It was 1995 and I was in love with with a fine art graduate called Alice. All her previous boyfriends ended up in the nuthouse, or dead. She sent me a red velvet purse in the post containing a pair of her pants stained with menstrual blood. It was tied up with red ribbon and a vicious looking fishhook on the end. Then she didn’t return my calls for three weeks. When I finally got through she dumped me.

I’d just turned 27, and was doing a lot of speed. I was living alone in a nasty 3-bedroom council flat in Peckham. The skinny goth girl and the fat gay art student had moved out months ago. It was before they invented mobile phones, or computers. It was a two mile bus journey to find a pay phone that hadn’t been raped. When I gazed down at the adventure playground at night the swings turned into gallows.

I’d been sacked from the market research company the year before for making fun of my supervisors enormous earrings. The woman that fired me was my childhood sweetheart, a volatile girl who I’d been desperately in love with when I was 15. 11 years previously, we’d had a row at the end of term and she cut her wrists, then we split up. I didn’t see her for eleven years until she appeared clutching a clipboard at the induction session for Personal Selection. The succeeding decade had turned her into a psychopath. She gave me a lecture on corporate protocol and my p45 without a trace of pity or humour…

After a year of living on cheese I bit the bullet and became a drug dealer. Every other Thursday, after getting my Giro check, I’d tube it to the West End and meet Hippy Tony in Bond Street.

Hippy Tony had been taking speed and acid together every day for thirty years. He had little rubber monsters sewn into his grey dreadlocks, and exactly three teeth. He’d meet me at noon in Bond Street In the middle of a swarm of tourists, and hand over a quarter ounce of base speed right under the C.C.T.V. On Christmas Eve he wrapped it in tinsel and wore an Elf costume.

Tony had a major bust in 1995. He defended himself in crown court, and was so amusing the jury let him off.

‘On Thursday morning Orlando, straight after breakfast, I do three tabs of acid and a gram of whizz. Then that’s me for the next four days. I don’t eat or sleep, because my physical body no longer exists as such. I’m operating on the astral plane. Then on the fifth day, I DIE.’

I saw him again a decade later at the funeral of my friend Marcus, a fellow client of Tony’s who’d committed suicide after a particularly bad comedown. Tony looked exactly the same. His three neolithic toothpegs gleamed in the darkness as he offered me a bomb of speed. I politely declined.

‘I’ve stopped, Tone’ I said

‘What you wanna do that for?’ he protested, a look of concern on his face. ‘Ooh no. You should never stop. It’s bad for you.’ He nodded towards the coffin crouching on its runners, inside which Marcus was getting ready to slide into the flames. It was true. Marcus only decided to hang himself after the speed ran out.

Marooned as I was on Peckham Park Road, amphetamine sulphate, in the form of Hippy Tony, was a lifeline. For the first time in three years I was financially independent, physically active and socially acceptable. I was ‘that weird skinny bloke who sells speed in the Albert’. I had an identity, a function, and for the first and only time in my life, something useful to contribute to society.

I loved being a speed dealer. As a narcotic it was simple and effective and the economics were easy to understand. You got an ounce of base off Tony for eighty, mixed it with glucose powder, sold it for 240, and had a fantastic weekend. You might feel a little bit completely suicidal by Tuesday, but you could afford to eat, even if the act of mastication itself was problematic. And by Thursday your crystals had been recharged and you were ready to seek out strange new worlds, new civilisations.

I took pride in my job. I always got pure base, and I always cut it one in three. To make it any stronger would have been irresponsible; base is so strong you get high just touching it. By the time I’d finished making the wraps, I’d be rushing like a bastard.

Everyone who took my product knew where it came from, my wraps were the most beautiful. I used pictures from Tattoo Magazines. ‘Skin Deep’ or ‘Body Art’. The photos were just the right size, and the fantastic designs combined with the texture of human skin to make each wrap a tiny work of art; you might get a lovely little green skull, or a Japanese mermaid, with a single word. ‘Bitch’ or ‘forever’. I’d gaze down at my precious jewels, 24 tiny letters to God, and try to read the future in them.

And I never got the old canard that a dealer never knows who his real friends are. All I knew was suddenly everyone was happy to see me. They didn’t look down their noses at me like they had at University, nor did the spit at me in the street like they’d done in Peckham. On the contrary, they kept handing me ten pound notes. Real friends or sham friends, at least they weren’t poo friends. At least they weren’t enemies.

But my best friend, during this time, was speed itself. It plugged a hole. In my natural state I was depressive, self- critical and lazy. Speed silenced the Victorian voice of my super-ego, giving me licence to formulate plans and the energy to execute them. It got me out of bed, out of Peckham and ultimately into the Alabama 3: I did my my briskest trade at A3 parties, and when they got signed and had to get a proper band together in a hurry, they remembered my face, and my gear. Of course, there was a price to be paid, not least the nagging toothache that plagues me as I write this…

Just as my drug-taking career was taking off, that of another depressive eyeliner-bothering 27-year old had reached a definitive conclusion. On the 8th of April 1994 Kurt Cobain’s body was found in the greenhouse above his garage. Suicide was indicated by a gunshot wound to the head, a note and the fact that he had a large amount of drugs in his system. It was rumoured that his widow, Courtney Love, had a hand in his death. The opinionated punk diva made few friends in Cobain’s circle and many believed her influence to be malign. Some said she was a witch. The fact that I myself fell in love with Courtney at this time may be testament to her necrotic powers of seduction, and to the fact that I had a large amount of drugs in my system.

Live through this, by CL’s band Hole was released , in a stroke of marketing genius, exactly a week after Cobain’s death, and during the summer of 94, was welded to my CD player. ‘Garbadge Man’ from their first album, ‘Pretty on the Inside’ had been the anthem for my inglorious summer.

Time flies when you’re falling down
I spread my Rot all over this town
And everyone of you looks the same

‘Gutless’ was to be the soundtrack to the winter of my discontent:

Step and fetch, grease my hips
I don’t even have to pause
I Don’t really Miss God
But I sure miss Santa Claus

I’d never been much into Nirvana. I thought they were a good thing, in that they made it ok again to wear eye-liner and have holes in your trousers, but Kurt’s introverted nihilism was too close for comfort. Courtney was filthy like me, but with an extroverted aggression. She was Smart, Slutty, Funny and Pissed Off, like the girls I liked. Like me, she was a bit of a pariah and Hole was the sweet sound of revenge. To me she was a Goddess.

Ancient Europe had no gods. The Great Goddess was regarded as immortal, changeless, and omnipotent; and the concept of fatherhood had not been introduced into religious thought. She took lovers, but for pleasure, not to provide her children with a father…[]The tribal nymph, it seems, chose an annual lover from her entourage of young men, a king to be sacrificed when the year ended; making him a symbol of fertility, rather than the object of her erotic pleasure. His sprinkled blood served to fructify trees, crops and flocks, and his flesh was torn and eaten raw by the queen’s fellow nymphs – priestesses wearing masks of bitches, mares and sows…Next, in amendment to this practice, the king died as soon as the power of the sun, with which he was identified, began to decline in the summer; and another young man, his twin, or supposed twin.. then became the queen’s lover, to be duly sacrificed at midwinter and, as a reward, reincarnated in an oracular serpent. These consorts acquired executive power only when permitted to deputise for the queen by wearing her magic robes.
Robert Graves – Introduction to Greek Myths, Vol.2

© Orlando Harrison 2014