The girl on the stairs

It was a time in my life where I moved around quite a lot…  Stayed in a lot of short term room rentals that sort of thing.  The standard of accommodation could often be patchy.  Sometimes when you are young, things seem like a good idea at the time. Or when you are looking so hard to escape from one situation that you don’t actually notice where it is leading to? ‘Out of the frying pan into the fire’ my Nan used to call it.

You’d often see them in the high street. The smack heads. It was easy to tell from their white or slightly yellow skin colour….The pinched face, hollow eyes and sunken cheek bones. .. Thin bodies. You could even tell how long they had been on it sometimes. The teeth often gave it away. .. well it was either that or the fact they would often be seen cycling around the town centre with a TV set strapped across the handle bars.

It wasn’t a massive building but I can remember at least three floors.  We found out later, that the place was under surveillance. The police kinda knew about the activity there.  The comings and goings. The flats were in the middle of town close to the river Medway.

You could tell we were by the water by the size of the rats that would visit at night. Not in the flats but outside by the bins. Water rats. They seemed bigger than regular rats. Like small dogs almost. Often at the weekend – when we were coming  back from a night out or just chilling in a parked car as the sun rose….we would sit and watch them scurry about.. Determinedly dragging out the remnants of burgers and kebabs from the bins. Climbing vertical surfaces like they had super powers or something.

I was ready for the weekend. I was young. Self obsessed. Bleach blonde. Clubbing was all there really was at that time. Every Saturday. Lilac strappy mini dress, glossy tan tights and white platform knee boots. Wonderbra with extra oomph. I was the kind of girl that wore designer clothes that she ordered off the catalogue.

The stairwell was always the scariest place to be at night. So when we would go out we would try and leave before it got too dark. The dealers preferred the darkness, so what used to happen is that the light bulbs got broken or nicked. In the end the council installed push button lights that lit up the halls for a few minutes to allow you to get to the door. Even these didn’t always work though and the security door was always wedged open so people could get in and out.

The worse thing was not knowing who you were going to bump into in the darkness.

It was summer and around 9.30pm. We were off to the usual place. Usual scene. Have a few bottles of hooch and then get a taxi over to Strood to Medway’s biggest club. We did it every week. It was always the highlight…. well It was the most important thing to us really. What our weekly wages went on.

We left the flat, locked the door and clip-clopped our way in heels across the faux floor covering to the end of the corridor, bracelets jangling, and the smell of cheap perfume lingering in the air.

It wasn’t even anything dramatic. It’s just one of those things that stay with you. Just a weird inexplicable moment.  Did you ever get that?  When suddenly for an  instant you look at someone, a stranger and you share something?

A moment.  A knowing?

The stench of piss and faeces would hit you head on as soon as you were on the stairs. It was almost overwhelming.  You would have to get out of there and into the open air was soon as possible.

I opened the door to the stair well and stepped through it.

She was sitting on the stairs. She was around 14 years old. Pretty. Jeans. Plain t-shirt. Mousy brown greasy hair, slightly built. Huddled over something. Engrossed.

I looked more closely.

Her right hand held the lighter which was carefully heating the heroin in a spoon. The needles were spread out on the floor beside her, waiting.

She looked up.

Our eyes met. Hers were big and blue.  She smiled. A genuine, broad , and friendly smile. She had a warmth about her.  An innocence. It was like I could see her.  I mean really see her. She was just so young. She was just sitting there. Like it was perfectly normal. She held my gaze for a split second.

‘Alrite’ she nodded and smiled.

I hesitated. ‘Alrite’ I replied.

She smiled again. Then went back to the spoon.

I walked on. Didn’t say anything. Went for a few beers, got in a taxi and went to the club.

I looked for her, when we got home, I hoped she might be there but I never saw her again.

It’s just one of those things that stay with you. Just a strange inexplicable shared moment.  A connection you can’t explain. Did you ever get that?

It wasn’t even anything dramatic


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