I’m lying on the bed.
The little water bottle pipe is on the wooden bedside table.
The fan whirrs and rattles.
Key in the lock.
I scramble into my boxers.
Cover the curled up caterpillar.
I check the time on my phone.
7 o clock.
I arrived at 9.
You’ve been gone 10 hours, I say.
Anna says nothing.
Sits on the bed.
Dumps her handbag next to her.
She takes out her phone – a battered little white Samsung, and takes off the back cover.
Takes out a small plastic bag.
Did you get the crack?
Still no words.
She reaches down the front of her pink top into her bra and takes out a small paper wrap.
A roughly torn corner of a lined page, ripped from an exercise book.
Tosses it on the bed.
Except the whirr and cackle of the fan.
She holds my chin firmly in her bony fingers and looks into my eyes, then chuckles.
I don’t understand her.
You fukked up.
I understand that.
I open the wrap.
It’s an inch square of white powder.
That’s not crack, I tell her.
Crack, she says.
Not crack, I say.
Anna digs into her own little see through plastic bag with a straw, an inch long, cut into a point.
She scoops out a few crystals and dumps them in the glass pipe.
She takes a hit, breathing out the thick smoke.
She kicks off her heels and lies back on the bed.
I dab the powder in the wrap, taste it on my gums.
25 years ago, in gangland London, I did a lot of coke.
I was a coke addict before I was a crack head.
When I worked at Foyles.
The fruit and veg man used to sell us Charlie.
I was the odd one out at Foyles.
Most were students on summer holidays.
Everyone was on coke.
Oxford and Cambridge students mostly.
Everyone was doing all their salaries on cocaine.
Then we started scoring in the Tin Pan Alley.
Mad Frankie Fraser’s bar, ran by his son and nephew, Frank and Jimmy.
They tolerated us cos of the money we would spend.
I did a lot of coke, back then.
Before I progressed to crack.
It’s not crack, I say.
She doesn’t give a fuk.
She hits her pipe again.
I dab the shit she’s given me.
Mixed with speed, probably.
A fine, sugary powder.
Anna puts the straw in my mouth, and burns the bowl for me.
Take out my ANZ bank card and chop my powder into lines.
I take out a 20 dollar note, roll it up and do a line.
I offer a line to Anna.
She shakes her head.
I sip my Angkor beer.
It reminds me of special brew, the beer of choice for London’s homeless and crack heads.
Tastes like petrol.
I can’t believe I’m on drugs again.
25 years clean.
Better not tell my brother.
My two weeks leave for the funeral is over.
I’m absolutely out my nut.
What am I doing?
God will forgive me.
Already forgives me.
I take comfort in that thought as I take another hit on the pipe.