One day, one of my colleagues in the pharmacy brought up the perceived quandary of whether or not to wish a person accessing the needle exchange service a nice day after giving them their works. I suppose the implication was that either it’s impossible to have a nice day if you’re injecting heroin or that it’s not something we would perceive to be “nice” and so, wishing them a nice day would be disingenuous.
I came to my own conclusion, believing that everyone harbours some sort of addiction, that it wasn’t for me to decide how someone chooses to spend their day or what they find enjoyable. Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” is a song allegedly about using heroin and he depicts it in a very moving and arguably romantic way:
“Oh, it’s such a perfect day,
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hangin’ on”
How many of us see the sun shining and immediately long for a can in the park with friends? And a joint? Anyway.
The guy I have a soft spot for, if not full-blown attraction to, accessed the needle exchange service again today. I was happy because I looked pretty nice – my hair was straightened and tied half up/half down like Ariana. When I bent down to grab the clean needles and my hair swished to one side, I wondered silently if he was watching. There is a perspex window that separates you from the service user and the laptop where the transactions are documented is to the right of the window, so you’re usually side-on to whoever you’re serving. But when he started opening up to me, I turned to face him.
“Have a nice day,” I enthused as he stuffed the works into his bag.
“Yeah,” he chuckled softly. “I will – what I remember of it(!)” His reply took me aback, in equal parts due to his candour and because it was a reality check for me; he was planning to enter complete oblivion.
“You know, I was in jail for 8 months.”
“Oh,” I murmured, realising that I hadn’t actually seen him in a while. He used to get the exchange all the time.
“Yeah, I was clean! I was great, I put on three stone – ” I glanced at his arms, noticing he was nowhere near as gaunt-looking as he used to be – he looked healthy. “And now…” he continued, gesturing to the fact that he was here.
My expression didn’t change, I just listened, watching his face. He spoke about how different prison was and how he was sort of confused as to why he’d ended up back on it. I let him talk then said tentatively: “Maybe it’s a routine thing?”
His face lit up: “Yeah! I think so. You know, I think there’s a lot more that goes on with emotions,” he said of addiction, winking at me and tapping his head.
That was a profound moment.
“Yeah,” I agreed, looking him in the eyes and nodding.
It was as if time stood still in that second. God-consciousness flowing between the two of us, wisdom pouring out of him like a prophet; or a would-be monk. Regardless, in that moment he was my teacher. We went on to talk about the weather briefly – today was blistering sunshine, 22°c, the hottest day of the year so far. When I asked him if he’d been enjoying the sunshine, silently registering the lovely golden tan on his skin, he looked pensive.
“You know, just being outside…” he began, “after being inside for 8 months, the sun doesn’t really matter – just being outside is amazing.” He looked thoughtful again as I smiled at him.
“I can imagine.” I exclaimed – then corrected myself: “Well, I guess I can’t imagine, but… I’m sure it’s amazing.”
It’s quite an overwhelming feeling when someone who intrigues and attracts you in equal parts speaks their truth and makes you privy to their vulnerability. It truly felt like an honour to have had this interaction with him today.
I told him to enjoy the rest of his day and he responded earnestly: “You too.” He always was earnest.
Seeing him again lifted my spirits and when I left work to walk home, I still felt very upbeat. The sun was still shining and I was listening to my favourite Afrobeat/UK scene playlist from RONIEBOND.
There are themes of gratitude, heartbreak, empowerment and joy in that playlist and this song in particular felt so fitting for what the guy in the pharmacy had been talking about and also what’s been happening in my life at the moment. There’s something about listening to Afrobeat* in the sunshine that is so unbelievably uplifting.
I took the long walk home through a tree-lined cycle path I’d never walked before and marvelled at the nature that surrounded me and the feeling of the warm air and sun on my skin. Every now and then, I feel so joyful that it makes me stop and look at nature as if I’ve never seen it before. Today was one of those times.
Surges of joy often come as a surprise. I never want to feel entitled to it and lately I’ve started to acknowledge that a lot of my life is governed by trauma responses – the freeze response in particular providing an explanation for why I so often feel depleted and dissociative.
At least this means that when I do get those surges of joy, as I did today, I feel truly grateful. And that when I experience meaningful connections and exchanges with people, I really appreciate it. I’ve just recently experienced the abrupt severing of a strong attachment and I’m still picking up the pieces. When you’re taking things one day at a time, one happy day means the absolute world.
Thanks for reading,
– SMUT. ❤ xxx
*This song doesn’t perhaps fit under the general umbrella of Afrobeat and is maybe more “reggae” but the intricacies of afrocentric music are something I’m in no way an expert on. On the RONIEBOND website, they describe their playlist as: “The RONIEBOND evolving playlist is where all the best music lives – ranging from UK rap to afrobeats and beyond..”
Here you can find an interview with Juls, the producer of the above song, which goes into more depth about the type of music he creates: https://notion.online/juls/