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Sanctuary

October 01 2022
© Mark McGowan © Mark McGowan

A story from the streets, where the winds are harsh and reality bites in the struggle with addiction and isolation. Names in this story have been changed. By Chris Bird

Heroin looms over an addict like a psychotically single-minded ghost. For street users this problematic reality distorts the daily grind into a primary yearning and compulsion. To get gear usually means hanging around stations or street corners. On the way to scoring there is a focused sense of expectation that borders on exultation or obsession.

Hurrying gaunt figures with cheap mobiles and track-suits hunt the source of utopia. It may be a fleeting recognition of hope and fulfilment because smack out-manoeuvers any alternative goals or aims. Eating, keeping clean physically and warm are way, way down the list of aims day-to-day.

City parks, backstreets and alleys by stations are the typical place to get your gear. Small quantities are traded for crumpled notes. Seedy in one sense, it has an ethereal brilliance too once you feel the hit. I smoked heroin off silver paper foil, so l needed a place out of the King's Cross breeze.

That bloody biting wind whips around London on grey days so you can't light a fag easily let alone chase gear. Glasgow is reputedly even worse. Chill winds swarm around Glasgow l hear, forcing junkies to hide away somewhere concealed.

Street junkies need a sheltered spot preferably hidden from CCTV or police patrols. I carried heroin for several people. It would have been seriously incriminating if l had been nicked but oddly l never was.

My friend Jon was often stopped and searched. He radiated criminality in his gestures, movements and appearance. He claimed he got police hassle because he was Scottish. Does a broad Glasgow accent cut the rarefied London air? I doubt it. Jon was good at looking tough. He had a ruthless air but he seemed heroically resilient to me.

I felt lonely, confused and anxious much of the time. I yearned to fit in. I yearned to belong. So l took the risk of buying smack in King's Cross for Jon and his mate Sam. I didn't get pulled. I delivered.

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