Discover more from Dangerfield's Exaggerations.
Whatever Happened To Hunting? (Pt 1)
Things Are Not Self-Identical
Hello - due to Substack’s word limit, this is in two parts, but there’s a link at the end for part 2.
"Can you get?" I ask. "Eh?" he responds. "Can you get?" I look him up and down. Five-year-old Reebok Classic footwear, with his big toe sticking out of one, swaddled in a damp and dirty orange sock, and the other one about four sizes bigger. Some kind of unbranded cellulose derivative joggers, with a dark patch around the cock area and pin-hole burns dotted around the thighs that appeared like constellations as the cold and sideways February wind blows them tight to the pale skin of his legs. Big military surplus parka, with just the tips of his nicotine yellow, work-shy and aquaphobic fingers poking out from the ends of the sleeves. The skin on his face a deathly translucent; a purple and green argument going on just below the surface. A junkie for sure. I could have been looking in a mirror.
"I don't know who you are," I say. "So?" he replies. "What's your name?" I ask. "Hunting." "Hunter?" I ask, a small part of me dying as the endless weirdness of this merry-go-round of nothing I've been on for years continues to throw up minor, but telling oddities in a life that can't – or certainly doesn't want to - take many more. I knew it was Hunting, I just didn't want it to be.
"No, Hunting. My name is Hunting." "OK Hunting, can I get what?" A pointless question really, since A) I know what he wants, and B) whatever he says I'm going to get it for him because as the first rule of the Heroina Principalia Papyrus states: 'When addictus nervosa buys addictus withdrawus their pleasure, their pleasure is to be somewhat shared'. That's the game, whatever the risks, and you have to play it. You always want more. There's never enough. "Do you want to see my injection scars, in the groin?" "No, you're alright, I trust you." "But I want to show you." "Eh?" "I want to show you them." "Why?" "I don't know…maybe because it's all I've got?" We both stand there for a moment, understanding too much about a world we never wanted to know but can't imagine being any other way. "What do you want?" "One and one," says Hunting.
"Hunting, what? No one's ever called 'Hunting'. Of all the fake names, I think 'Hunting' might be the best I've ever heard. What's your name? 'Carpet'. Ridiculous, in that strangely charming way that still, as I said, kills a bit of me." I raise my eyebrows slightly, the universal sign language of junk connoisseurs everywhere which means 'and what's in it for me?'
"I'll get you one…" I freeze, my expression set in time, silence. "...and one." "Great, let's walk." And the pair of us continue into the estate to get some drugs. "You look pretty sick, Hunting." "You look like shit. How far have we got to go and how long will it take?" "About five minutes walking, and after that it's in the hands of the devil, but he's usually pretty good, maybe ten minutes? Have you got works?" "Yeah, I've got the necessary paraphernalia in a vitamin tube up my arse. I was in court this morning and thought I was going away, so I prepared." "But no product?" "Well I did have product, but after they let me go – unconditional suspended - I put a hit together In the courthouse toilets, but they kicked the door in, causing the contents of my spoon to go all up the wall," "But why have you put your works back up your arse, that can’t be comfortable?" "It’s weird, I quite like it. You know when you’re having a shit and it’s really nice…it’s like that, but all the time."
Scoring goes as planned, Hunting buys me a bag of crack and a bag of heroin, ‘one and one’, and I get the couple of bags of heroin I came for as well. 'Is there somewhere we can do it close by?' 'Yes, come up here.' We walk along a few ‘pavements in the sky,’ down some steps and then across a field. The pair of us with our hands in our big parkas, holding them tight to our bodies and our faces turned away from the biting wind.
We’re on the estate Kubrick filmed A Clockwork Orange. I tell Hunting who doesn’t give a fuck. Another featureless field, and we soon come to an electricity sub-station, a small, square, red-brick affair with government-green painted doors, and a ‘Danger of Death’ sticker that’s not only had a huge penis drawn on the dying man, but ‘Death’ has been crossed out and ‘junkies’ written underneath. “It feels a bit exposed here,” “Yes, but you can see if anyone’s coming from a long way off this side, and no one around the other side can see anything.”
Hunting pulls down his joggers, squats down, and sets about squeezing out his tube. He pulls out a tissue and gives it a quick wipe. I get out my spike and spoon and crouch down next to him. It’s quite the set-up he’s got, and although the smell of real poo is unpleasant, it’s a change from the unholy sweat of his withdrawal that’s been emanating from him since we met. I am quite impressed what he’s managed to get in the tube though. There’s a mini blowtorch, a little flint firelighter, a tiny spoon with the handle bent into a finger sized ring, some filters, a small vial of water, and a couple of 1ml spikes. Impressive. I will copy this set up.
I spit my bags out of my mouth and rub them on my coat to get the saliva off. Hunting does the same with his and we both start playing pass the parcel with ourselves, peeling off layer upon layer of clingfilm as they slowly shrink in size. Dealers wrap them in this way so they can swallow the lot should they get a tug from the gavvers, meaning A) they don’t get arrested, and B) they can sell it once they’ve fished it out of their shit three days later. And whilst annoying that you have to go through this palaver when, like Hunting, you want that stuff in you yesterday, it’s handy since it allows you the same swallow-protection should it be required. Unfortunately, the many layers are often not enough, and on more occasions than I’d like to admit I’ve smelled shit when cooking up, and tasted it once it’s racing through my veins."
And there's the gavvers. Two uniformed and three drug squad in Primark shirts and jeans, running towards us from the other side of the field. Balls. Having barely removed the outside layer, I put my bags back in my mouth and tuck them up round near my wisdom teeth. UK police aren't allowed to search your mouth. It doesn't stop them, but if they try, I can swallow them. I tell Hunting, who looks up briefly, but continues putting his hit together. "Mate, the police are coming!" Hunting looks up again, pauses for a micro thought, and continues making his hit. The product is in the spoon, and he's crushing it with the back end of the syringe. "I give them thirty seconds until they're here," he says, turning on his mini blowtorch, holding his flint striker in his teeth, the sound of the gas hissing out as he puts down his spoon and strikes the flint, causing a blue flame of the blowtorch to ignite, and in no time he's got his finger through the spoon and is cooking up. Ideally, he'd have cooked the heroin first and put the crack in afterwards, but with about twenty seconds left, I can see why he hasn't. Filter in spoon, needle on filter, ten seconds left, and he's pulled the solution into the syringe. Five seconds left, and he's pushed the spike into the greyish blue dent above his femoral vein, two seconds left, and he's pushed the plunger down, pushing heroin and crack into his mainline, which will go straight to his heart and then his brain. And wouldn't you know, just as the gavvers get to us, he pulls out the spike, throws it on the floor-where it joins a collection of other used spikes and bits of old improvised crack pipes-and just stands there like nothing out of the ordinary is going on, his trousers around his ankles and a thin stream of dark red blood running down his leg. "Jesus," he says, his lips starting to dance as the crack does its thing. "Can't a man take a piss without possibly the gayest police in the world running across a field to look at his cock?"
"Do you think this is funny?" asks one of the plod, hands on his thighs as he struggles for breath. "I think the more pressing question," says Hunting, "is do you not think this is funny? But whatever, could you fetch me a chair, I'm not feeling too clever." We're assigned a uniform officer each, who both wear rubber gloves and ask us if there's anything sharp or dangerous in our pockets. "No," I say, noticing Hunting holding his lips tightly together with both hands before puke shoots out of both nostrils and all over the gavver going through his pockets. "Well, don't say I didn't warn you, and I did try to stop it, but with three holes and only two hands, it was never going to work. Wow, that really smells. If you get me the receipt, I'll pay the dry-cleaning bill. What did you say your name was again?" And with that, Hunting just passed out, his knees buckled, and he folded up like a cheap whore until he was just a heap of clothes on the grass with some wispy brown hair on top.
One of the plain-clothes plod radioed for an ambulance. I had to correct him on the location, but between us, we got there in the end, and after leaving it to me to check Hunting for signs of life, a first responder pulled up on a motorbike and set about looking after Hunting. "What's that fucking smell?" he asked at one point: "It's that policeman behind you, he's got puke all down his clothes."
Hunting was fine. If a mainline of heroin and crack doesn't take you to within an inch of your life, it's hardly worth the hassle. And after the first responder was happy with his condition, he left. The gavvers walking off without another word, wrongly assuming all the drugs had been done and not wanting to have to write reports for a bust that turned up nothing.
I get on the train to Abbey Wood at about half ten. I'd been waiting around the station for about an hour for the staff to piss off for a coffee break and open the gates, which eventually they did. On the train, I bump into Paul, an emaciated tragedy of a man who, last time I saw him, on this very train, said in answer to my question, "How are you?" "Not too good, cancered-up, ain't I?" So I asked him how the cancer was and he said he'd kind of forgotten about it. "Everyone's gonna die sometime," he said, this twenty-six-year-old man. "I fink the gear's keeping me alive."
I went to the train toilet as we approached Abbey Wood station. I didn't want to score with Paul, not because he was a liability or anything, well, no more than any of us, but he had a habit of sticking out his tongue and licking the continuous drips of nose-water from his sore and reddened top-lip. He wasn't too bothered. When I came out of the toilet and stepped out of the train doors, I could see him shuffling up the footbridge slope to go see his man.
I made it look like I was just another commuter as the guards eyed me up, knowing I was just another junkie before quickly scrambling up the fence, my coat getting anti-climb paint over the arms and chest before falling heavily into the bushes on the other side and running away from the area and disappearing into the estate.
And there was Hunting, just walking down the road. "I've been waiting for you." "Why?" "Are you scoring?" "Maybe." We both laughed. "Do I have to buy you two again?" "You don't have to, no, but I'd like you too. Just one will do." I don't know why I said that. Rare in this game to turn down free drugs, but Hunting was looking pretty sick again, and I quite liked his company.
"Once we've scored, do you want to do acid?" "No, ha. I do not want to do acid. I think I would rather do absolutely anything other than acid." "That's why you should." He was, of course, right. When I was a teenager, I'd take acid the moment it was put in front of me. I used to sell the stuff. I built my life, well, my personality around acid, psychedelia, all that shit. I can't overstate the effect LSD had on my ability to think critically. Although I didn't know it then, my first trips were like Marxist 'means of production' based affairs. I started understanding commodities, resources, production, and consumption. While my friends had fun running around and listening to music, I was contemplating the division of labor and the mythical noble savage. During one particularly heavy trip, I realized that words and meanings were different things, that the relationship between what a word was and what it meant was delicate to say the least. Semiotics basically, which is quite the revelation while sitting on the toilet in The Railway Tavern boozer, Dartford, on a Friday night. This sense of critical distance changed my life forever. When tripping, I wasn't interested in the "weird things" that seemed to dominate the attention of my friends. I was mesmerized by the familiar, the ordinary, and how things were suddenly neither of those. I made a note, ‘Things are not self-identical,’ which, alongside nostalgia – the pain of wanting to return home (itself somewhat not itself) – has dominated my critical lens ever since. But that was before the heroin, the needles, the utter failure of my situation. The ghosts in my closet that I would once marvel at finding and interrogating on acid were far too real and laden with a heavy, daunting, kind of perpetually traumatic aura now. I wanted nothing to do with them. Which is why Hunting was right. "You should dust off those cobwebs, you should go where you've been avoiding." But there was no way, at thirty-three years old, with no job, house, girlfriend, money, future – nothing, I was going to do acid. It would make me confront my addiction, and addiction is all about not confronting itself. Maybe it's self-identical?
We dropped the acid as soon as we'd both used our heroin, and of course, I regretted it immediately. Those skeletons, their cobwebs, and all that critical distance seemed best left exactly where it was, out of sight, repressed, avoided, ignored. And the idea of those doors of deception being chemically prized open now was terrifying. I told Hunting, and as I felt the terror wash over my face, I could see by his expression we were both dancing to the same tune. We'd talked each other into it, and it talked us both out of it.
"We should buy some shampoo," said Hunting, knowing, like all junkies, that when you need to puke, drinking shampoo is your best bet. Funny, really, all the things I learned on acid: the profound intellectual adventures in my mind; history, culture, art, music, the markets, and how they regulate the value of resources. And on heroin, you learn things like drinking shampoo helps you puke. Since you rarely take a shit when you're using – mainly because you rarely eat – bags you've swallowed could take a good five days to come out. Imagine being at the height of your rattle, spasming about on a sweaty mattress, in absolute physical and emotional agony, and knowing the remedy is right there, sitting in your small intestine. And you can't get anywhere near it. But LSD – that could be getting into our systems right now, and that wasn't quadruple wrapped.
And so, in the middle of the street, we shared a bottle of milk so there was actually something in there to puke up beside a cm square of blotting paper containing some random amount of lysergic acid, and a few glugs of shampoo. Hunting hit it first. He must have swallowed half that bottle of Head & Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo in one gulp before immediately retching wildly, shaking the bottle at me from his outstretched hand as long strands of saliva hung from his mouth. I took a deep breath and looked at the state of Hunting, who had now progressed to putting his fingers down his throat in the style of a bulimic teenage girl, and even though there was nothing coming out, weighing that up against twelve hours tripping, I followed his lead, and after my half of the milk, put the shampoo bottle to my mouth and drank hard and fast, being careful to leave a little bit in my mouth to help really savor the taste. And whoosh! Full retroperistalsis shot through my body, and as it nearly separated my head from my neck, I chucked everything that was inside, outside: Half a pint of milk mixed with half a bottle of shampoo (which even caused Hunting to take a short break from his failing emergency to say, “Looks like elephant spunk”) and there, glistening in the foamy, milky discharge was that damn blotter. Bingo."
“Pick that up and dry it,” said Hunting, still bent over and still desperately trying to puke. “I can probably still sell that.”
The quality of yesterday’s heroin wasn’t great. I woke about eight in the morning, pins and needles all over my body, waves of goosebumps washing over me every few seconds, and sneezing four or five times in a row. I’d slept in my clothes so it was only a question of walking downstairs, avoiding my mother, and getting to Abbey Wood as soon as possible. I had no money, though, but I’d probably be able to find someone in Abbey Wood prepared to do some grafting, some shop-lifting, or something. I didn’t really have time to think about that; I just wanted to be near the source so when/if the money turned up, I could get what I needed.
There were no guards at the station, which I chose to see as a good omen. I’d have taken anything as a good omen, so desperate was I to end this chasm of self that was opening up inside of me. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I stepped out of the train at Abbey Wood, there he was, Hunting.
“Are you scoring?” “I haven’t got any money.” “Shit. Me neither.” “Can you get any?” “No.” We both walked out of the station, no guards there either. Hunting said it was a good omen. “What’s your shoplifting like?” “Bad.” “Me too.” “OK, I have a plan. There’s a café just down the road there, Turkish owners, but like a greasy spoon. There’s a ‘Save The Children’ charity box or some shit on the counter, I was eyeing it up last week. There’s got to be about forty quid in change and a few notes, tens and fives, maybe more.” “That’s the plan, there’s a charity box in a cafe?” said Hunting. “No, we go in and order a cup of tea, drink the tea, then when the time is right, we ask for more milk or something. When he moves, goes out the back or whatever, I grab the box, you open the door, and we run. There’s an alley about ten meters away that has stairs up onto the roofs, but out of sight, there’s a door that takes you into the stairwell of the flats.” He looked confused, unconvinced. “Look, basically, there are about four or five corners at which point anyone chasing us will be forced to make a decision, and if we get away fast enough, he’ll have to get every decision right by chance to find us. It relies on us getting out of the shop in good time, but because he’ll be shocked, he’ll be delayed, and he’ll have to open up the counter and all that.” “OK, I’ll do anything.”
We shuffled and sneezed our way to the café, over the railway bridge and into what is generously known as ‘Abbey Wood Village’: bookmakers, pharmacy, off-license, boozer, minimart, junkies, and a couple of cripples on their mobility vehicles enjoying it all.
We both took a deep breath and walked into the café. A large, bearded, dirty-vested man stood behind the jump, the type of bloke you wouldn’t want to get hold of you if he caught you stealing his charity box, for instance.
"Two cups of tea please mate," "Eh?" "Two cups of tea," "Nothing else?" "Maybe later."
"How was your trip?" "I puked it out in the end." "No way, you managed it?" "Yes, just after you left, I took an empty water bottle to the petrol station, told some bloke filling his car I was homeless and could he give me a few drops of petrol to start my nightlight." "What's a nightlight?" "I don't know. But it took asking a few people, and the bloke inside behind the jump told me to leave the forecourt a few times, thought I was begging, I think. Well, I was begging, but for a bit of petrol, not money. Anyway, this bloke finally says 'OK' and gives me an inch or so in the bottle. I go around the corner and drink it, and wouldn't you know – I puked." "Good work." "Thanks."
Two cups of tea were put in front of us. It seemed like he was about eight foot tall, looming over the pair of us, a face that knew we were up to no good. "Two pound fifty." Oh dear. My heist had fallen at the first hurdle. "Sure," says Hunting, standing up so he could get his hand in his joggers pocket. "Actually," he looks at me, "Are you sure you don't want to eat?" It's genius, and I have something to work with. "Maybe, let me drink this tea first, see if I feel better." Hunting sits down, "We might order some food in a minute, we'll settle up after that, yeah?" Zorba the Greek buys it, he sucks his teeth to let us know he's not entirely convinced but Hunting's performance was remarkable, I think the bloke kind of respected him, even though he was suspicious, and after all what was he going to lose? A few pence worth of milk and a couple of tea-bags? Oh, and his charity box, but he didn't know that yet.
The tea is making us sweat more than we already are and Hunting opens his coat and hoodie to let some cool air inside. The stench is unbearable, he absolutely stinks. I look over at the man who seems to be cleaning the coffee machine. "Ready?" I mouth to Hunting, followed by "Open the door, right?" As quietly as I can, I stand up and casually walk over to the counter, and he still hasn't turned round. I hear Hunting behind me stand up, the nylon of his parka rubbing against itself and sounding like the tide coming in on a shingle beach. "Fuck it." I grab the box on the counter and just go! Hunting holds the door open and I sprint with all the energy I've got towards the door. But there's something wrong. There's something very wrong.
You know that scene on the first Jaws movie where the two fishermen are sitting on the jetty with their bait on a long chain? And the shark takes the bait, causing the chain to unwind rapidly. Chag-chag-chag-chag-chag as the chain drags over the wood of the end of the jetty as the shark zooms off into the ocean, hook in mouth? Well, I'm Jaws, the charity box is the bait, and the chain – well, that's just a chain. The damn box is on a chain and just as I get to the door, holding onto the box for dear life, I'm yanked back, falling awkwardly onto my arse, the box ripped out of my grasp and smashing on the floor, coins everywhere. I try to stand up but am pulled back to the floor by the big strong hand of the big strong man, but I’m not trying to read his mood, or his intentions, that’s made pretty clear by the fucking scimitar he’s holding above his head. 'Please don’t kill him, please don’t kill him,' screams Hunting, standing one foot in the shop and one foot out, ready to abandon me immediately should he in some way become involved in any imminent blood-letting. 'I’m sorry, I’m sorry,' I say, my hands over my head, preparing to die. 'You bastards, why you take this? Why you take?' But it’s weird. He’s not angry as much as…disappointed. 'I need some money, like really badly,' I say, somewhat relieved that he’s lowered the scimitar that now hangs by his side.
A woman comes from out the back, screaming something in a language I don’t recognize, but Zorba shuts her up with a few harsh words. 'Hello love,' says Hunting.
"I’m sorry mate, we’re skint…and well, well, well that’s it.” I look at Hunting who slides down the door frame, resigning himself to something I’d forgotten about. Whatever happens here, we’re still skint, and we’re still getting sicker. And the sicker we get the harder it’s going to be to get the money to score. We don’t realize that we’re probably both moving, thinking, existing at half the speed of the world around us. The ‘heist’ almost certainly happened is slow-motion for Zorba, which is why I’m shivering at his feet and Hunting is wiping tears from his eyes and snot from his nose, only the doorframe keeping his back upright.
"You clean my shop window; I give you ten pounds.” It’s a dream! A gift from the universe. Surely, I didn’t just hear that? “Deal,” says Hunting, pushing himself up and stepping back into the shop. And that was that. He gave us a couple of buckets of soapy water and two squeegees, and we got on with cleaning the glass front of his café. His wife even made us another cup of tea. In fairness, we did a pretty good job too, Hunting clearly getting into it, enjoying the satisfying way the squeegee removed a perfect strip of soapy water behind it and me humming 'when I’m cleaning windows.'
He gave us the money, actually ten pounds each, and seemed confused, a bit saddened I think at how disproportionately grateful we were for what’s really not a life changing amount of money. But it was life-changing for us, the difference between being sick and being normal. That’s the thing with Junk, we’re not chasing a hit, we’re not getting high, we’re chasing feeling normal. What a hassle to get something the rest of the world takes for granted.
Hunting gave him a hug and said something in Spanish, I think, like anything foreign showed some kind of effort. But we didn’t hang around, and soon shuffled off to go and get normal.
(Click HERE to go to part two)