I get a phone call from O, he has a situation that he wants help with. He has a habit of doing this, he has many habits in fact. Imposing favours upon people though is his least skanky habit. To fully master this he has also perfected verbal intimidation and threats. Think Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast and you will know O, now imagine him as an Irish Muslim smack head and the picture is complete. I never fully understood how a so called Muslim shot up speed and kept to his faith. He was a walking embodiment of contradiction who was partial to Ska music.
He wants me to take his friend Paddy to hospital, he thinks he is ODing but won't call an ambulance. If I oblige I am taking one more step into his world, if I don't he will hound me and tax me whenever he sees me. It's a no win for me.
Already you're asking how I know O, what was I thinking? Right?
It's not just large cities that have decay, small cities have it too and it's harder to escape or avoid if you live in the wrong part of town.
I think I met O in the local dive where all the skaters hung out, it was the mix of cheap booze and the fact no-one ever pulled an ID check that made it so appealing. He took an instant liking to me, I seem to recall it had something to do with picking a Stax records tune on the jukebox. Who knows. All I know was it was impossible to say no to him from day 1.
Within days I was helping him move house, a place in decay with burnt pieces of foil crumpled and littering the floor, he told me to watch my hands when picking stuff up, didn't want to get pricked by a syringe. It was trainspotting before it was invented.
When I returned from the hospital there was a small gathering, Nancy Spungen/Courtenay Love wannabes lounging on the floor, whilst a rat like boy called Ping mixed up bags of glucose powder and amphetamine, keeping the most undiluted for his "Percy" consumption.
I soaked him up, every despicable action and sneer, I soaked it up in my lexicon of observation. One day he would become a character in a script or just be training for a future journalist. I absorbed these people like a voyeur in training, fascinated and repulsed all in one followed by seeds of empathy.
Months later I saw him kick his girlfriend into a miscarriage. All so quick. All so hectic. You shout, you scream, but it's all over as quick as it began. Ashamed that I couldn't stop or didn't stop it. Panda eyes of depression looking back at you. Nobody cried when he eventually hung himself; just another character melting into the pot of a time gone by. A scab that had been picked.
My friends in my late teens were like characters from a Larry Clark film, by-products of a wasted generation trying to see a point in a decade of recession, the eighties had failed, so why have aspiration when ultimately it would all get repossed anyway. Coke was out, speed and H were back in. Cheap drugs for a cheap era.
Frosty was the charismatic pusher compared to the in your face Ping. Frosty was a stereotype of a pusher, trying to be Jim Morrision, whilst in reality he was more Jim Jones with his Kool Aid.
Summer came and Frosty had to fake his own death over some deal gone wrong. His mum crying in the papers, big show for a little man.
His second coming a year later was not really thought through and I only saw him for a fleeting moment before he disappeared again.
It's funny the people you know when you're growing up, whilst transitory through a couple of formative years - it teaches you so much about human interaction. Whilst I was happy to disassociate, I learnt a lot about keeping your wits about you, having spider sense and seeing the patterns. This has proved invaluable in later years. The one story that still haunts me is the one of T.
T was the sweetest guy you could ever know, short and unassuming he was the insular one of a large group, a cliche in many ways of the high school geek, long hair and a Metallica T shirt. All T ever really wanted was some love, I suspect his home life was not good as no-one was ever allowed to go there.
One cold night in the pub, drunk with fake IDs T and some others were playing pool. Some girls came over and one swooned around T like we'd never seen before, it was like they saw something in him that no other girl ever had. Slightly unnerved but welcoming the attention, T played along. Within a short time period they were whispering in the corner and then the moment came and she pecked him on the cheek and said something that you could tell in hindsight ripped his heart in two. She laughed and ran off. He was silent and slumped back to us, others goaded him about what had happened. He was still silent. It had all been some joke, some windup by another group that T didn't get on with. A cruel hoax for someone else's momentary jolly. Nobody consoled him, nobody asked him if he was alright, just a buffet of "Plenty more fish in the sea" platitudes. T said he was going to go home and no-one stopped him.
T left the pub and went to a local dilapidated warehouse and jumped to his death. There was a lot of discussion that he was drunk and fell, but I know the truth and I carry that knowledge with heavy heart.
I have never wanted to ever do anything in my life that would make someone feel that way and always try to keep a sense out for when people are having a hard time, you can't solve it or carry the pain for them, but empathy and a hug or human connection can make people realise that society is not ruthless and cruel.
These things I saw in my formative years I still see played out in life, we as a society are still the children we were in the playground. There are the pushers, the bullies, the tormentors, the geeks and the misfits. As I watch the news of politicians, the media, the banks and the demolition of vulnerable people I can't help thinking it's time we grew up. I have seen my childhood acquaintances time and time again in new incarnations, disguised as business people, celebrities, politicians, civil servants and so forth. But I learnt not to stand idly by like I did as a child. That's all we can do.