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Writing (Short Story)

The Day after the Night Before

Monday night, around eleven thirty, stars illuminated the sky and the coldness setting in, Jono was going to bed. He felt at ease with the world after his last fix but would need to be out early to get his drugs sorted. Lying back in bed he started to drift, thinking how addiction blighted his life and taken so much from him.

He was lost, alone and forgotten. He never asked to be like this but somehow it found him. He was bound by addiction. At times without a care in the world, but often he wanted to fall on his knees and scream for someone to save him, to give him a cure or to help find a way to redemption. It was playing on his mind, driving him crazy, making him feel insane. He had done things he regretted and pushed away the ones he needed most.

Jono was out of control and striving for a way to regain it. Why would God punish him like this? What was the purpose? He wished that just for one day, one hour, one minute, even a second, that somehow he would be free of addiction. Jono recalled the talent he had, going through catering college with distinctions and top honours. He loved the relationships he had at work. How good a friend he once was and how trustworthy but now addiction tarnished his entire life. It was in every action, every thought, every movement, every area of his life, even every breath was taken away from him with addiction in mind. Eventually, Jono fell asleep with a heavy heart.

Tuesday dawned, the amber haze of the sun burst through the slit in the curtains, enticing Jono from his slumber.  He pulled himself from his pit with the realisation that he needed a fix. The sickness started, his heart pumped like a jack hammer and sweat poured, hot cold, hot cold, his body shuddered. For a fleeting moment he regretted the day he ever took heroin. When he found his clothes; every move involved a massive effort and some pain. His mind made everything ten times worse, playing psychological games.

Sweat rolled from his brow like pouring rain. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he was gaunt and skinny. Fixing his hair, he smiled to see his once beautiful teeth in total disrepair. He recalled how fit and healthy he once was. As a distraction he went to the bedside locker, put on his watch and picked up the house keys.

Stomach cramps hit and he ran straight for the toilet. The contents of his stomach released over the bathroom, stomach bile everywhere. I don’t have the time to fix this, I’ll clean it later, he thought, as a frantic search began for his mobile phone and wallet. His sickness growing by the minute. He found his phone, wallet and counted his money. Sweet, enough for an eight, which would take him through until Friday payday. He left his flat, took out his mobile phone and called his dealer. ‘Alright, its Jono here, you around? I need a garden gate ASAP, I’m clucking badly here.’

‘I’ll meet you in the same place as always, 10-15 mins.’

‘You’re a life saver, see you there.’ Jono hung up.

‘Jono is that you?’

Looking up he saw and old friend staring at him.

Yes, it’s me Lynn. Jaysus you look terrible. What’s happened to you?’

‘I’m just down on my luck, you know how it is.’ Jono felt remorse and guilt for the way he had become.

‘Jono, want to go for a coffee. A catch up? My shout.’

‘Lynn I’ve to be somewhere, I can’t be late.’ His stomach cramps were worse. ‘Lynn I really have to go here.’

Jono walked to meet his dealer. Every step sent shudders of pain over his body. His t-shirt now soaking with sweat. Through a mass of people he could see his dealer sitting on the bench. ‘Jaysus it nearly kilt me walking down.’

They made their usual exchange.

‘Is the money all there?’

Every penny fella, have you a clean works on you clucking badly.’

‘I don’t touch the shit.’

Jono needed to get to the needle exchange and quick. His sickness was at fever point, knowing he had the gear his body starts to empty reach, cramps tighter and sweats rolling faster. In his panic, he went to the corner of a bus shelter, took out the gear, opened it and dipped a coin into the powder, sniffing it up in one go. He dropped to his knees instantly feeling better, all the symptoms eased enough for him to register that it was really strong gear. He felt brand new again and forgot just how sick he was five minutes earlier. He stood up, dusted himself down to finish the journey to the needle exchange. He was going to make some changes and couldn’t go on living this way. The closer he got to the exchange the more people he knew and as he arrived at the door he heard his name being hollered out.

‘Jono, wait up, Jaysus mate, I haven’t seen you for weeks, what you been at?’

‘Same auld, same auld, grafting, scoring, getting high, you know Davie same as you.’

‘Jono can you sort me out? I’m dying, sick, and I can’t tap when I’m like this.’

‘Davie I’m in the same boat. I’m only here to collect a starter pack, then I’m heading tapping myself, sorry you will have to look elsewhere.’

As he walked into the exchange he was third in the queue. He started to day-dream about how he hated coming down to the exchange, every time someone was on the mooch for a free hit. He was fed up with the whole situation, it weighed him down. He would love to be able to just drop into his Mum’s house and spend time with his brother and sisters.

‘Next,’ A voice called. ‘Morning. D.O.B, postcode, any returns? And what is it you need?’

‘21/12/79. D.W.6, no returns please, and thanks.’

‘There you are, safe injecting.’

He stuffed the starter pack into his coat, left the exchange so no one could latch on and use him for a free hit. It was nearly lunch time. The streets crammed with people. He walked back to his flat, the rays of sun blinded him and he thought about a pair of sunglasses. He was eager to return to his flat. First he needed to go to the newsagents for smokes, a new lighter, a few tins of Boost and some munchies. He decided to grab a DVD to help pass the day and checking his money he thought better of the idea.

After buying groceries he walked home, opened the front door and was overcome with the smell of vomit. The vomit he left behind that morning. He went into the kitchen, got bleach, boiling water and a mop bucket. He cleaned the bathroom and it was soon gleaming, completely spotless and the smell of bleach overwhelming. It was now time for a fix. He got the starter pack, his lighter, smokes, the Boost tins and munchies. He went into the sitting room, turned on the TV and set up the table and clicked into autopilot. He was now doing his ritual. It was a ceremonial process for him.

Opening the starter pack he reached for one needle, a steel pot, water, one sachet of citrus, alcohol wipes and his tourniquet. The most important ingredient was the heroin and secondly, a McDonald’s plastic stirring spoon. He opened the citrus sachet, lifted the plastic spoon and put some citrus into the small steel pot, then the heroin with some water. He got the lighter and heated the solution. When it was ready he lifted the needle and sucked up the mixture. Taking the tourniquet, he strapped it around his arm, tightened it and set about finding a vein. He found a good vein, lifted the needle and plunged it into the small pulsing vein, plunging the handle of the needle downwards until the mixture was away. Instantly, feeling the warmth of the heroin pulsing all over his body he fell into a slumber. Jono slid deeper into oblivion, falling forward and hitting the volume button on the remote control, pushing it up full. The noise reverberated throughout the building. Jono oblivious to it, stationary in his slumber.

In the flat above the thunderous noise woke his neighbour; he jumped out of his bed and wondered what was he doing downstairs having a party, no parties allowed in this building.   He arrived at Jono’s door and rapped it with venom, but to no avail. He checked the handle and the door opened. He poked his head into the hallway and shouted for Jono. There was no response. He went into the sitting room and saw Jono on the couch. He noticed the needle; he turned the TV off, again called Jono, but still no response. He looked closer, noticing his blue lips. He checked for a pulse, there was one, but it was weak. He frantically looked for a mobile phone and called 999.

‘My friend, I think he has overdosed.’

HMP Magilligan

3rd Prize Short Story Intermediate, Listowel Writing in Prison Awards, 2019

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