“How much longer?”
“Not much further now. Hang in there.”
“Mate, I don’t think I can.”
“Come on boys, it’s just up ahead.”
“But we’re not getting any closer. We’ve been walking for hours and it’s not getting any nearer. I can’t help but wonder: could we have died? Maybe on the train yesterday? What if it crashed, and this is purgatory – just us here, with Budgens on the horizon, forever and ever and ever.”
“No dingus, we haven’t died.”
“But it’s getting further away with each step we take. I’m freaking out. I’m freaking out.”
“Look, it’s fine, we’ll be there in about ten sec-”
I had been lied to. The gummy edible Annie had fed to me an hour earlier was not, in fact, so mild as to be barely noticeable. It was very noticeable. It was so noticeable, actually, that I couldn’t notice anything else. All I could notice was the fact I understood literally nothing of the world anymore.
We were back in London, for what was supposed to be a calming week of downtime between Annie’s shows. After the Strange Brew show in Bristol, we had just under two free weeks before her next show, back in Bristol at Basement 45. Rather than fork out for an AirBNB or outstay our welcome on Jack’s sofa, we opted to return to London for a few days to mellow out and recuperate. Unfortunately, ‘recuperating’ in Annie’s dictionary is defined as getting burstingly, arse-slappingly stoned in public.
It had been fine when we’d set out on our evening stroll: a couple of tokes on the weed pen and a cute little weedy gummy bear to kick in as we wandered around the park watching the trees glow under the setting sun. Most likely it’ll just give me a fun little buzz, I thought. I’ll be nice and relaxed. Moron. I should have known my tolerance for marijuana products wouldn’t magically have increased during several years of abstinence. It’s always made me into a weirdo goofball. I have one toke and I see the curvature of the Earth.
Walking back from Tooting Common up towards Budgens – the 24-hour petrol station where I spend around three fifths of my monthly wage – disaster struck. It was a disaster that will be familiar to any marijuana enthusiast: I became trapped in a bubble of time. The walk from the park to the shop is long and dull and arduous even sober, but high it was fucking endless. It was as though I was walking on a conveyor belt pulling me backwards, and no matter how fast I walked, the petrol station would only recede before me, as though I’d been tricked into a hamster wheel, except it was all of reality repeating in this strange slow bit of pavement, with the sun never setting, and my feet flapping fruitlessly forevermore against the pavement, my soul trapped like a mosquito in amber, all swirling, all hopeless, O Hell on Earth! O Devil! O! Doom! Doom! Doom! DOOOOOOOOMMMMMMM-
And then we arrived and I bought a Pepperami and some milk.
Back at my rubbish sharehouse, Annie offered to make us lentil soup for dinner. This was ideal, because I was unable to do anything other than stare bewilderedly at household objects.
“That’s a saltshaker, Dan.”
To help her prepare the soup, Annie gave me the task of chopping carrots lengthways and putting them into a bowl. Half an hour later she came over and found I’d managed to chop the carrots but putting them in a bowl had been beyond me: they were instead placed in a small pile on the table. She shook her head and scooped up my little carrot mound, and I waved at her absently and went back to giggling at Peep Show on the laptop.
When we got into bed later that night, I lay face down, worn out by several hours of lunacy. With the last dregs of my sanity, I heaved my heavy fat head up from the pillow and looked at Annie.
“Imagine when we’re eighty.”
“Imagine when we’re eighty years old. Do you think we’ll still be friends?”
“When we’re sitting in our rocking chairs together all old and chubby, we’ll be able to look back at this time hanging out. It’ll seem like a very far away memory. But it’ll be a really nice one.”
“It will. Just stop smoking if you want to make it to eighty. Otherwise you’ll struggle for sixty, dick head.”
“A fair point.”
And I smiled, and fell into a very deep sleep.
The next day, when I had got my mind back and stopped seeing city skylines in the textures of bread buns, Annie came with me to my weekly writer’s Meetup in Peckham. We took the bus there via Brixton, arriving twenty minutes late, as I do every week, because I always overestimate both public transport and my own legs.
Sitting down with a pint and a pizza, we spent an hour working together – me working on my Australia book, and Annie writing up the encounter with the Greek couple. Then I introduced Annie to my writer friends, but she had to make a dash after an hour because she was going to Fabric with a couple of girls she knew. She’d invited me along but I declined, preferring instead to head home early and sober and look after my beautiful precious body. Which would have been fine it that’s what I actually did, however in the end I stayed out and got drunk with the writers and bought a stupid pack of tobacco and woke up in the morning with an absolute shag of a headache and a hole in my wallet. C’est la vie.
Annie didn’t come home for two more nights after that; she was busy running around with DJs and Dutch girls from Hinge and lord knows who else. I spent the downtime playing Playstation, reading, and going to the gym like a good boy.
Annie came home on Saturday afternoon, covered in lovebites and white as a sheet and deathly. I’d made plans for the evening, and so we passed like ships in the night; Annie stretching out on the bed like a corpse lying in state, me prancing around trying on jackets and styling my hair in the mirror. I left her there, groaning, and when I returned six or seven hours later – after a spot of light carousing with Sam and Mike in Central – she’d not visibly moved, although she was now surrounded by half eaten packets of prawn cocktail crisps.
The next day – each of us waking up feeling like hot death – we headed out in the early afternoon to meet Sam and Christie for a roast near Clapham South. We miscalculated, however: it was the London Marathon, and as the cape-clad, medal-slung, ruddy-cheeked runners flocked in, the wait on Sunday dinners rose to two hours. Faced with this inhumane disappointment, we did the only rational thing: bought loads of pints instead.
It was golden hour by the time we left, and as the four of us parted ways on the street the setting sun made everybody’s eyes shine like angels. I was booked onto a train to Bristol that evening, while Annie was due in Brighton the next day to visit friends; we would reunite once again in Bristol, in five days’ time. We hugged goodbye outside the Co-op, then Annie headed inside to stock up on vitamin C tablets and lozenges, while I made my way to Paddington, and then – after an enjoyable two-hour delay in the station – on to Bristol, and the next leg of the tour, and whatever silliness lay ahead.