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 THUMP contributor Francisco Garcia
It pissed down all though the summer of 2012.
The barman's pouring the same rum and coke, but I'm looking back at him with hysterical eyes. The fluorescent Jack Daniels promotion on the wall is going to fall off. I catch a glimpse of my face in the mirror behind the bar. It's my face alright. Only, some sly cunt's gone and animated it with satanic electricity.
The punters to my back and sides are getting restive, hissing about the nick ae this cunt, the state ae this cunt, the fucking jaw on this cunt. Fuck it, let them wait. I'm too preoccupied trying to dig a tenner out of my inside pocket with raw chipolata fingers to bother about these pricks. The barman's looking at me hard now through thin, pursed lips, with his hands outstretched in contemptuous expectation. Seconds drip by and the hissing punters are sounding like an expensive coffee machine, all frothing rancour and desperate Carlsberg lust. Finally, I wheedle the crushed note out of my pocket and the barman looks at me with a 'death to you and your loved ones' face. I want to apologise—sincerely—but it's getting jumbled up with the wish to—sincerely—thank the guy. But that's getting jumbled up with trying to—sincerely—tell him to keep the change. But that's getting jumbled up with trying to—sincerely—tell him what a great job he's doing because—seriously mate—you're really understaffed for a Saturday. But that's getting jumbled up with trying to—really sincerely—warn him about the precarious Jack Daniels sign because—seriously mate—if that topples it'll be a fucking nightmare to clean up. I sincerely want to do all these things, but, fuck me, yeah Jamie I'm feeling it, did you say you had that half going spare?
All day, every day, horizontal sheets of mockingly humid rain pelted down with grimly robotic efficiency. After the first few weeks, most people stopped complaining and either started pining for long anticipated package holidays to Magaluf or Zante, or simply resigned themselves to the slow, sloppy death of their summer dreams May limped soggily into June, and June had limped soggily into July and the sun didn't even bother to poke it's head out of the net curtains. On weeknights the streets were empty, devoid of all but the hardiest of street walking drinkers or the occasional damp cluster of smokers, cloistered under sharply incompetent pub gazebos. It was the sort of weather that extinguishes budding romances and puts an overdue mercy bullet in the head of stale, rancorous relationships. It was the sort of weather that turns five pint hangovers into existential crises with attendant thoughts of emigration to New Zealand. It was weather to watch mid-afternoon Come Dine With Me marathons to. Weather to pity-wank to. It was weather that makes you look at your reflection when your brushing your teeth and think 'shit, that peeling spud perched on a neck is mine, isn't it?'. It was weather that makes you yearn for a point of departure and makes you a bit horny for novelty. It seemed like the perfect weather for my first pill.
It was weather to watch mid-afternoon Come Dine With Me marathons to. Weather to pity-wank to.
It was the most Scottish of Scottish summers. It seemed the perfect book-end to a university year of almost unrelieved boredom, full of petty flatmate disputes, tepid literature courses stuffed with disinterested Psychology students on extra credit binges and doggedly underpinned by a mutually spiteful, stale-at-the-armpits, long distance relationship. Like clockwork, three nights a week, I'd head out with a couple of my equally cynical, equally dour mates and go to the usual array of Dundee student bars to drink flat drinks we hated, in company we claimed we couldn't stand and leave early to silently queue for our ritual chips and cheese we said we didn't want. That was it: an entire year of youth. Life is too short, but that year was too long.
As soon as the summer term ended most folk promptly fucked off back to their 'home' lives, back to mates, parents and partners in whichever corner of the burbs they'd sprung from. I stayed in the Dundee rain, lonesome, skint and wearing my nominal independence like a child's birthday badge. I took a job unloading the 5am van at M&S, working alongside embittered 50 fags a day M&S lifers who made didn't try and hide their disdain for the twatty middle-class 19 year old part-timer. I'd go home, drink my flatmates leftover spirits, read angsty, badly translated poetry and stare stupidly out at the rain, nursing pathetic self-pitying thoughts. It was actually quite a lot of fun.
Fun became boredom which became ennui whichbecame low-level-madness. A group of mates had just moved down to Glasgow and were pinging me enthusiastic weekly updates charting a brave new world of consciousness expanding nights out. They were partying with a motley collection of freaks, aloof artist types, A-grade pro-madheads and terrified looking exchange students. As the rain poured down on Sunday afternoons I'd sit scrolling through every single picture of them on Facebook. There I was, sitting in my pants by the light of one naked bulb while these pricks were out forging themselves new identities. They had a bloke called Kasual Kev that delivered to the house in a Honda Civic, attended by his wife, who had the build and demeanour of five bouncers rolled into a single human form. They were fucking killing it, I thought. Why were they having these weekly epiphanies and I wasn't? The answer was simple: they had the pills and I didn't.
Fun became boredom which became into ennui which became low-level-madness.
So I started travelling down to Glasgow at weekends for nights out with my seemingly liberated friends. On those first few visits I shat out of taking anything remotely related to drugs due to twin-peaked anxieties. The first was that my girlfriend would find out what I'd done. The second was that I'd keel over and die in the Sub Club smoking area. Those nights were shit. I sat sourly in corners sipping flat Red Stripe while everyone else swanned around making effortless, intense social connections. The most active I'd get would be rolling rollies for mate's too out of it to have fully functioning motor skills.
The tipping point was a 20th birthday in early July. By the time I arrived in Glasgow—straight off an eight hour shift where I'd dropped six boxes of cheese and onion sandwiches on my foot—my gut was already healthily marinated in lukewarm canned lager. By early evening we were on to the blood red MD 20/20, and by the time Kasual Kev texted to tout his Blue Defcon deal, I'd long cast off my inhibitions. It had taken half a vat of sandwiches crushing my foot to finally ready me to buzz like a second-hand fridge-freezer. I gagged down the lurid slab with a swig of warm Buckfast. Before we headed into the dark heart of a Glaswegian Saturday night I'd composed my last will and testament. It'd stopped raining for the first time in months,
The taxi ride into town was silent. Sub Club was already at capacity so the driver dropped us off at Sauchihall Street —the ninth circle of the Glasgow inferno. The decision makers in the group were already three dangling jaws to the breeze. We alighted on Club 520, a multi-chambered top 40 cavern on the Charing Cross end of the street. It closed a few years ago. No one mourned it.
By the time Kasual Kev texted to tout his Blue Defcon deal, I'd long cast off my inhibitions.
20 minutes pass and without warning, a few tremors emerge from the depths of my bowles. The three eccie vets had hinted that this might happen. I just assumed it was just what occurred after a day of Buckie and Stella. I half-squatted over the loo—a lavatory that made Trainspotting look like a Dior advert—finished up, fumbled for my belt and started to feel something. Oh fuck, am I starting to feel something!
I catch my mate Jamie loitering pie-eyed in the queue at the bar just as "I Am the Resurrection" comes on. I'd always hated that song, hadn't I? Fuck, hadn't I? How had I? This is such a tune. This is an anthem. This is my anthem. This song is about me. Oh shit, oh no, no, this song is about tonight!
I've just handed the barman my last tenner. It's hot in there. Too hot. Too loud. I want to tell everyone how much they mean to me. I look at my phone. 45 minutes in the smoking area have passed in a haze of I Miss Yous and We'll Always Be Mates. Let's Start a Bands and I'll Move Ins and Have You Got That Spare Half Knocking Abouts.
I half-squatted over the loo—a lavatory that made Trainspotting look like a Dior advert—finished up, fumbled for my belt and started to feel something.
Outside I get chatting to this Gio-Goi clad bloke and his Mrs and he's telling me how he works at the big Cineworld on Renfew Street and I've never heard anything so amazing in my life. That is literally the dream job. I say "You must see a lot of films?" and he says "yeah, a lot of films." This guy is sound as fuck.
Now it's 5am and we're back at Jamie's flat. Some of the voltage around my eyes has soothed but we've run out of fags and the light seeping in though the blinds is starting to make Matt look like a clown full of malicious intent. Everyone's looking hungrily at the ashtray overspilling with 3/4 smoked rollies and some pricks gone and put on The Stone Roses.
Before the hex descends in earnest a few of us head out onto Glasgow Green to watch the sun arch its way up, but months of incessant rain has transfigured it into trainer obliterating bog. There's a few syrupy drops of Bucky left, but I don't feel up to it and have to look away as it's passed around to dribble down chin after chin.
I'm back by myself in my Dundee living room. It's raining again.