‘I need to talk about cocaine,’ I said.
It was Saturday morning. I was lay out on my sofa, friend at my feet in a similarly disheveled ball, nursing the kind of migraine that only the cheapest of red wine can give hospice to.
‘You need to talk about cocaine?’
‘Yes.’ I rubbed my temples. I said, ‘Last night I saw people do coke for the first time ever, and it made me want to cry.’
‘It made you want to cry?’
‘I feel really weird about it.’
‘Well, why do you feel weird about it?’
‘I don’t know. That’s why I need to talk about it.’
‘What do you want to say?’
‘I. DON’T. KNOW.’
We sat in more silence for a while. Eventually I said, ‘Isn’t it bad people who do coke?’
My friend laughed. ‘You’re cleverer than that. You’ve been in London six months now. Londoners do coke.’
‘But, I’m like, street-wise. I know stuff, about the world and shit. I’m cool. I’M REALLY FUCKING COOL. And I knew it happened. But it happened outside of my world; other people did it.’ I gesticulated with my right hand and then winced at the sudden movement. ‘Then people I know did it, right there, in front of me, and I realised everyone does it. But I didn’t know everyone did it, you know? Does everyone do it? Who does it? Why is this the first time we’re having this conversation? I feel like my world has shifted. OHMYGOD DO YOU DO IT?’
I was genuinely upset. I think, on less hungover reflection, that it’s because “cocaine” was, until that weekend, an abstract concept that had abstract morals. Coke happened to other people’s nostrils. I didn’t have to think about it. But then, when people you know do it, friends, and you’re in their home and it’s obviously habit and you like them but thought you didn’t like drugs, it’s confusing. Bad people do drugs, but you’re my mates, and I’m not friends with bad people, so coke must be okay?
That can’t be right.
We played a game. I named people we knew and sofa-buddy confirmed or denied their drug use. No, she doesn’t. Yeah- she did it last night. Yeah, she does, but her boyfriend doesn’t. Doesn’t agree with him. Yeah, he does, and his boyfriend. I think they’re trying to do less of it now though. No. She doesn’t. She doesn’t even take pills for a headache.
Suddenly a million things fell into place. The way certain groups of friends always leave a party for half an hour at one a.m. and come back with more energy than when they left. How he slipped money to her before we left the restaurant and she disappeared for a bit. Unfinished sentences, half the story from a night out, whispers in corners. Drugs. No big deal and everything, all at the same time.
When I was in high school, I stood on at our regular hang-out spot near the centre of twon, wearing a black pleather jacket and my new Rimmel frosted lipstick. My friend Jenny stormed up to me outside of the 7/11 and said, ‘YOU? ARE YOU DOING IT TOO?’
She’d just found out that all our girl friends had been practicing French kissing on each other in the toilets at school – you know. Just to see what it was like to kiss a girl. But she was incensed by it. Furious. Couldn’t believe we’d be so ridiculous – or, more to the point, why.
We’d never told Jenny where we kept nipping off to at break, because we all kind of agreed she wouldn’t like it. That she’d be a bit… judge-y.
The penny cracked in two as it finally dropped: I’m Jenny. I’M TOO JUDGE-Y FOR DRUGS AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT.
My friend told me that in his last job Friday beers were lined up next to grams of powder, an either/or/and sort of scenario. He said for a big night out, a party, New Year’s, you get some in. Maybe some MDMA.
What’s MDMA, I asked.
HOW IS IT POSSIBLE THAT YOU ARE THIS NAIVE, he replied.
How is it possible that I’m this naive? I’ve spent twenty-eight years making people believe I’ve had this alternative, bohemian, crazy life, and I don’t even know how to roll a joint. Drugs have literally never crossed my path. I’M THEATRE PEOPLE. WE BE CRAZY ENOUGH.
I don’t know what to think, really, apart from the fact that I know even though it’s something “everybody” is doing, apparently, I still won’t be. But if friends I otherwise like are, then what I want to know is can I still act like it’s fine by me? Even if I’m not sure it is? Because fucking drugs, man. They’re everywhere.