red flowers in bloom

Whatever Happened To The Post Junk Dream?

poppy seeds pod on a plate

A lot has been written about the juicy depths of addiction and the search for enlightenment through pharmaceuticals, or if the doors of perception remain stubbornly closed to the would-be psychonaught, escape will generally suffice. There is no justice in this world, but there is dope: the great distraction.

Somewhere between Burroughs and Hunter S Thompson, Kerouac, Jim Carroll and Leary, and the musical poetic troubadour triumvirate of Dylan, Cohen and Zevon, the boys covered the more voyeuristic elements of the search for something other, for life’s great answers that lie within the human mind and it’s connection with others, or at least the escape from it into the tenacious arms of junk. The tales tends to go dead around there – either literally with our grand heroes of inner space travel checking out early, or else they injure their psyches and bodies so badly that there is no coming back to write and create and relay the news from the stratosphere to the civilians that are gathered around the campfire seeing if there are any answers in it at all.

I figured if I was going to take a look around hell, I might as well pay attention and report back. Why waste a junk dream? Why fritter that hard won opiated morphine experience away, like it was so much nothingness. If this was going to cost me so dearly, I wanted to come away with something. So I started to write.

I was always fond of watching Burroughs explain to a wide eyed interviewer that he no longer did junk, and that heroin was the enemy of the creative process. Burroughs isn’t too proud to admit he had to take the cure in order to report back from no man’s land. The interviewer looks at William as if old Bull Lee is an alien who might metamorphose into a bug at any moment, I almost feel sorry for the poor suit – Burroughs might have sold the Naked Lunch a little too efficiently, at least to the wide eyed, overly earnest square from CBS.

Tokyo was the best chance I had of getting away from the drug scene I was mired in. Every junkie has their post junk dream. The lost boys lay there in their altered quietude, spread upon the altar of nod deep in their spoons, dreaming of white picket fences, a nice wife who bakes brownies and wears the kind of decidedly chiffon-sheer clothes any man would love to see his wife in, carefully coiffured curls and a white sandwich loaf smile while they pamper a couple of clean healthy children in sensible shoes that are throwing a ball to a good dog called something wholesome, like Skip or Pal.

They dream of clean painted magnolia walls, and bathrooms with mixer faucets, and a world in which they are safe to dream, to live, to be mundanely suburbanly comfortable. Androids might dream of electric livestock, but your average junk fiend dreams of a truer comfort apart from the bubble of unreality they are cushioned within. The thing is when sobriety hits hard and fast and the bathroom is full of roaches, discarded U100s, vomit of mixed provenance and smeared with bodily effusions it is much safer to retreat to the safety of being high rather than deal with the shake rattle and roll of kicking within less than idyllic confines.

I had my own post junk dreams. I dreamt of holding my head up in polite company. I dreamt of being a mother. I dreamt of a home that was secure, of bodily autonomy. I dreamt of being my own unit of self-contained unassailed, unconquered safety. Suburban lawns don’t suit me, not hissing or otherwise, and I prefer huge walls to neat fences. I have no need of neighbors or ride on lawnmowers. I dreamt of escaping from myself. I dreamt of forcing myself into being straight: straight sexually, straight culturally, straight chemically, straight as a die, baby. I dreamt of babies, and a man that would be my rock, my disguise, he would hold my ambition for me.

I wanted to be a stepford wife. I wanted to hide behind a man and his success. It is possibly the most depraved and disgusting fantasy I have ever had, the most devoid of merit. I might as well have dreamt of going to the moon, it would have been more anchored in possibility. It was the narrative written on the back of my eyelids that I read every time I copped and retreated. I dreamt not of being normal: I dreamt of being better than normal, I dreamt of being perfectly average, unimpeachable, washed clean of my mistakes. I longed to be protected, to exist in a plane above the gutter I inhabited. I was desperate to be loved, not for the sake of love, but in the cause of the general goal of protection. Protection from judgement, from harm, from men who would flee without paying leaving me raped and without the cash for my next bag. The next bag was everything, it kicked everything down the road a ways. It delayed the inevitable conclusion. It was an all purpose cartoon escape hatch that I could pull out of my little military surplus comms messenger bag, and throw upon the clock that was my mistress. My body became the clock that would shout increasingly louder that it was time, it was time, it was time to get well.

Now, I know from this point in time, that sounds a little strange. Paltry? Stepford wife? Apron on, baking brownies, nursing babies, wafting around wearing dresses in a picture of domestic hyper-normality, white picket fence perfection? I lost some of my womanhood to junk, this reaction was a way to reclaim it or reassert it. Either that or I had entirely lost my mind, which isn’t impossible, I suppose. Whichever, whatever, by the time I left for Tokyo, having taken my own cure, straight and clean, I was ready to live my post junk dream. A husband with a good career and plenty of ambition. Babies. A nice apartment. I wanted to start again, where no one needed to know who I was, where I had been and what I had done. I was ready to throw dinner parties and keep little faces clean and happy. I was ready. I had been through my war, or so I thought, as I thumbed through catalogues of mixer faucets and bathroom tiles – pristine, unsullied, disabused, not shattered or cracked. Aspirational and safe, the opposite of junk.

When I met Charming-San I was ripe for the picking. He presented himself well, he had been to a good American college, spoke English well, and was supremely ambitious. Here was a man I could mold. Here was my project, my permanent escape hatch, and in return I would give him me and my total devotion to the cause of our family’s success. There were no fireworks between us, we were comfortable. I enjoyed his friendship, and tolerated his physical attention. He clearly was obsessed with me, and saw me as marriageable material, not least because I had completely hidden my past. I scrubbed up well. I never got tattoos, I had one piercing that was not so kinky that it was suspicious. After four months or so I got knocked up, and he bought The Apartment of My Dreams, and married me. I had achieved the post junk dream. It was going to be the end of ration cards, and endless lost battles. My troubles would be gone. It was wild dreaming, crazy dreaming. I grew my hair long, and started to wear dresses and skirts, lipstick and nude eyeshadow. I tried to stop suspiciously eyeing up pretty girls, and sadly put away my Rolling Stones shirts and drainpipe jeans. It was time for childish things to be put away. I saw it as growing up, but really it was a growing away from myself; a separation that had been birthed from junk, and could never be successful.

I had other options. I could have gone to Thailand with D____ to get lost in the eternal oasis partying of the international bum and probably ended up in some roach pit jail after being persuaded into smuggling something ilicit. I could have pulled a Joni (Mitchell) and bummed from Greek island to European party town, living off little English teaching jobs and selling mass produced seashell necklaces to gullible tourists and their lobster-skinned stout wives. I could have stayed in Japan and slogged my way up the food chain in the company I was working in. I could have shopped around for a more suitable husband to breed with. I could have taken a deep breath and asked myself what was the absolute worst thing that could happen if I just embraced who I was minus the drugs, and found a nice grrrl to forge a mutually loving life with. All of these things would have been different, but none of them matched the dreamscape of my youth. I went with the perfectly tiled bathroom and it was catastrophic.

No alarm bells rung when Charming-San didn’t consult me about which apartment we would buy, but instead put down the deposit and presented it as a fait accompli. I played my role, did my part and fawned over the kitchen and the bathroom. He had chosen these awful tiles for the kitchen with huge ugly chickens on them. The bathroom was entirely plastic and grey, not what I would have chosen, but it was new and in the plastic wrapping. Hot and cold water mixed and came out of the faucet perfectly warm. Everything was new. The apartment was pristine, but the tiles were wrong. The kitchen cupboards were neither light nor dark, but a mid brown plastique. It was not the dream. I started to feel stifled and a little resentful. I started to feel uneasy, but squashed it down.

One day when he went off to work, and I sat there with my pregnant belly weighing me down, wearing ridiculous lipstick and neatly bobbed hair, after he had pushed and punched me for the second or third time, I finally woke up. All of it was an illusion – the junk and the dreams, the suburban promises of safety and protection, the running away from myself and everything I was or should be. Morphine dreams tell tall tales, they kick your door in instead of opening it wide to let the light in. The dream had driven me insane. What is done, is done, cannot be undone. I was not the Portia I should have been, I was Lady Macbeth with bloodied hands, the massacre of any future I should have had laying dead at my feet. I had killed it. It was gone.


      1. David Redpath

        Life is a journey. Only a fellow
        traveller can fully appreciate
        the miles one has covered on
        the way to freedom of a new
        day. May the road rise with you,
        as the view from the mountain
        top fills you with wonder, Paltry.
        Being way Down Under 🌏
        there’s a hemispherical delay.
        It’s exactly 3:35 am here in
        Australia, but I’m often awake
        for the witching hour πŸŒŒπŸŒƒπŸŒ•

      2. The Paltry Sum

        I used to parrot the same old usual shite about “recovery”, desperate for approval. I used to not challenge the narrative that I have been clean entirely in the period since I became a mother. I find there is a certain dignity in owning it all. Currently clean with a few years under my belt, no plans to dirty up the landscape, but I’m no longer quite so nervous about other’s reactions. You know how it is, the bastards can’t wait to threaten those of us who are a bit different with various kinds of legal and social disasters. Solidarity, Mr. Redpath. Ill see ya on the next plateau, where ever that is. (Aussie? I wont be quite so careful about my fucking language then! πŸ˜ƒ)

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