Control

Two friends reunited at a school reunion head out for a night on the town and end up experiencing a whole new world.

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1. Thursday

I’m pretty sure I’m in hell. In fact I’m almost convinced. If I’m not then hell’s gotta be a damn improvement on this shit. I’m only here because of the free bar, any other reason and I wouldn’t be found dead at a school reunion. I’m surrounded by the people that made my school days a nightmare. For Christ’s sake we’ve only been gone seven years, it’s way to early to throw one of these. But these popular girls and guys, the ones that are doing well, that have a career, they’re the ones whose idea it was. Of course it was, what better way to make you feel better about your own shitty life than seeing how other people are doing. Most of the girls, they’re either pregnant, have kids or a career and a life plan. All the guys, they’re all muscles crammed into three button suits, drinking gin and tonics telling me about their new fitness regime and high paid job. All the while I’m drinking a fosters, stuffing my face with scotch eggs and wondering when the temping agency is going to ring me next. Everyone’s got a job or a ‘full’ life and everyone’s asking, “so what do you do now?” or asking me, “what are you looking to do in the future?” And what do I tell them? That I’m signed up with a temping agency and work when I can? That  I don’t know what I want to do? No. I lie. I tell them I’m a writer. I tell them I’m in a punk rock band. I tell them I’m auditioning for the west end. I tell them all a different lie and they smile and say, “well done” and tell me how well they’re doing in their law firm or local paper. I listen and nod and smile and honest to god don’t give a shit what these people have to say. Like I said, I’m just here for the free bar. And that’s where I am when Greg appears  outta nowhere and orders two shots. He wears a name tag like all the other people here bearing his full name. Me, I refused to wear one. These people saw me for six hours a day, five days a week, for five years. If they cant remember my name, fuck them. But Greg, I recognise him instantly. And I gotta give him credit for pinning his name tag onto the brightest Hawaiian shirt I have ever seen. Greg, slumped on his chair, he looks up at me with these squinty blood shot eyes and asks, “sorry, but have we met?” And I tell him, yea. I tell him, we smoked pot together for two years instead of going to maths. A grin spreads across his face as recognition kicks in and he jumps up from his bar stool and gives me a hug. He’s got his arms wrapped around me neck saying, “it’s good to see you man” asking, “what do you do now?” and I’m already bored. But this guy, this is the who guy supplied me at an extremely discount price throughout years ten and eleven. Shit it feels as if I’ve known Greg for my entire life. And with that in mind, we start drinking. Heavily. Before I know what’s happened nostalgia has taken over our conversation. I guess its easier to talk about the old times, the times you enjoyed and remember fondly, than to try and explain where everything went wrong and went wrong and why your life is such a state. Greg’s saying, “remember that time we blew up Mr Howard’s car?” I tell him I do, I tell him I’m the one that got suspended for it. I say I was running away when this teacher came out of nowhere and caught me with a zippo in my hand. “Shit” Greg’s laughing, “what dya say to that?” I say I insisted to the teacher that I was only smoking a joint. Greg, he’s laughing as he rolls two cigarettes and hands me one. It’s skinny and tightly rolled, but it saves my tobacco. He says, “we smoked so much shit back then.” He’s shaking his head like he regrets it or misses it, I’m not sure. He lights his cigarette and inhales deeply. I remind him we’re indoors.

We’re sat in a dirty little pub just outside of the city centre, we were asked to leave the reunion hours ago after Greg got up on the stage and started to strip. We used to come and drink in here when we were seventeen. Nothings changed. Your feet still stick to the floor at the bar, the toilets still have that odd smell; that strange mix of piss, sweat and skittles. A place frozen in time. We’re in a corner talking about the time we glued Darren Star’s hands to his thighs. Greg pulls a small bag of weed from his pocket and he’s saying, “he was crying like a baby” he’s putting it in the paper and he’s telling me, “after you got suspended for it, it took him three weeks to grow the skin back” he’s adding tobacco as he’s saying, “I’ve never laughed so much so much in my life” he’s looking at me and rolling the joint between his fingers as he says, “I cant believe you used no more nails.” Greg licks the edges of the paper and closes up the joint asking me, “ remember the time we put a firework in the art departments toilet?” I’d like to tell you how much Greg has changed in ten years, but that would be lying. He’s still the same psychotic, drugged up, violent anarchist he was in his adolescence. I don’t think he’ll ever change. He’s an immovable object, a prisoner of his limitations. And in his mind, he has none. We head outside to smoke the joint. Its cold and the air smells like winter even though its not even October yet. Greg lights the joint and takes a toke, he smiles and hands it over to me. He tells me how, “cannabis was used as a truth serum by the OSS during the second world war. In the early 40’s it was the best truth drug they had. It caused the subjects to be ‘loquacious and free in their impartation of information’.” I breath the smoke in, I let it fill my lungs and then exhale. I ask him how he knows this. He takes the joint and takes another toke. He asks me, “did you know until we found America  we didn’t have tobacco?” I didn’t. He tells me how, “the native Americans were farming it long before the Europeans and pilgrims turned up” he says, “like with any other great idea the white race arrived and capitalised on it and created a business out of something the natives saw as a gift from their creator.” I ask him how he knows all this. Greg just smiles a sleepy smile as a man wearing a dirty tracksuit and back pack walks up to us. His hands are by his sides twitching like a hummingbirds wings. He asks us, “you guys wanna buy some speed?” Me, I’m ok with just the weed but Greg buys enough for the both of us. The dealer, whose name is Jay, disappears inside the pub. Greg says how, “amphetamine overdoses are rarely fatal but can lead to different symptoms including, psychosis, chest pain and hypertension.” I ask him again where he gets his information, as usual he ignores me and shares out the speed between the two of us. We follow it down with the rest of the joint.

I think I’m having a heart attack. No, I cant be my left arm isn’t hurting. I ask Greg how he’s feeling but he doesn’t answer. He’s gripping the table and staring across the room at Jay. He’s gripping the table so hard his knuckles are turning white. I tell him I think I might be dying. I say I think I’m having a heart attack. “Amphetamine elevates cardiac output and blood pressure” he looks at me for a second asking, “do you suffer from any heart disease?” I shake my head. He tells me I’ll be fine. Jay gets up from his bar stool and heads to the toilet. Greg, he’s on his feet telling me to follow his lead as he heads after the drug dealer. His fists are clenched tight. The toilet floor is sticky and wet. My head is spinning and my heart is pumping like a train. Jay is at a urinal whistling tunelessly. As soon as the door swings shut behind us, Greg lunges forward and punches the dealer in the closest kidney. Jay drops to the floor and adds his own contribution to the smell. Me, my heart rate goes through the roof. Jay pulls a knife, I jump forward aiming a kick at his hand. I miss spectacularly and hit him in the temple with the heel of my trainer. It does the job though and the knife is dropped. Greg rolls him onto his front and grabs his bag. “You’re fucking dead, dya know that?” Jay says with his face pressed into the tiled floor. He asks us if we know who he works for. I tell him sure, his mum’s pimp. He tries to get up but Greg kicks him back down telling him, “I’m an undercover narcotics officer” saying, “now shut the fuck up and lay still.” Jay, he doesn’t move. He just lays there with his face pressed into piss and asks to see some ID. Greg tells the kid to stop being stupid, he’s saying, “this ain’t a film. I’m undercover. Incognito” telling him, “I’m not gonna hang out with dealers and addicts with my badge in my back pocket am I?” Me, I start going through the bag. This kids got an arsenal of drugs stashed in there;

-Two ounces of weed, -A baggy full to bursting with speed, -Three grams of methadone, -And a cling film wrapped kilo of cocaine.

Jay, he tells us what each thing is in between pleas of, “please just let me go” and threats of, “you’ll regret this.” I’m not listening. I’ve zoned him out to background noise. I’ve found an envelope from the Pontins site in Brean sands, addressed to Jermaine Brewer. And a wad of money, a quick count shows around the £500 mark. I ask Jay what the letters about, whys he going to  Brean Sands. “Thought I’d have a holiday” he says with a smile. “You’re taking a kilo of coke on holiday?” Greg asks, “you’re due to book in tomorrow.” Greg grabs him by the hair and lifts him up from where he’s sat. And Jay’s screaming, saying, “that’s where I’m selling it” telling us, “it’s some dance festival this week” he’s sweating saying, “all they do is drink water and do coke.” I couldn’t do that, my heart would definitely explode. Its bad enough on amphetamine. My head feels like its pulsing and my heart feels like it wants to burst out of my chest. I notice my foot tapping on the tiled floor and I stop it. Greg, he’s shoving all the money, drugs and paperwork back into the bag saying, “we’re confiscating all this as evidence” he swings the pack onto his back saying, “don’t leave town” telling him, “ we’ll inform the police of Brean Sands and alert them to you.” We the toilet and the piss covered drug dealer, backing out slowly. Leaving him sat on the floor saying, “I’ll find you” telling us, “you’ll regret this.” I take a ten pound note from the wad and tell him to get himself a new tracksuit, then we’re gone. Shadowy drug thieves, incognito narcotics officer impersonators and slaves to our own nostalgia. Gone into the Plymouth night to make the most of a bag of free drugs and cash.

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