I’d like to say a lot more happened over the holidays but I’d be lying. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy with nothing happening – I had some big changes in my life I had to process.
I stayed another night at Beth’s, which was an enjoyable experience but working on the homework we had in common was the most interesting thing we did.
I didn’t want to stay any longer. I did, but I didn’t want to be too much trouble for Beth. I could feel the tension between her and her mom and wasn’t stupid enough to not realise that I was the cause of it. They had a few more rows when I was out of the room and when they were both together with me the silence was… Sharp. It had an edge to it.
I felt it would be best for them if I let them sort things out without my presence.
Beth said I shouldn’t go back home but I had to at some point. I might as well get it out of the way sooner rather than later.
Anyway, I had other work I needed to do and I’d left my books at home.
When I got back was relived to find that Mom was asleep. I tried waking her, but she was completely comatose. It was relief on two parts. One, I didn’t have to deal with her when she was like that. Two, I was worried she’d gone out and gotten herself hurt.
Not because I felt any kind of care for her, that had been lost to anger many years ago but because it kept life consistent. If anything happened to her the payments for the flat would stop. Child services would probably get involved and in all likelihood I’d end up in a foster home or something.
I just didn’t want to risk it.
I shouldn’t think about it. These last few days being friends with Beth – it really showed me what I didn’t have. She had such a nice life. She had a mom who cared about her. I had nothing like that.
What did I do to deserve it? Nothing, I hadn’t done anything. Mom was the problem. No, not mom, her stupid drugs.
I thought back to the Mall, who was really to blame for that? Was it that guy, I could see in his eyes he was so desperate he was almost out of his mind. Chances are he was a nice kid who fell into the wrong crowd and things went from bad to worse. Maybe he came from a background like me – hell it would be easy to steal some of moms stuff. It would be one way to get out of this life, live a dream.
I didn’t feel bad about what I did to him; he still chose that course of action. I’d do it again in the blink of an eye. But who was really to blame?
Who ruined that guys life, and probably the guy he stabbed, and countless others – his parents, kids? Who stood to gain from that?
The dealer that came round to my house every three days, he was sober. He knew what he was doing. Hell, you can’t spend any time on the Island without knowing the effects of drugs – this place is den of crime because of them. He knows I live here. He knows he takes every penny Mom gets from the government – money to support me.
People like him are the reason my life is like this. And for what? Cash. Plain and simple.
Hell, the government are no better. It’s not like they don’t know what’s going on. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a policeman on the beat in the Island. Maybe it would be suicidal, but stop and search the first person you meet on a street corner and you’ve got yourself a drug dealer.
They know a good proportion of the money they pay to people like my mom goes straight into the pockets of the criminals – that’s why the set up worked. Sleepers weren’t out there committing crimes, the poor destitute just stayed in bed and wasted away. Not such a bad end-game for anybody. Except addicts. And people like me.
It was almost like a kind of population control.
I was getting worked up. I could feel myself getting angrier. I hadn’t been like this for a long while. When I was younger I used to get mad at everything but in the last few years I’d just… resigned myself to it I guess. Like this was all I had in life, maybe if I latched onto something like trying to become a pilot I’d escape. Like there was no other way to fight it.
Maybe I was fed up of not fighting. Maybe I liked it when I was younger and felt that anger. It was better than feeling so… hollow.
I was pacing the length of our tiny flat, restless. I had to get out of here, walk this off. Walking always helped.
I grabbed the red jacket Beth had given me and pulled it over my jumper as I left the flat. I took the stairs three at a time, jumping the last six steps. I felt good, the last 4 days of solid eating and decent sleep? They made me feel half human again. It made me notice how bad I had gotten before. I didn’t feel that bone-tiredness. My stomach didn’t ache.
I left the flat with a fast walk and headed in a random direction. I knew the area like the back of my hand living here all my life and spending half that trying to get away from my mom.
My mind switched on instinct to threat assessment as I walked. I subconsciously ranked people by how likely they were to harm me.
Distance, clothes, posture, eye movements.
Unlike last week I didn’t cross the road when someone ticked boxes. I was feeling brash, I was still angry.
The deeper you go into the Island the higher the flats and the narrower the streets. I used to climb them. In some alleys you could touch both walls at the same time lengthways, doing this you could push outwards and brace yourself between them – even walk yourself up.
Most of the flats and warehouses had plenty of wrought ironwork, fire-exits, drainpipes and wires to clamber on. Finding an abandoned warehouse had been like an adventure. I’d often spent the night up high in an old building. I hadn’t felt so safe as I got older, hunger can cause dizziness. Not ideal for climbing.
Now though, I stuck to the streets.
I didn’t know what I was looking for until I found it.
I’d passed figures on street corners, sitting on broken down walls or standing in huddles sharing a cigarette. I had watched them as I walked by but not stopped.
I stopped this time. A boy, younger than me, was talking to one of them.
Getting closer I overhead what he was saying to the kid. “Listen, I gave you the last batch on the house. This time you gotta pay. This is business. It’s one C for a quarter ounce.”
“Man, last time you gave me an ounce for nothing! No way do I have that much money.” The kid said.
“How much you got? This is premium stuff, I can’t give it away. You get what you pay for.”
I watched as the kid took a wad of $10 notes out of his pocket and counted them out.
So this was how it started? New blood. New money into the system, that’s what it came down to. And no one was going to do anything about it. I could stand here in the street and watch this going on in plain sight.
No one was going to do anything about it? I’d seen it before and just walked on by. Well fuck that. I could do something, this one time maybe. Sure that kid might come back the next day, but maybe I could scare him off?
I racked my brain for anything that might work. Maybe, just maybe…