his arm. Putting on my ripped clothes I try not to wince tracing my fingers over bruises on my thighs. Making a choice, I’ve decided I’m going to rob this son of a bitch for all he has. Searching his pockets, under the sofa, in the bedroom, under the loose floorboards I make sure I trash everything in my path. Finding three pound sixty seven, I clench my fists and throw the money to the floor. Cheeks burning and hands shaking I punch the window, shattering it. Standing in the glass I watch as droplets of blood from my knuckles fall to the floor. Maybe there’s another way.
Standing over Lamar, I look around the dirty room, there’s no one to stop this. I slide the needle into his vein and return the favour of what he had done to me. The difference is, I don’t waste heroin. I inject air. Plunging the air into his bloodstream doesn’t seem enough. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for, so I do it again, and again, until he begins to jolt. Not being able to watch I run outside, closing the door behind me and then kicking it in, adding the finishing touches to the staged break-in. Doubling over, I vomit on the steps outside the house. Wiping my mouth I suck in the cold night air and pause before standing again.
‘Sorry,’ I said. Not knowing who I was apologizing too.
Taking shallow breaths until I start to feel dizzy, I allow the tears to flow. Running to a house a few doors down I bang on the door. Moments later I’m performing a speech to concerned neighbors about being molested, drugged and robbed. I plead for them to call the police to stop Latisha Dale, the debt collector from killing again, to stop them from endangering my kid’s safety. It was easy enough.
‘My dear, you poor thing. You look like you’ve had a terrible ordeal,’ she said trying to bring me inside. Looking past them I can see cream walls and a King Charles sleeping on the floral plush carpet. The smell of roast potatoes and chicken began to lead me inside.
‘Of course, we’ll help in any way we can,’ her husband said, regaining my attention.
Refusing to go in for a cup of tea, I returned to Lamar’s to wait for the police. I would tell them about the dealer killing Lamar for two hundred pounds and this whole thing would be over.
Standing at the broken window shivering, I hug my arms tight around my waist listening to the nearing sound of sirens. A small twitch in the corner of my mouth pulls into a smile.
As the police woman steps out of her car I wipe the false tears from my eyes. Everything’s going to be okay now.
The other officers and paramedics rush past her, while she seems to be taking her time. Fiddling with the buttons on my jacket I look between her and Lamar’s body. She approaches the house, reminding me of a predatory animal. She enters and stands near Lamar, staring down at him. She seems familiar. Turning away she says something into her radio,
‘This is Officer Dale reporting. We’ve found him, but he’s cold.’
Turning to me she takes off her hat and looks up. I step back when I see the dark eyes and a scar to match. I put hands over my mouth as bile threatens to surface. I put my hands to my hair, in my pockets, on my hips, trying not to gulp. Pointing at Latisha Dale, I can feel the heat rising in my face.
‘You bitch,’ I said.
‘Please stay calm. We don’t want to restrain you.’
‘Why did you approach me this morning? You can’t just pretend to be someone you’re not,’ I said trying to get closer. ‘Explain, God damn it.’
I think you’re the one who needs to be explaining.’
Squeezing my eyes tight, I’m on the edge of getting an explanation out into words when I feel handcuffs being slapped onto my wrists.
‘You’re under arrest,’
Unable to swallow again I can’t seem to form words. Instead, tears begin falling down my face as we walk out of the living room.
‘Please, I’m a mother. I did what I had to do to protect my kids,’ I said, managing to speak. Hoping the bitch would take pity on me.
Gripping my arm she hesitates.
‘I was expecting you to lead me to your dealer…but this. This is over my head.’
Glancing over at the body being zipped into a bag and taken away I meet Dale’s eyes, looking for sympathy.
‘Addicts,’ she said in a hushed tone scrunching her lips.
‘This was for Jocelyn and Georgia. You threatened me and my children and now I’ll lose them. Please. Are they okay?’
The reaction I got made me feel like a criminal.
‘You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do may be used against you in a court of law,’ she said pushing me forward to walk me out of the house towards the police car. She continues talking but I refuse to listen and the words blur out.
Why me? I’m not a criminal, or an addict. Sitting in the police car I lower my eyes to avoid the people looking at me. Not knowing what to do I imitate my own mother, placing my hands on my lap and hanging my head in shame. The tears begin to flow.
I know I’m not mother of the year. I think it’ll be better like this, for Jocelyn and Georgia. They’ll be fostered until I get out from doing my time, and then we can have a fresh start.
I don’t care what anyone says. I know I can change, and I will…starting tomorrow.
© 2015, Daniella May Little, All Rights Reserved.