My First Pill is a series where writers tell the story of the first time they, well, took a pill. Previous entries in the series have seen Clive Martin, Joe Bish, John Doran and John Calvert wax lyrical about little white pills. This time round, it's the turn of Esqueezy, DJ and editor of Don't Watch That.
I didn't start drinking until I was eighteen. My high school was next to a park and I used to skive off to go skateboarding and pull bottle bongs in this weird tunnel full of tin foil. But I never did pills. I thought pills were for lads with bad teeth in white tracksuits, striped McKenzie sweaters, short back and sides and a seedy gold hoop earring. Anyway, marijuana was green and somebody daubed FREE THE WEED in spray paint over every inch of railway arch in my hometown so it seemed acceptable.
When I moved to Manchester to study all my friends turned into free-hug dealing emos. I'd been converted to dance music since I'd heard "Bullet in the Gun" by Planet Perfecto while riding the waves at the Burnley leisure centre. My desire to experience the realm of toxic substances was coming down on me like a twenty stone lad falling off a chewed up bodyboard.
I spoke to my best friend Zoe like you might speak to Frank. Neither of us had ever done Class A's but she was seeing an older guy who was coming over for the weekend, conveniently on the same date as a warehouse party we were all really excited about. All I can remember is pre-drinking whilst he droned on about how the 'effects can last for days, months, even years,' and that we'd never think in the same way again.
We made our way to the party in Salford - shaky knee territory and home to Coronation Street (hint). Said drug expert in our gang had secretly taken ketamine and he fell over a fire extinguisher seconds after we got in the warehouse. Legless and out of control, Zoe decided to walk him home and got lost. Drugless and lonely, it should have been my night over, but lo and behold a guy who fancied my mate took pity on me. He gave me half a pill and a bottle of Hoegaaden. Was this it? Was I taking a mind-altering drug? Would I ever be the same again?
The guy I was with bumbled on about how my mate didn't fancy him for ages and I must have got bored because I wandered off on my own. A strange guy with a husky high-pitched voice dressed all in black somehow knew my name and he started shouting at me. I was fucking terrified. He said he had seen me on MySpace. He also fancied my mate, which was a regular thing. He later became my housemate and we saw a whole lot of drug-addled shit together, but that's another story. I remember this weird rushing feeling, just chatting to who ever the fuck I wanted to. I actually make a shit ton of friends that night that somehow have stuck with me up to this day but that's soppy shit and I don't engage with that trash.
There was a guy I fancied at the party too, who had been my gateway into this weird party scene. I saw him across the dancefloor getting off with a girl who looked like Brian May. I remember being so out of it I didn't even care. He mustn't have been the King Freddie to Brian's Queen as he starting lurking as soon the party started to die, so we headed off with eager stragglers for my first ever 'after party'. We all walked through Salford and I made some grandiose comment about breaking into Granada Studios and getting on the breakfast news for skating a rail. It was all chemical bravado but they were bang on it like raging bulls to a red flag. Next thing I know we're down of the side of the redundant Studios Tour, which was the coolest thing ever as a child but in reality, a destination for wind bitten Northern families who couldn't afford DisneyWorld so had to put up with a dummy Downing Street and the wooden facades of the Coronation Street set. A boarded up turnstile was the best way in via a casual climb over some gnarled metal spikes atop a fence (which were actually made of plastic).
I remember hanging about on a curb, wondering what the fuck was going on so I shimmied up the fence. The guy I fancied was on top of his mate's shoulders. He was dressed as Robert De Niro. Right outside the Rovers Return Inn. He had the R in his hands. Then next thing I know, we're all back outside again with this gold bounty in our hands.
We took it back to my flat and I remember talking for fifteen minutes about painted backdrops on the set that looked real, which was something our blurred minds just couldn't process. There were more drugs and for reasons unknown, I double dropped. All I could hear was the sound of piss on concrete and lads whooping at tre-flip down twenty sets whilst the Weatherfield 'R' gave me side eye across the room.
They hit the road and left me in a daze. I closed my eyes for a bit and opened them. I was in a room full of smoke. MY STRAIGHTENERS. For a second I was damned to burning in my own star-crossed hell of vanity and drug-induced insanity. I blinked and everything was back to normal. I felt like I'd been sleeping for a million years, except only five minutes had passed and I wasn't even asleep. Flatmates were buzzing around in the corridor outside my door, there were people chatting outside the launderette and a distant thud of D&B. It was business as usual all around me but I felt like I was tobogganing down moonbeams with Deirdre Barlow. Rest In peace.
When I returned to reality I put my photo of the lads on MySpace and wrote a little blog about it. One of the guys friends sent it to The Sun and I remember going to the shop when it the Wednesday after and picking up a copy. There was my photo on page fourteen, with the headline 'R's Bandits'. Embarrassed about how easy it was to infiltrate the set, ITV tried to say we were hoaxers but the image showed a much less weathered replacement 'R'. My mum framed the clipping and in her eyes it's the most interesting thing I've ever done. She's always telling her friends about it.
The photo is the only thing that documents it these days, along with an excitable thread in the Digital Spy forum written by a bunch of people who think soaps are real. My mum probably has the clipping in the attic somewhere but I couldn't exactly tell her I needed it for a public discussion about my drug habits. She just wouldn't understand. She did speed once and didn't enjoy it. Which was something she casually told me once as she did the breaststroke around a swimming pool in Spain.
What's more, the naïve drug expert was right. I still go into shops and stare at the shelves for 15 minutes, not knowing what I came in for in the first place. Maybe I've never thought the same way since.