“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom” – George S. Patton
Life is one tough cookie. For many people, it resembles that of listening to your favourite song at full blast on a pair of expensive headphones without a care in the world – you’re casually perched in the warmth of your living room listening to that new album by that new band you seem to adore and there’s not a soul to say otherwise. I once wore those expensive headphones, and oh boy would I blare that music. But then one day, quite abruptly, the music stopped. It just stopped. And a huge menacing fist came whirling round the back of my head, slapping me inexorably on the back of my scalp; hence striking the headphones from my head and sending them tumbling to the cold, desolate floor of nothingness, crushing them into a billion one-celled organismic smithereens. The end of the ludicrously expensive headphones, and the end of music.
If that doesn’t strike you as a vivid enough analogy to convey the way my forsaken life has played out over the last few months, then you’re probably too rich, famous or successful to contemplate the life of me, Frank, the bottom feeder of society. To put it simply, I don’t think there’s a single aspect of my life that I could proudly define as ‘successful’ (whatever that means). I yearn for success, but while I spend the majority of my days worrying about where I’m going to acquire my next cigarette, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going to find this ‘success’, if even it exists.
Anyone would say that it’s not a sensible idea to share any segment of your financial details with the rest of the world-wide web, but in all honesty, I would feel far more woeful for the guttersnipe that attempted to hijack my bank details than I would for myself. In fact, I’d be relieved to see someone take possession of my bank account. Perhaps then I could get away with blaming the legacy of ‘financial fuck-ups’ I’ve constructed over the last few months on them rather than myself. Over the last few months, I’ve watched in peril as the cute numbers of my Santander bank account have descended below freezing. As of ten minutes ago, the numbers displayed on my online bank account hold the precise balance (or lack of) of ‘£-71.46’, and it’s not reaching paradisiacal temperatures anytime soon.
Perhaps the most towering of the endless list of worries I face in this glacially cold period of my life is the fact that I’m not employed by anyone, so the lack of coins in my bank account are definitely staying relevant to that of a church mouse’s for a considerable time longer. I’ve drifted from job to job over the last six months in an audacious attempt to locate my passion in life. I haven’t discovered it yet. Well, I have, but I don’t think there’s a booming niche for the one who sits on his scrawny arse from dawn to dusk watching clips of Breaking Bad on YouTube and devouring curry-flavoured pot noodles. That resource, ‘cash’, is the most vital resource on the planet for human order and society, and I currently have minus none.
Money is arriving soon, it always does. And that will be the end of my problems, right? I can continue my less than extravagant life of drugs, alcohol and paid Netflix and grow old with those commodities. However, there is one other critical issue that may jeopardise that perfect life plan – I’m not in possession of a bank card…or a wallet…or any form of identification. By some miracle, I managed to lose all three of these essentials within the space of one night due to unforseen levels of alcohol and marijuana invading my system. An entire wallet of cards that gave me credibility as a human being on this bedeviled Earth, and they’re all gone, sitting comfortably on the shelf of another thieving societal bottom feeder that probably has higher digits in his bank account than I. Of course, the entire armoury of cards that sat contempt in the emptiness of my wallet, waiting for their turn, is fully replaceable – at the expense of the money I don’t currently have.
As a final stab at the wound of problems bleeding out my life at the moment, all of my monthly bills are beyond overdue and I recently received a threatening text from the company that allowed me to send SOS texts to my mum at three o’clock in the morning on a Saturday night stating that if I don’t pay the ancient cob-webbed bills within the next few days, then they’ll be forced to delete my phone number from their system and ask for the rest of the bills on the contract to be paid up front, which I thinks mounts to around one big one. The sudden deletion of my number would be both a tragedy for me and the abundance of girls on Tinder that I feel would definitely have wanted my phone number.
However, with every down, there’s an up and this has genuinely been the case over the last few months. With the absence of money and success, I’ve found my eyes opening up to things that I never thought were as important before – books have been read, family members bonded with and I’ve seen my appreciation of the vital things in life surge past my appreciation towards the materialistic items that I used to spend most of my time around. Now, the three most important commodities in my life consist of the roof that protects me from the maelstrom of wind and rain overhead, the wood-burning stove that blisters in the living room, and my mother, whom I’ve learnt a lot about over the previous months. And perhaps the most invaluable possession that I’ve come to welcome the most is this blog; it seems to be my only way forward in this dark period of my life. I do miss Netflix though, I really do.
7:45 AM. I’m slumbering like a wild hybernating bear when all of a sudden my subconscious ears hear the words “woah, look at that sunrise!” cascading up the stairs and into my room from below. My mother found it bewildering, so there’s a strong chance that I would too.
Inspired by her words, I sprung out of bed, grabbed the camera sleeping at the end of my unit, flung open the window and caught the sun dancing with the silouette of the trees.
Stepping into old man Gordon’s house was like entering into a temple of zealous relief. Protected from the maelstrom of rain and wind that battered the creaky walls of his house, I wheeled around for a few seconds before sitting down on a sofa that seemed to absorb the bottom half of my body, and all of my problems. Gordon pranced around for a few minutes, meandering in and out of rooms doing things I couldn’t even imagine. My brain was fried, and I could barely string a sentence together. Gordon’s living room seemed like the only important room in the house, with every other doorway barricaded with heaps of unwashed clothes, vinyl records and other undefinable clutter. It dawned on me that this exact room was where Gordon had spent most of his days – a sleeping bag and an electric blanket lay sprawled out over the other sofa and a mountain of greasy plates and cutlery sat stacked on a small wooden table adjacent to his make-do bed. The only other noticeable items in the room were the old-school TV in the corner, a stained mirror on the wall and a cabinet full of crockery that hadn’t been used in decades. All of these items seemed to freeze in time as I sat stoned and motionless on the sofa, awaiting the perfect moment to beckon Gordon’s armoury of drugs.
‘Do you not have a bed upstairs Gordon?’, I asked, confused about Gordon’s absurd sleeping arrangements. Gordon’s head sank slightly. ‘Aye ehhh, I don’t sleep upstairs anymore, too many bad memories’. Feeling slightly shameful that I’d asked, I nodded my head briefly and proceeded to pose the question that surrounded the real reason I was there. ‘Got any pollen, Gordon?’ Without a word, Gordon whirled away into the kitchen and returned with a chipped bowl full of crumbled up pollen. ‘Thanks Gordon, I really appreciate it, honestly’, I said, trying my best to justify my unexpected presence. ‘No problem at all like, really, it’s no problem at all’, Gordon replied with a noticeable sincerity in his tone, making me feel slightly less paranoid than before. Gordon pleasantly handed me a pipe and I began to load up it’s ashy chamber with pollen. ‘Do you use that old record player over in the corner there much?’, I asked. ‘Ehhhh aye, every night’. Without another word, Gordon took a few large steps over to the record player, pressed and twisted a few buttons and nozzles, and sat down on the opposite sofa to the magnetic sound of David Gilmour’s electric guitar.
My head still spinning, I felt a blanket of nausea creep over me as I pressed the pipe up to my lips and ignited the end with a lighter. Taking more drugs while you’re high is generally a terrible idea; you seem to lose touch with your senses and drinking and smoking becomes harmless in your own mind. You could be sitting there smoking cigarette after cigarette, joint after joint, one per minute, and you wouldn’t feel the effects until long after. As the pollen buried in the pipe’s chamber began to glow a deep muddy orange, I began to inhale the thick husky pollen through the thin brass tunnel of the pipe. Usually I’d only draw smoke from a pipe for less than two seconds, but the formidable effects of the drugs I’d had earlier rendered the senses in my mouth and throat useless and I drew on for more than seven seconds, stuffing my capacious lungs with drugs to the max. An amusing dizziness cascaded down through my body as I shakily passed the pipe over to the hands of Gordon for his turn on the draw.
It wasn’t long before the room was plunged into a thicket of silver smoke and the conversation between Gordon and I descended into an animalisitc notion of trash-talk, every sentence stumbling out of our mouths and blasting off all four walls of the room before finally hitting home. The harmonious sound of Pink Floyd glided dreamily through the background of our indechiperable antics as I slowly faded away from the reality of Gordon’s lethargic chatter and slipped into a magnificent trance conducted by the incredible symphonies echoing through the room.
This is a farce. A total fucking farce. Is there anybody in there?
My thoughts rapidly began to circulate around a few wild conspiring theories before my head sank slowly into the smooth fabric of the abyss of Gordon’s sofa. I fell asleep, totally isolated from the whispers and threats of the outside world.
I awoke only a few times throughout the night to the abrupt sound of Gordon’s brutish snoring, the loudest I’d ever heard in my entire life. His lungs and vocal cords at full throttle, his heavy breathing would gradually emancipate into an unnatural wheezing similar to that of someone frenetically sawing dark, heavy timber. I would look over to the sofa where Gordon slumbered every time I awoke and would see nothing of him except the pathetic tuft of grey hair that stuck out the top of his sleeping bag, glowing in the shine of the street lamp outside his house. At times I was convinced he wasn’t there, but once the snoring began again, I wouldn’t question his presence. The wind and rain relentlessly thrashed against the window throughout the night but it seemed somewhat feeble in comparison to the noises Gordon was producing.
A crack of light attacking the gap in Gordon’s blinds awoke me at ten o’clock in the morning. It seemed early, Gordon still wrapped up like a burrito in his cocoon of endless sheets and blankets. Apprehensive about waking him, I rose from the sofa and crept over to the door, thriving to avoid the crunchy debris scattered unpredictably across the rough carpet of the room. I pulled down delicately on the rusty handle of the front door, one millimetre a second, audaciously trying to avoid disturbing the sleeping beast. Just before the door was ready to slide away from it’s stubborn frame, Gordon’s croaky voice frighteningly emerged from the room I thought I’d seen and heard enough of for the last 24 hours.
‘That you off, Frankie?’
‘Yeah, need to get home before my parents start wondering where I am!’, I proclaimed, trying my best to sound calm and unworried by his sudden awakening.
‘Ok, ehhh, do you want a jacket?’
‘Yes, yes I would, thanks Gordon.’
I flung on the large Russian jacket that Gordon had bestowed upon me and left without another whisper.
Last night was more eccentric than the two occasions of Christmas and New Year combined, and I’m still unsure of how that’s even possible given the fact that I was planning to get mortal on both of those bitter nights. I’m the type of person that wanders on out into the world in anticipation of a quiet night in the pub or a subtle movie night with a close friend and then somehow ends up outside in the freezing cold trudging along an unknown pavement, stoned out of my face at three o’clock in the morning with someone else’s clothing on. Everything seems to spiral out of control by twelve at the latest, and nothing ever goes to plan. Drugs, alcohol and snoring old men have unexpectedly devoured the last 24 hours of my life, and oh boy have I learnt a lot about myself.
I’d been grinding the same video game for most of the day, occasionally taking a break to smoke the odd cigarette in the garden, and I was slowly growing anxious of what the night ahead held in stock. Once plans begin to swirl in the air, it’s all I can think about until the plans eventually transition into reality – anxiety really is a bitch. Jimmy and I were planning on indulging in a quick smoke after he had finished work later on in the night and I was more than game given that I hadn’t inhaled a Jamaican roll-up since Christmas eve.
Impatiently meandering around the warm floor boards of my parent’s house, seeing the word ‘Jimmy’ suddenly appear on my phone as it vibrated to the sound of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog, I hastily answered the call and proceeded to stuff an old pair of shoes onto my restless feet and scrunched an extra jumper over my frazzled hair as I did. Despite all of the morbid fears I’d had previously that Jimmy would cancel the meeting – the fear that Jimmy’s mum’s hamster would spontaneously die that night and he’d have to stay in and comfort her, a shower of relief trickled over my head as soon as I heard the words “Meet at the tire at eleven” zoom through the phone from Jimmy’s mouth. Just as I trundled out of the front door and onto the sparkling frosty pavements to leave however, I had a peculiar thought – I’m probably addicted to drugs. Wearing nothing but two cheap jumpers and a crinkled pair of jeans, I began my odyssey towards the tire.
There’s something quite frightening about walking through the frost-bitten streets with the desire to smoke illegal drugs at an old tire behind a local rugby club at eleven o’clock at night. Four miles of walking in the stagnant wintry air would certainly not be worth it for anything but drugs and I found myself strutting along the pavement at turbo speeds just to ensure that I was at the tire before Jimmy. That walk to the tire was certainly the most intentional walk I’d ever done in my entire life. Accompanied by two cigarettes and half of a bottle of red wine I’d found in the fridge from Christmas however, and the the four mile trek was over before I knew it.
After Jimmy’s silhouette slowly emancipated into a real person through the thick fog of the night, everything seemed to flow considerably smoother than on previous encounters. Aside from a dodgy lighter deciding not to function of a couple of occasions and Jimmy thinking he’d forgotten the skins for a brief moment, I couldn’t have asked for a more enjoyable hour of smoking marijuana at a rugged old tire on a Sunday evening. I sat contempt for the entire hour with my arse half-stuck to the ice polished rubber before Jimmy lumbered back to his house only half-stoned. I however, after just a couple of joints, was inexplicably wasted, my mind flickering through a million fiery thoughts at once.
I can never have enough. Every time I remove myself from the warmth of my house, it doesn’t matter what I’m doing or who I’m with, I’m always thinking ahead to conjure up exciting plans for after. I hate going home, because going home late at night always represents the end of an enjoyable time, a transition into a dark, dull house of nothingness – I can’t put the TV on, I can’t venture out into the back garden for a smoke and I can’t even flick any lights on in fear that I’ll wake up the likes of my boring family members. If I’m at the pub enjoying a few pints of Scotland’s finest beer (Tennent’s Lager), then I’ll constantly be battling away on my phone or to a friend beside me for an action plan afterwards, whether it be going to another pub or intoxicating ourselves further with drugs. As I stood lone wolf at the tire, vacant of any form of rational thinking, it dawned on me that I could probably get away with a late night visit to my unorthodox friend Gordon’s house and enjoy a harsher smoke from the discomfort of his garbage-engulfed sofa.
Gordon is one of the more dodgy characters in my life. A rusty old man worn down by society, Gordon lives a quiet, solemn life in a decayed apartment swallowed by the past. He’s played quite an important part of my life for at least six months now, having been a regular at my local pub for most of his days. Of course, Gordon’s cave would never have been my first choice of dwelling for the night, but I always knew him to consistently be in the possession of drugs so the plan was essentially set in stone in my head as I perilously began to walk up the street towards his apartment.
Passing through Gordon’s large black steel gate and descending the cold bulky steps leading to his front door injected me with a familiar buzz. The only thing that frightened me as my clumsy feet clanged thunderously off the rusty clutter that lay scattered throughout his garden was the possibility of him not answering the door and having to perform the walk of shame back to the darkness of my house in the glacial conditions that clung to the air like thick glue. Standing at Gordon’s chipped white door, I realised there was not as much as a trace of a doorbell or any other form of sounding equipment. If there’s one thing you should probably avoid doing at midnight on a Saturday, it’s knocking on the doors of people who least expect it – there’s a high chance that Gordon thought the DEA were ready to raid his house of drugs the moment I battered the blurry white glass with my clenched iron fist. To my own surprise however, the door popped open with a loud thud just six seconds after I’d knocked and Gordon cheerfully beckoned me into his humble abode for a standard night of smoking cannabis and woeful banter.