By: Beverley Reinemann
You hear it through the wall. A tapping sound in the lounge.
Then a long snort. And another snort, shorter this time, and a cough. A burst of metallic music as keys are thrown in a bag, then the clip-clop of shoes on the wooden floor of your apartment. The front door slamming, the rise and fall of your breath as you wait for the sound of heels on the pavement outside to disappear.
Later, once you were sure that you were alone for the night, you’d untangle yourself from the blanket on your bed and gingerly walk into the lounge to find a dusting of white powder on the black coffee table and an out-of-date credit card on the floor.
You get robbed a few months later. Someone breaks into your flat and takes everything that defines the person you are now: the passport for travelling, the laptop for writing, the camera for documenting your travels, your life in London.
Everyone’s bedroom door was locked except yours, because you didn’t have a key.
And you can’t help but wonder, as you find a knife buried in the ransacked bed you sleep in alone, if someone was looking for money or something to cover a debt that was owed.
Or if it was just bad luck.
While you’re answering the door to two police officers, long hair pulled back into low buns, hats held in their hands, something’s being taken from behind the mouthwash and hidden somewhere better.
Something you hadn’t known was there until a moment beforehand when the door bell buzzed and a whisper dashed past you into the bathroom.
You think back to every time you stood at the mirror brushing your teeth, clicking closed the cabinet housing a secret.
Apparently you were the last one to realise: everybody does it.
Buying coke from a guy they only know by his first name and cutting it into lines on communal coffee tables before meeting their friends at the club where they dance and do another line in the bathroom and drink and do another line in the bathroom and dance and smoke and stumble home, eyes wide, hearts beating wildly in their chests.
And on Monday morning they go to work and pretend it didn’t happen.
Pretend they’re not that person.
But they are. They just don’t want you to know it.
Because obviously when you come to look around the room they’re renting out there aren’t any giveaways. There’s no “the kitchen’s just through here and I’ll cut you a line if you fancy it?”
You’ll go for a drink and, perhaps you won’t have everything in common, perhaps there’s a small doubt in the back of your mind, but this is London and if you don’t say you’ll take the room now someone else will ten minutes later.
So you move in and ignore the late night ‘deliveries’. You gloss over the fact that they spent an entire weekend recovering from Friday night. When they stumble in at 10am on a Sunday morning while you’re getting ready to go for breakfast with your friends you don’t judge. You don’t say anything. You’re not a hypocrite.
That was you, eight years ago, remember?
Not the coke, that always seemed a bit ‘hard’, but if you could get your hands on something to drop or something to bomb in a square of rolling paper, something to make rural-England, small-town parties more bearable, you would.
You’d drop and drink and dance and drink and drop and drink and at some point you’d reconvene with your boyfriend and you’d stumble home to the house you shared to sweat and stare at the ceiling as the sun came up, your body unable to give in to sleep.
You’d do this every other weekend for a year until it wasn’t fun any more. Until a Monday without a comedown was more important than an MDMA-fuelled Saturday. Until saving to move to the other side of the world became less of a dream and more of a priority.
You understand the appeal, even now, of a night spent risk-taking and raving, the rush of coming up, a chemical high racing around your body, your mind.
But you don’t seek it out.
The dusting of coke on the coffee table somehow seems seedier than a little heart-shaped tablet on your tongue. It seems dirtier, dangerous.
And when you get home one Saturday night to an empty flat and a rolled-up ten pound note on one of the plates that your mum bought you when you first left home you feel a bubble of anger in the pit of your stomach at how someone can be so obvious about something that you’d always thought should be kept a secret from people who don’t want to partake.
You picture your flatmate surrounded by friends, hearts swelling, talking over each other at a house party or a busy club and remember when that was you. When someone who had loved you for four years had pressed something small into your hand on a dark dance floor, something a friend had delivered to your door earlier, and kissed you when you came up half an hour later and you’d forgotten about the fights and the tears.
Forgotten that what you had together wasn’t perfect because in that moment it was.
You cry, then, as you rinse the plate, washing away the evidence, leaving it on the rack to dry.