I first heard of Spice while I was out at some nightclub or other. I’d have a better memory of exactly where if I hadn’t been shitfaced three nights a week for six years. There’s a point at which every night becomes a blur of lights and thumping bass tones. The cloying press of bodies sweating out the myriad toxins they’d drunk, snorted, smoked or otherwise imbibed didn’t change. The faces of the hookups vanished with the hangovers the next day. I couldn’t rightly remember where exactly it was, I just knew I’d had enough of paying too much for watered down drinks and I needed a hit.
One of the guys I was out with gave me ‘the look’ from across the room, and I knew he had something. I extricated myself from the girl I was dancing with and walked towards him. I’d already dropped a bunch of pills; it probably looked like I was having an epileptic fit in forward motion, but it felt smooth at the time. The place had an outdoor smoking area where you could sneak a joint if you were careful, or chat up whoever you’d been dancing with. I pulled out a cigarette and dangled it loosely from my mouth as I stumbled through the press of bodies, feeling for the zippo in my jeans. The security guard at the back door eyed me as I tried to walk past nonchalantly. I pulled out the lighter and flicked it a few times as I walked toward my friends. They were standing up; the seating had been taken long ago by the chain-smokers. It was that kind of a place. They were standing underneath a worn umbrella that bore the label of some middle-market beer.
Jemima rolled her eyes, and I jerked back as she made an attempt to take the cigarette out of my mouth. “Christ, Pete, when are you gonna give that up? Gives you cancer, yeah?”
“Fuck off,” I said. I thought it was a bit hypocritical of her; she was no stranger to party drugs after all. Smoking seemed to genuinely disgust her, though. “You got some stuff or what? I was on with that chick in there so you’ve got to make it up to me.” I pretended to thrust my hips at her.
Jem laughed. “In your dreams. You came of your own free will, any nookie you’ve missed out on is your own fault.” She held up her hands, an indication of innocence, thin fingers outstretched. “As it so happens, Pat’s given me a treat. Something new.” With that, she reached down her top and plucked out a small baggy full of white powder.
“You know I haven’t got enough for fucking coke,” I said.
Patrick sat up at this. He’d been watching our conversation with dilated pupils, slumped back against the fence. He was blasted in that particular way you can only get when you really work at it, and Pat made a point of keeping a small pharmacy running through his bloodstream. Drugs, for him, were more professional than recreational.
“'S called ‘Spice’,” he slurred, staggering over, “and it’s fucking great.”
“Has he had any?” I asked with a sideways look to Jem, “'cause if it fucks me that much, I’m out.”
Jemima glanced at Patrick. “He has, but that’s not his problem. He’s off his brain on Horse at the moment.”
Pat was staring at the space in between us. Jem had the baggy proffered to me still. I snatched it from her and snuck it into my jeans before anyone could see what we were doing.
“What’s it like? It’s not some shit like Krokodil or anything completely evil, right?” I’d seen enough images of the melting skin of Krokodil users to be wary of any new drug on the market. A high wasn’t worth losing your teeth, eyes or skin over. I didn’t fancy getting lesions or any of the other nasties you got with Krokodil either.
“It’s nothing like that! It’s good, trust me.” Pat had come back to life after I’d slipped the baggy into my pocket. The sidelong glance I gave Jem transmitted my thoughts to her. Can I trust this? I asked her silently.
“It’s not just chalk wrapped in noodle dust. It’s good. Have a go.”
I nodded, downed my beer, slipped my finger into my jeans to make sure the baggy was still there, and turned to the bathroom. I’d like to think I’d have been a little more difficult to convince, but I trusted Jem. Pat was trashed, but he didn’t seem likely to fall into a seizure or start clawing at his face any time soon.
You can tell when an establishment caters for drug addicts and miscreants as soon as you go to the bathroom. This place knew exactly what people were there for. I heard a rhythmic thud coming from the fully enclosed cubicle next door, along with muffled moans to match. I locked the door behind me and pulled the baggy and my wallet from my jeans. The graffiti on the walls leered down at me, juxtaposing the once-polished concrete floor, damp with the badly aimed urine of a thousand patrons. The place was filthy. Despite this, people in here had been careful to ensure the stainless-steel sink was dry, wiped down, and devoid of any of the nastiness in the rest of the room.
I did my part, wiping down the side of the basin with a piece of paper towel from the dispenser. Next, a fifty-dollar bill and a credit card from my wallet. I pulled them out, and held them in two fingers with the baggy as I returned the wallet to my jeans. I poured an appropriate-looking amount of the powder onto the flat side of the basin. A distorted reflection stared hungrily back at me. Working with careful precision I cut the pile into a line with the credit card. It had a slightly different feel to it than some of the other drugs I’d tried. It was more crystalline but somehow softer, and almost seemed to glimmer at me in the LED light of the bathroom. Pearlescent, I’d have called it if I had been able to think straight.
I stretched, rolling my shoulders back, standing as I rolled the fifty. Once that was done, I hunkered over the sink, pushing one end of the rolled-up note to my nose. I sniffed and moved my head along the line in a movement just short of a jerk.
As I walked back out, the taste still strong in the back of my throat, I felt it hit me.