Join Date: Jun 2005
Location: East Point to Shaolin
Local Time: 05:37 AM
The Seven Towers of Ballymun.. please critique!
Hi all, this is a short story I've written for Creative Writing at Uni. Currently 300 words too long, it's a story I've wanted to write for a while. It's basically inspired by Running to Stand Still... and Bono's summation that 'if you don't like the world you're living in, see it through different eyes... heroin gives you heroin eyes to see the world through.'
I'm worried it comes across as a little insincere, especially when the drug dealer is introduced. I researched heroin experiences on the net, so I feel I've covered that okay, but if there's any improvements/comments/whatever please feel free to say so!
Alle, alle, alleluia, alle, alle, alleluia…
She was just 14 when she passed away. There was no funeral, no death notice, no grieving. The world turned for everyone as it would any other day.
Her mother was only 15 when she was born; and died during the pregnancy. They never found the father. Seldom has there been a soul seemingly more doomed.
Her formative years were spent in an orphanage for babies, in Cappoquin, in west County Waterford, but she was never adopted. She got too old, and was transferred to an orphanage in Ballymun, about two and a half hours north, just out of Dublin. And it was Dublin in the late 70s – uninviting and plagued by heroin.
The building was tall and narrow, and far from modernity in its rectangular shape and evenly-spaced, square windows. Depressing black smoke billowed from the chimney atop the roof; the tenants never saw fit to keep it in good shape. The walls were stained from the pollution, the rooms were overlarge and cold.
As long as she could remember she had been there. Apparently as soon as she was old and well enough she was removed from the hospital and sent to the orphanage. Her earliest memories were of sitting in her corner, watching the bleak faces and the bleak movements and the bleak voices as rejected kid after rejected kid moped around the shit old joint.
Outside the windows were the seven towers of Ballymun, all varying in height and structure. She would spend hours just staring at them sometimes, wondering what happened inside them, whether she would ever find out.
She grew up despising the daily grind, lining up to be gratuitously checked over for respective parents – the workers didn’t want to be there either, they were only in it for the money.
Early in the piece, each day passed with a bit of hope – some of the kids were adopted. Prospective parents had come to look at her, but always found something in her to turn them away. She was perhaps the most reclusive of the lot. But how could you blame her? One dead parent, and one might as well have been.
She made a friend once. When she was about seven she struck up a friendship with another boy of the same age. They never talked much, but they seemed to relate to one another somehow. They sat together, playing with the toys. How she wished for a normal life. Even at such a tender age she felt tears welling in her eyes as she watched mother, father, son, daughter, walk past on the other side of the street.
It wasn’t to be though. They played with each other most days but one day a couple came in and took a shine to him, and he was adopted soon before his eight birthday.
She never really recovered.
Gradually, as she grew older, that small feeling in the pit of her stomach, the hope that she would be adopted, deserted her. Her 10th birthday came and went in a puddle of tears. Her doll’s hair had fallen out; the nearest kid to her age who hadn’t been adopted was six years old. She felt ostracised and alone, always staring out the window, imagining, to make feel okay for a few moments. She always had a great imagination.
She made games to pass the time. How many people would walk past the window in an hour, and so on. She noticed after a while of playing the first game that a man in a heavy, black trench coat often walked past, at least a couple of times a day. Sometimes he would meet another person just around from the corner, just enough for her to watch them. A few quick words, some seedy glances, a couple of hand movements and they parted ways. She watched it happen, day in, day out, trying to figure out exactly what was going on in these exchanges.
She learnt after a month that it was always the same four or five people who met with the man in the heavy, black trench coat. It wasn’t until she was thirteen that she came to fully understand.
One day she decided she’d had enough. This existence was killing her, slowly, slowly. The orderlies never really cared. Their solution was always another round of Godfrey’s cordial. I’ve gotta do something about where I’m going…
After breakfast she looked out the window, and saw that man again. Keen for something different, she decided to go outside and watch from closer up, see what the deal was. So, watching carefully as she snuck out the front doors, she crept out into the street and started walking.
And there he was. Talking to the same man again. She didn’t want to be seen, so she hid behind a tall, grey pillar.
A few mumbles were exchanged, and the man in the trench coat flung out his arm, though she couldn’t see what she gave the other man. They nodded, and moved off.
She was intrigued, she couldn’t turn away. He spotted her and walked over. Her life might have turned out differently if she’d just gone back to the orphanage.
She didn’t answer.
“How old are you?”
Still no answer.
“Here, do you want some of this? Free…” he reached into one of the pockets and pulled out a needle and some white powder. He handed her a tiny batch.
“Dissolve this in water, draw it into the needle, find a vein and away you go. And, uh, do me a favour, let me know what you think,” he said, smiling, and off he went.
She hadn’t said a word the whole time, and she wondered what she was going to do with a needle and some powder. But he seemed nice she thought, and any excuse for her to kill time before curfew was great, so she decided to try it.
She walked down a deserted alleyway and found a rusted old tap. Repeating the man’s instructions over in her head, she held the bag underneath the tap, turned it on and dissolved and mixed the powder. Then she sat down next to the tap, picked up the needle and withdrew the viscous liquid.
She felt bad, all of a sudden. This feels wrong, she thought. But having never really had anyone around to learn, well, just about anything, a wave of anger flushed over her. Her adrenalin kicked in and she found a vein in her arm and pushed down the syringe.
That was the first time she shot up.
She woke up sore and shaking and out of it. She blinked, trying to organise her thoughts, but she couldn’t. Her shivering got worse, and she tried to move to stop the pain. When she looked down she could see, just beside her, a massive pool of vomit. She brought her hand up to her face and hair and could feel it, smell it. She threw up again, then put her hands under the tap and cleaned herself up. She tried to stand up, but failed.
She sat there for a moment, unable even to think. After a while her head seemed to clear up, and she thought about last night. How blood was pumping as she got ready to inject, how her heart felt like it was going to explode inside her as she plunged, the strange emotion she felt as the stuff took effect.
She’d never felt that way before. It was the most amazing feeling. Excellent, happy, joyous. Like nothing seemed to matter. Everything that brought her pain became immaterial. It was the greatest moment of her life. The alleyway looked different now.
She caught herself. Now she was freezing, ill, and miserable. Why didn’t I stay like that, she wondered. She finally mustered enough strength to stand, and walk the few blocks back to the orphanage.
A few hundred metres from its doors, the man in the heavy, black trench coat saw her, and came walking over to her. She froze, terrified.
“You must’ve had a big night… first time, huh?”
He looked her over. “Is that where you live?”
“Mmm…” he unbuttoned his coat, and her eyes flashed, just for a millisecond. He caught it.
“Heh. Enjoyed it, huh? I could give you some more…” and he reached into his pocket again. “But it’ll cost you.”
She was becoming increasingly confused. In all her life she’d had few human interactions, and here was one.
“Money, I mean. Cash. They got some stored away in there?”
Inadvertently she nodded. She knew where they kept the petty cash. It was in of the draws, behind the desk, near the entrance.
“Well how about this. You go in there, get me few wads of cash, and we’ll sort something out hey?” Still she didn’t say anything, and he got annoyed as she stared back quizzically.
“You get me some of the money that’s in there, I’ve seen it. Give it to me, and I’ll give you some more of this,” and he pulled the powder. Her heart skipped a beat. Now she understood. She could feel as happy as she did the night before, again. How desperately she wanted to feel that way.
But she just kept standing there, and he muttered something and walked off. She was confused again, and wanted to sleep in a bed. She went back into the orphanage; no one was around to notice.
She had spent a day or two freaking out. She became agitated, and had marks on her arms from where she had scratched herself. She hadn’t wanted to eat, was too uptight to sleep. All she’d been able to think about was that wondrous night.
The man in the heavy, black trench coat was still around, of course, and she remembered what he’d said about the money. One particularly restless night she had got out of bed and made her way to the entrance desk. She had looked around furiously for the key, and after a few frantic minutes found it. She opened petty cash and took out a few notes. In her haste she grabbed more.
The doors were locked, so she hadn’t been able to get out until the morning. Soon as they were open she ducked out and searched for the man. Her mind raging, she saw him, and immediately relaxed. She longed for the needle’s chill.
He grinned and sniggered to himself. Another one, he thought to himself. And he gave her another small bag.
She never got to find out what happened in the seven towers, and no one mourned her.
No one saw her smile, either.