He's lying on the floor, on his side, with his hands between his knees and his cheek flat against the threadbare carpet. I can't do much more myself, but once in a while I stick my foot out and nudge the small of his back, just to see if he's dead. He never is. Not that I want him to be dead, mind. I know it sounded sorta like I was saying that, but that's not what I meant at all. I mean, Rents… he's my mate.

I can hear Spud laughing somewhere in the flat. I don't know if he's in the room with us or even in the flat. I could be hearing things. Wouldn't be the first time the scag made me hallucinate. Wouldn't be the last, either.

There's a couplea birds pressed together in the corner, near the loo. I don't know their names and I can't remember if I shagged either of them, but the skinny blonde one's not looking so good. She's got the shakes and the other girl with the darker hair is cuddling her and saying things about how she's going to be fine. She doesn't look fine. While I watch them the skinny one vomits up something clear and foamy and a little pink. Swanney starts barking at them to leave and the darker girl helps her friend up and they scurry out, clinging to the walls and watching Swanney. They look like hermit crabs scuttling along.

Mark vomits then. The same sticky, pinkish liquid. Swanney just shakes his head and waves his hand at me. Me and Rents, we're regulars. We get a little bit more leeway. I slide off the couch and kneel next to him, rubbing the side of his head.

His head's shaved as usual and just barely fuzzy, like a peach. The texture fascinates me and I forget for a moment what I'm supposed to be doing. I roll him onto his stomach, then heave him up to his knees.

"C'mon, mate. Walk a bit. Walk it off".

"MmgIthinImawrig" he gurgles and then vomits again, falling to his knees. It's darker pink and his nose is bleeding. I get behind him and wrap my arms around his chest, up under his arms and haul him up again. It's like lifting a bunch of sticks and cloth. The junk's burning out of my system fast, like it does. It's good, though, because Rents pukes a third time. I ball my fists up and put them against his stomach and push hard until he does it again. It's clear this time. Just bile, sticky and yellow. There's no blood in it and his nose has stopped bleeding.


He brings over a dirty-but-wet rag that looks like it might be one of baby Dawn's shirts and I realize that Alison hasn't been around in a few days. I make a mental note to ring her (I will forget this note immediately after the next hit of heroin). I wipe Mark's face and rub his head again until he sags against my shoulder, turning so he's facing me and his hand's rubbing the side of my head, grasping my ear. He plants an open-mouth kiss on the side of my neck and I shrug him back.

"Knock if off, Rents. C'mon. Let's go get a few pints".

That seems to perk him up and he nods. "Yeah. Pints. Seeya, Swanney. Back later. Keep my spot warm".

Swanney flips us off as I half-drag Mark from the flat, down the stairs, and out into the street.