This is one of the more personal stores in the collection.
You hold it in your hand. The little green nugget. Your best friend.
This is the only stable relationship in your life, and it is ending. You will miss it. You have been together for ten years. No one else in your life has stuck around that long. They all light up your world for a fleeting minute then they all go away in the end, but this thing in your hands, this little green nugget, it always comes back. Your private little friend, who understands you better than anyone else and gives you a warm blanket to crawl under when the hard grayscale of reality makes you shiver.
It is funny to you, how it looks so small and meaningless now, in your palm, out of its bag where it is colossal and rules all.
You miss the old days when it was good and you made each other happy. The highs were new and terrifying and exhilarating and the lows were barely felt. Life was a compelling role-playing video game staged exclusively in your own head. When the rest of the world was off doing their silly commutes and jobs, you and your little friend stayed at home, alone, untouchable. The two of you had silent and profound conversations, spent lazy days in bed together, got engrossed in movies, ate snacks which tasted better than anything, all along forging new pathways for your imagination to wander and then lose track of a few seconds later. When it was good, what you did together did not matter, so long as you were together. When it was good you did not need anyone else.
Now you are an overfed pig. It is over. This time it is really over, just like the other times it was really over, but this time it is different, you know it in your marrow. Those other times you made foolish quit promises and lasted less than twelve hours were tiny, necessary blips. When they told you relapse was part of recovery you took it to heart and have relapsed every day for years.
And it’s all because of the constant tomorrow. You and tomorrow have a whole shitload of things to do when you finally meet. Tomorrow is the real you, the one you are waiting for. You have spent your entire adult life waiting for tomorrow. When it finally comes you will bin your grinder, delete your guy’s number, or maybe just destroy your phone altogether, start writing again, go for a walk, talk to your father, actually start that real life thing you put on hold in your teens.
What a shame tomorrow takes such a long time to get here.
You stare at the toilet bowl. You hold the little green nugget in your hand. It has to be this way. The flush. In the bin: you will root through dirt and mulch and disease water, will scrub your fingernails through filth just to find it, pull it out and clean it off and roll it up and light it. Out the window: you will run out there, get on your hands and knees and search around the damp stony floor all night if you have to. If you tear the fucking thing apart with your bare hands and scatter the remains: you will bend over and sift through the carpet fibres, collecting every precious morsel along with all the dust and skin cells and termites, have yourself a good old floor smoke.
But that is the old you. Tomorrow is coming. Tomorrow you will wake up and take in a big gulp of fresh air, will see the blue sky hung up outside your window like a goddamned painting, just for you, a personal gift from god, you will fulfil that potential that tomorrow has been stealing from today and from you for a decade. You will rewrite your CV and apply for fifty jobs and eventually get one in Cardiff or maybe even England, one of those corporate dick sucking jobs your parents always wanted for you, the ones you told them you were sending out the applications to every day but really you were spending the weekly money they sent you on your greedy little friend who in the beginning gave so much and took so little but grew more and more selfish, giving you a pittance and taking your mind in return.
You open the toilet seat and look into the murky brown water. You hold your best friend in your hand, dangle it over the abyss.
You are finally ready to let go.
You close your eyes and open your fingers.
The little green nugget cascades downwards, landing in the shitty water. You hear laughter from somewhere. Before you can wonder if you are making a horrible mistake, before you can fish it out, dry it off, say sorry and really, really try to make it work this time; come on, it doesn’t have to be so bad, you just need a little space, just follow the never before seven pm rule you invented eight years ago and ignored; before you can think about getting through tomorrow all alone, you shoot out your hand and pull the lever.
A beautiful sound.
You breathe relief and even smile. It is finally over.
Now you can go back to the real you, the sharp you, the you full of wit, ambition, vitality and power. Tomorrow is finally here.
You open your eyes and look down. Your little friend grins back at you, floating in its comfy spot in the diarrhoea pool. It is still alive. It wants to play.
Your shame and sickness has pushed you this far; you need a little bit of determination to complete the execution. The determination which has driven you to find yourself a bag for the day, every day, for the last ten years, has deserted you now, as it always deserts you whenever you try to apply it to anything other than maintaining your exhausting, abusive relationship.
You moan. You flush again.
You keep your eyes open, to see the painful job through. You watch your little friend, buoyant, defiant, jumping and splashing around in your waste, having a blast.
You try to flush again but the mechanism is worn out. You must wait, again, waiting is all you have done with your whole life. No more. You cannot take it. It has to end and it has to end now.
You hold your breath. You put your hands into the shit and scoop out your little friend. You rip off fifty sheets of tissue, wrap it round and round. If it needs extra weight to sink it, then that’s fine by you. This is it. You are sending this fucker down to its watery grave.
The whirlpool is still settling. The soft sound of waves. You want to get lost in the sound, but you cannot wait another second. You are sick of being made a fool out of every day. You throw in the ball of tissue, with your little friend trapped inside. You smash the lever down, flush motherfucker flush. The whirlpool whips up again, but with a struggle. The tissue quietly disintegrates, dissolves and dies. The little green nugget emerges from its weak prison.
You stare at it and it stares back.
It is mocking you.
Maybe you cannot beat it. Maybe you should just fetch it from the mud, nurse it, roll it up and light it, get back under that warm blanket and simply wait out your days. It would be easier.
Whether you smoke it or you flush it, the end result will be the same: it will be gone in a matter of minutes. Maybe one last smoke is the better send off, the drawn-out goodbye, one last roll in the sack together, for all the good times you’ve shared, then you can find tomorrow.
You get lost in the romanticism of this idea until you remember that most of your life has been made up of “one-last-smokes”. Every smoke is the last one until it isn’t.
You did not see this coming. You try to laugh but instead you punch the wall and cut your knuckles. You are finally brave enough to let go, and the bastard is clinging on, needy and upset.
You must see the job through. Tomorrow is waiting for you.
You hold your breath again and reach into the faecal puddle. You drag your little friend from the depths. You are not fucking around anymore. You rip off the entire roll off tissue and mummify the piece of shit. You catch sight of yourself in the bathroom mirror and it scares you. You have not looked at yourself in a long time.
The toilet has calmed itself down. It is ready for another round. This is it, the real thing. You take one last look at your little friend before you throw it into the hungry toilet mouth. You wrench the lever so hard it nearly breaks off.
A beautiful sound.
You watch your best friend get sucked down into the vortex, dancing with shit particles along the way.
Out of sight.
Over, finally, really over.
Relief flows through you. You breathe. You have no more excuses. Tomorrow is finally here.
First there was Ali. Then Fee. Then Nick. Then Tom, then Jamie, then the guy with dreadlocks whose name you didn’t know, then Rhodri, Sven, Mama, TG, Romero, Josh, Fatty, Danja, and all the others you have forgotten. They have many different names but they are all the same guy, in the end. They all bring you your medicine, keep you hungry and fed at the same time. They only exist in your phone. You would have sold your phone for bag money a long time ago if it was not the portal to the bag itself.
Tomorrow has come and you are still you. It will take you years to learn that the future doesn’t bring along some idealised, peaked version of yourself. You will always be you.
You pick up your phone. A text from Charlie, Felipe, Gilgamesh, whatever his name is, all the same guy. He wants to inform you of his latest batch of gooey stringy magic with your name on it, waiting for you, tucked away neatly in a drawer, fresh and pure.
He is not such a bad guy. He wants to send you back under the blanket. He sees you are cold. He wants to tuck you in. You want to whimper and suck on his teat, curl up and doze off into oblivion. Much easier than getting out of bed and going outside and trying to be a real person, walking around with a clear head and a purpose.
You sigh and type out the message. You do not even need to type the words as your phone knows you well enough to type out the words for you. You move your thumb to press send. But before you get there, you receive another text.
It is from your old friend, a real friend. Lauren. You have not seen her in a long time.
– Are you free today?
You want to be free.
You sometimes fear you never can be because even after you flush the green shit away you will still miss it every second of every day, its absence in your life will become a very real and sore presence, you will be just as addicted to avoiding it as you were to smoking it.
You will never be able to live with or without it.
Lauren sends a smiley face. No one has smiled at you in either the digital or real world for a while. Lauren is the one for you, not Jefferson or Daddy or Caesar or Midnight. Not the little green nugget. They are abusers who think you will always come crawling back, which you always have. But not now. The volcano inside you which you have kept dormant is stirring, spewing ash and earthly power. It is telling you that you are not finished yet. The way you used to get so excited about life you could barely contain it, the way you used to feel like music was playing in your fingertips and you were capable of anything. The old you is still alive, in there, somewhere.
You say aloud to yourself – Fuck everything.
You delete the text from your guy. You go through your phone and destroy any trace of a link to the guys and their stuff. Calls, messages, contacts. Eradicate all.
You are not going to live waiting for tomorrow anymore, because it is not tomorrow, it is today.
You roll two cigarettes, one for you, one for her.
You are both exhausted. You have covered some miles today, all along the rugged Welsh coast. You had no destination. You just walked.
From your throne, the bench on the hill, you guys can see everything, every inch of your idyllic little seaside town. The big, mean ocean. The little patches of light from the houses. The dots of people flittering about the cobblestone roads.
You spilled your shit out on each other. You had nothing but time and the vast open of the beach to drown out the sounds of your words in. She told you about all the shit she was going through in her life. You wished you could help her but you had your hands in the toilet last night and are too much of a loser to offer life advice, but it did not matter anyway as your friend was not looking to you for answers but just for a friend, a punchbag, a wall to bounce echoes off.
You guys are aware that you will likely live with your problems for the rest of your lives. But by walking on the beach together you gave yourself a chance to take back a small victory, just one. It will take you both a long time to learn that life is about the small victories, wherever you can find them.
You were surprised that the first time you thought about your old best friend was sometime in the afternoon. It was not on your mind for every second because you actually got lost in something other than smoke. It was when your phone buzzed in your pocket.
Your guy again – Listen pal, whatever happened, it’s nothing we can’t talk through. Trust. I know it seems hard now but we’ve been through so much together. I can’t lose you. Call me xxxx
You surprised yourself again by hitting delete before you could think about calling him and working it out. He was right, you had been through a lot together. But as Lauren talked on and on, something in her smile made you realise you do not have to go back. You were living in today, and really, come on, when was the last time you were a present, active member of the world, when was the last time you were something more than a sexless potato with a smokehole in your face, writhing in your dirty hole.
From your bench, Lauren makes a joke and you laugh and you feel something strange. It takes you a while to place it. You remember it; it is happiness. You feel good. All the memory loss and concentration problems and the hole are far, far away. You thought your toxic relationship had ruined you, but look at you, man, you’re doing just fine. Maybe you were wrong about the whole thing. Maybe you don’t have to go home alone tonight, like you always dread. Maybe you should just relax. Don’t take it all so seriously; look at everyone else, look at musicians and comedians and actors and writers and artists, they get fucked up all the time and they’re not falling apart. Even Lauren gets comfortable with the little green nugget, you think, maybe, sometimes. Maybe you are not such a lowlife piece of trash scum if you like to get cosy with your friend under your blanket every night (and most afternoons). Maybe you should soften that relentless inner monologue telling you you should be a published writer already and you’ve given away so much of your mind to this stuff and no wonder you can’t get close to any kind of real relationship with someone because you’re swallowed up in this one.
Maybe you should just take it easy.
You guys leave your bench. You walk Lauren home as dusk falls. She talks on and on and on and on and eventually you stop listening because your attention has diverted to that portal in your pocket.
Because you are doing just fine and there is nothing for you to worry about, clearly, you have spent the last half an hour thinking about ways you can retrieve the deleted numbers from your phone. Your guys. You let them down. You got carried away. You were wrong to cut them off, because look what today brought, today is proof that you and your little green friend can live together in harmony.
Then you feel it vibrate. Your guys are reaching out. They aren’t going to leave you in the cold. As Lauren talks, you sneak a look at it.
– Listen, bro, please. Don’t leave me hanging like this, I can’t take the not knowing. Is it someone else? Was I not good enough for you? I’ll be on time, every time from now on G, I mean it. No more light baggies neither, butt. Give me a second chance </3
As you hug Lauren goodbye you realise that feeling good is dangerous because that’s all an addict is: someone who felt good once and can’t let it go.
That’s all it is.
Lauren leaves you.
You are exactly where you want to be, where you quietly knew you would end up all day. The routine is so familiar it’s ingrained into you.
You reach for your phone and the message types itself.
The flick of the switch is instant. You are straight back to waiting, waiting for his reply, waiting for him to show up, waiting for tomorrow. Right back at it.
– Meet me on the other side of town. Whatever time you get there, I’ll be late.
You groan and want to tell him to fuck himself but you know you are going to do it. You are going to walk for as long as you need to , and you are going to get on your knees when you get there. It’s time to go home.
Today came and went and it was not much in the end, the same as them all.
Tomorrow, that will be the one.
The Constant Tomorrow was published in The Fiction Pool in October 2019 (on the last day I smoked a cigarette, as it happens)