It is 1984 & I am 9 & in a small bedroom in my neighborhood belonging to my hero, alongside him & a few of his friends, who are all about 13.
My hero is great at soccer & fighting, though he sometimes loses at both & always has a purple eye or a scabby lip. He wants to join the IRA & The National Front before he grows up.
None of them go to school & no-one is trying to get them to go to school. As soon as they reach 16 they all plan to vanish into England, never to be seen again, like so many of their relatives & neighbors before them.
They are spraying aerosols onto a pillow case & taking turns to press their face into it, inhale & get high.
Somehow I am thinking of the shroud of Turin, how all of their pressed faces will print a conglomerate image on the pillow case that will last for aeons into the future & tour the world as a miracle in 4000AD.
Soon they are all out of their trees, rocking back and forth on the bed or squat against the bedroom wall, uproariously laughing, speaking in tongues to immaterial entities, staring at the unleashed contents of their unconscious cartooning across the ceiling & so on until a simultaneous silence falls as the high withdraws & a period of aftermath filled with melancholy, paranoia, perhaps rage sets in.
One of them asks why I haven’t taken any and another says he’s got to get some into him or else he might rat & so my hero puts the pillow on his lap & loads it up with aerosol & another one grabs me and forces me down on my knees (in truth I do not try to resist) and my face into the pillow and I inhale and nothing really happens to be honest – it was the end of the canister.
I remember it smelled more like insect killing spray than deodorant; perhaps that option got you higher quicker cheaper in those days, certainly the local hardware merchants & supermarkets were cunningly stacked with a a wide range of canistered narcotics & making thousands out of the small town sniffing epidemic of 84.
Anyway I was delighted because this initiation meant I was now really part of the gang & not just a Sancho Panza sidekick to be mocked.
It was a fearsome troupe of boggers to be in with at that time in that place, believe me, no other nearby crew matched it for craic & adventure. They were more than a match for the freaky priests & the fat-arsed cops & the eternal busybodies who chased them around and around the town’s alleyways & shaded parks but never caught up.
I love and worship all present in that bedroom at that blooding now even more than I did then & I won’t have a bad word said about them. I bless their imperfections & their excesses & I bless the grand souls of all, the ones that are long departed from this world of grief & fall & those that are still here fucking up mid tumble like I am.
(Photo by the great Irish street photographer, Andrew Mcglynn, RIP)