Thurs 24 MarchTwo weeks before the launch of the book Get a Fuckin’ Job Johnny decides to become a runner for a drug dealer and kicks Alex and Neil out of his tiny council flat. On the second deal Johnny and a couple,get caught by the police. The woman has put the stuff in her mouth and Johnny’s told her to swallow it before the police comes up. They handcuff the men and ask the woman to open her mouth, one of the policemen sticks a finger under her tongue and finds the drugs. They all get arrested.
I don’t know what’s happened. I take the food straight to Johnny’s house. Those guys never eat. Knock, knock at the window, silence, waiting. ‘Hey, are you gonna let me in?’ Finally the buzzer goes. Johnny’s brother opens. ‘They’re not here anymore.’ He tells me that Neil’s got his own flat around the block. Neil looks wasted, but homely in just a pair of shorts. There’s a washing machine sitting in the middle of the kitchen, needles on top of it. He puts them away in a drawer. Alex’s voice behind the living room door, ‘Can I get a roll-up off you Eva?’, not ‘Hi’ or anything. He’s in a t-shirt, so I see his skinny arms, lying under a duvet on a sofa in the darkness. The electricity was cut off a long time ago. They want to eat my food while it’s still warm so Neil’s washing some plates, complaining that some bastard stole the washing-up liquid. The flat’s been broken into; the television and the DVD player are gone. In no time they wolf down the food. I leave before they start preparing a hit.
Neil and Alex got ripped off last night. The ‘heroin’thet bought was an Oxo cube or something and the crack was like candle wax. They’re strung out and not in a good mood. Neil walks on but Alex stays with me. I offer to give him a tenner, but he asks to borrow £20 and pay me on Tuesday when he gets his giro. ‘I swear you’ll get it back this time.’ Before we reach the cash machine he’s asking for £30. I keep saying no I can’t, but he won’t let it go. ‘Please give me this last chance.’ He gets it, gives me a kiss and heads up Union Street, already feeling better. At night I meet Johnny, he’s not playing the harmonica like he usually does; he’s not cheerful. He tells me about the drug deal that went wrong. Johnny’s already on probation for drug dealing, so this surely means jail. He keeps holding my hand.
Alex is looking guilty. I don’t even want to talk to him. ‘I didn’t get my giro yesterday. I’ll get it tomorrow. I’ll come around to your house.’ I want to walk away, but we end up in conversation. I ask him not to let me down again and he says he won’t. I don’t believe him. I know he’s already got the giro and spent it.
No Alex. I feel stupid or maybe naïve, which is even worse.
Sat 1 April‘I fucked up again’, he says. I tell him I’m treating him with respect and he’s taking the piss again. He’s remorseful, says that it’s not that he doesn’t care, it’s just what the addiction does to him. I know.
He sees me on the street and starts to get up. I say hi. He hands me a cigarette and we walk along together. I say I’ve forgiven him because I know he’s a good person underneath all the shit. ‘You’ve forgiven me again’, he says.
I ask Johnny if he’ll please come to the book launch. He doesn’t think so because he’s not even in the book. ‘But you have to be there,’ I tell him, ‘otherwise it’s not right.’ I dig a copy of the book out of my bag and show it to Alex. He likes it. He says he’ll be there.
Book launch in Summer Street. Neil turns up 6pm sharp. I tell him he looks good and he says it’s just the shave. Half an hour later Alex is still not there, but somebody’s seen him sitting outside Somerfield. Neil offers to go and get him for me and Alex finally turns up. I whisper in his ear that he’s the one I’m the most happy to see, which is the truth. A whole lot of street people have turned up. And my other friends. There’s a huge buffet. We’re drinking wine and I’m overly happy, hugging everybody, signing books and getting more and more drunk. Johnny turns up and just stands there, smiling. He says he’s going to read the whole book and I tell him that I regret he’s not in it. People start leaving, some of them have a long Friday night’s begging ahead of them. Outside I say goodbye to Alex forever in a big hug, not letting go, and we laugh about it. Johnny’s already up the road, ‘Come on Alex.’ He’s always yelling at Alex to come on and it’s very funny because Alex never says anything; just takes his time. The book launch is the best thing that’s happened for a long time.
Some names have been changed.