During the winter, this town is less a place, more of a narcotic. In the summer, life feels volatile and sped up, but in the winter abstract paranoia takes over and some days I can barely move. Yesterday I went down to the beach and scratched expletives in the sand with a rusty length of razor wire. The shoreline was littered with the flotsam and jetsam of dead souls. I’m not dead yet, but some days it sure feels like it.
My girlfriend left me with a collapsed lung and a suitcase full of used banknotes. You could say we drifted apart; maybe she just forgot to drift back in. I didn’t see it coming, but then again, I never do. At first I enjoyed my aloneness: Smokey Robinson on the turntable, paperback delinquency, chain-smoking and lung-ache. Then I got bored. Bored and unstable. I had nothing much to do and plenty of time to brood. I missed her. Her petrol-station perfume. Her black hilarity. Her lipstick, her Temazepam binges. Even her depravity—casually smothered with a guise of innocence. I missed it all, and then some.
I tried not to think about the suitcase of money, or where it came from. I spent my days prowling the sinuous back-streets looking for similarly dishevelled drinking buddies. Stumbling through other people’s last resorts. Most days I’d catch up with disgraced cabaret pub-hack Rick Ghastly. If he wasn’t in the Cavendish, he’d be in the Dirty Lemon, trading war stories with the recent amputees. Rick was always good for a few pints of deranged surrealism. Considering how much he enjoys talking about himself, he never once elaborated on why his career imploded. People mention an incident at the Rawhide club involving a midget hooker, but frankly I have my doubts.
One day last week, Rick disappeared in a haze of Marlboro smoke, like some kind of cut-price illusionist. Titch Mitchum told me that the Feds were breathing down his neck after Rick was implicated in a knife-party that left a Tesco security guard holding his guts in with both hands. Squeeze Titch hard enough and some bullshit or other will ooze out. Running out of options, I started spending time in one of the rat-infested local cinemas, sulking in the darkness of the matinee like a dishevelled noir refugee. When the sun sank I’d stagger home and count the money in the suitcase. All sixteen thousand pounds of it. When I was drunk enough to sleep I’d lie next to the dent in the bed and drift into oblivion. Living out this deranged psychodrama was killing me, one night at a time.