Addiction or eviction: Lost Paradise Junction.
I’m staring at a blue wall. Real close. I breath in and my lungs seem incapable of sustaining a two-second intake. I exhale and my lungs seem to come out with the breathing. After a while I’m smiling gently, inadvertently, like a small Buddha. The blue wall becomes the ocean and my breath becomes the air, and the smile stays, drawn like a soft line where butterflies might be born.
Someone once said that finding yourself doing things you never pictured yourself doing is a fine measure of how free you are….
Especially if this doesn’t involve sniffing, swallowing, spooning, crushing in plastic or burning and smoking or injecting the substances that democracy neatly lined up in the ditch of the 1990s for your long and diversified nose, arms, legs and pupils to drain vehemently.
But those are things that you do when you are young right? Especially as a 90s Catalonely electronic-music-retarded-prince. Although the decade shouldn’t matter that much, what matters is youth, its red blue volcano, burping revolutions before hashtags. Or during hash.
The 90s yo
And then you grow up and you don’t die, and you keep living and not dying and playing techno and paying for abortions and taxes, and you witness democracy turning into property totalitarian-ism, and Capitalism into global warming while your prostate starts to curl and your intestines soften.
And you keep living and not dying, writing words that spell failure, cracking adverbs and cheap poetry that brings no petrol but fuels your girlfriend’s burning tears.
Until you find yourself drifting rather pathetically, away from the shore where you had pictured yourself thriving.
I was a celeb-lavatory journalist once. I interviewed more celebrities than you could possibly fit in a massive high-end lavatory, and was paid a dignified middle-class wage. Twenty-five years have passed, and today a Spanish journalist earns four-hundred times less money than I did back then.
I’m comparing former and current figures in El País, La Vanguardia, Fotogramas or Marie-Claire, to name those on the far right who I used to contribute to – the ones who paid better and published less remorsefully. Back then it was possible to sustain a sixty-quid-a-day heroin habit and pay rent from a journalist’s salary. Thanks for that. And fuck you too.
Nan Goldin has recently claimed the family that funds a significant amount of London’s National Gallery are the same shameless bastards that have killed over two million North Americans with fentanyl. She will never have their backing for any of her shows. Her latest one, the first in twenty years, has found some vacant roof at Marian Goodman’s gallery. Get there if you can, as with Brexit coming along, it’s likely to be broken up.
Those who used to pay me are today behind the whole totalitarian property tsunami.
Addiction comes usually after eviction.
Try to imagine yourself in ten years living in the city you grew up.
Good luck with that.
And Welcome to Bali
Boris Vacuum or Fruit Serum
I fix my breakfast. A mango and a pineapple just ripped for 50 cents each. The intensity of the flavour recalls a familiar smell of dead Irish fruits. There are many other things to be remembered about Ireland, much more evocative smells. But somehow, that is what the mango and pineapple have triggered: SuperValu’s shamelessly overprized plastic trays of deadly, sliced pineapple; Dunnes’s Stores regrettable plastic cups with a ring hole on top that seems designed to strangle whatever vitamin is left after a lonely fruit is picked in some tropical paradise; then packed, wrapped, frozen and flown over the gloomy fields of Ireland.
How about the transparent fork to finish the laceration?
I know. I’m in Bali, after a smiley half hour meditation. So why rub it off? What has sublimating a flavour got to do with despising another one? Is that human nature? Montalbán, the great Barcelona writer, thought otherwise. He said that good meals evoke the memories of other good meals, and that bad meals evoke nothing but meagre roundabouts built up with the sole purpose of evading the sad reality of a bad meal.
My train of thought is rather unstoppable now. Perhaps my morning meditation isn’t quite working.
What about Tesco’s Tropical fruits???!
Tropi fuck you, Tesco, and your suicidal passion fruit slaughtered in the bloody fields of England.
And, inevitably, after that, I think Boris Johnson, his flappy fringe permanently wasting all my southern paradise breakfasts, brushing away my little Buddha smile with the distorted push of a toilet scrubber held between his teeth; vacuum-packing the dead fruit of his brain, that useless English orange that would not even work to produce that sickly, acidic and almighty marmalade that fills those chaotic mouths early, daily and sickly – one would think that Boris’s fringe is soft and smooth like Venus’s vagina swaying underwater, if not Zeus’s cum forming the clouds of Testicle Heaven Terrace; but guess what?
That fringe is like ancient pissed straw, it’s only purpose is to stack the rotten smells of former narrow-minded grass-rotten Etonian cunts. So my predictable thought process goes now, Fuck-You-Shitty-Barbie-Ken overweight Yeti. Flap your fringe, unearth the deeply wrapped ball of bead-up cackle shit of all the astringent, constipated, Death Lords and their fucken dead hay wigs. They will be flushed down my arsehole, eventually, that is the only acrobatic heroics you cunts expect from a former techno prince coming to terms with soft blue walls.
It is rather sensational that I was staring at a soft blue wall with a perennial smile just ten minutes ago. I reflect on that thought. And then I recall downloading my fucken Instagram account last night, after yoga class. I was so full of myself. Instagram. The one thing in life apart from crack cocaine and Tescos, that you always come out of feeling worse than before, no matter how bad you felt.
Meaning: IT’S NOT FUCKING WORTH IT.
Twelve minutes after my meditation and I feel sad. I have the urge for a cigarette. I smoke it furiously. Is yoga not working? Are meditations bad for me? Could my healing be damaging me? Jesus. Fuck. Holy Shit. What a shit show. In two seconds the cigarette has worked its course. The floor is flooded – guess what, most toilets don’t quite work at less than fucken 10 dollars a day paradise guest houses – and I have to take off my shorts and underwear and tread its waters like a hunched paddy field worker. Slowly but steadily I reach the toilet bowl and I jump into it like a monkey. I splash myself with the remaining water from my morning shower, which is all the water that came through the shower.
I miss my cigarette. But I’m wild. And free. I’m naked except for my phone, which could be an extension of my ribs, if not my bell-end, a rather vibrating one. Inside it, down the bell-end, I find a lovely text from a friend that I left on the other side of the ocean. I evacuate while texting him back with passionate, if not fruitful fury, having just recalled I’d just dreamt about him. Perhaps the meditation is working?
In the dream my friend, another former journalist, who had to reinvent himself as a literary publisher, had just been awarded the Booker Prize for publishing the work of a bright Albanian gothic lady: Flutura Murzahki. Fuck. Every sequence of the dream comes up neatly, matching each drop of stool, like a finely balanced engine. For every drop I evacuate a sequence of the dream comes back to me. I might be in balance, after all. I tell him about the dream. I write a long, passionate and fruitless text, I’m a WhatsApp writer: I make up for Zuckerberg what I should have made up for myself; I don’t write anything but WhatsApps.
Our virtual communication seems restorative. We are both healing through WhatsApp, though we damaged ourselves way before algorithms. In any case, the damage we inflicted upon ourselves is identical to the damage inflicted on those who try too hard to heal.
As I finish my ode to him, to the blue wall and to the power of restorative, shamanic breathing, I notice a little mosquito bomber performing a backward somersault that gratins all my pubis. I spring up like the last monkey of a burning forest, without my phone, leaving me completely naked. But bleeding.
And then I turn around in a fright. I check the mouth of the toilet.
And I see it there.
Boris Johnson’s bloody fringe barely floating in china, splayed like a red pineapple in a rusty hairdryer.
The Unsubtle Love Sublet
Before Boris red haemorrhoidal fringe and before the blue wall there was a dark two-storey house.
We had sublet it from another couple that had moved to the dark side of the country. We were house-sitting, and paying most of the rent and all the bills. They came whenever they wanted, no notice attached. So it was home but not quite. The saddest part being that it was better than the carnage outside, where homeless and skyscrapers where thriving at the same pace as renting went Fucking Mordor.
The house was gloomy and had a backyard that was a front yard facing a busy terraced street, the longest in the world, according to a dubious cab driver. The garden had four trees, and one of them was remarkable though it wasn’t quite enough to cover our slim bodies from passers-by.
Passers-by were neighbours, Deliveroo riders and project kids spurring the deathly lower backs of equally deathly horses. The kids were rough little smart-asses who in eight years might have had thrice the experiences of most other passers-by, namely young white tech industry workers. Reading in your back-front garden usually consisted of answering directions to Google Maps engineers or lending your garden gloves to kids that were way smarter than you.
It was our sixth roof in the third country of that year, which was the first country that we left and the only one we came back to.
Ireland. God save your lack of Queen, your abundance of Quinns.
It was a Saturday evening. I had bought fresh fish in the morning and was about to grill it. I got home full of energy after an Aikido class and she was resting her injured eye upstairs – most of the damage inflicted by a Dublin ophthalmologist that saw a cancer where there was none. I would grill the fish and bake Aldi organic potatoes, her favourites. And we’d have a bottle of white wine. What could possibly go wrong?
She came downstairs. I turned back. She was crying, her glasses trembling on the bridge of her nose. I thought death. I thought Homer, her sick friend back in Argentina. It was a split second. It included another two further possible mortalities. Her mother’s was the second: thirty-seven kilos and a huge depression got her on the unenviable mental list. I didn’t get a chance to review the third corpse.
‘Sit down, we need to talk.’
She was sobbing, my little Goat. Third time in eight years I’d seen her crying.
It takes just two sentences to become the third death of the second.
She had made up her mind.
I was completely unaware.
The wall was raised, concrete fucking armour the size of my receding body, suddenly frozen under the not-that-sparkling-water of the end.
Death is rarely the end.
I developed more than sixty ridiculous ideas over the next sixty mornings, mostly sleeplessly and rather moisturised. My eyelashes wet, the fake cancer swaying like a ripped off red algae in the late blinking.
We had to be housemates for a while. Sleeping was out of the question, breathing was challenging and the front-back garden became some sort of shameful open graveyard. Reading was cancelled altogether, let alone picking any leaves to go with any dead fish.
I thought about Aikido and Japan. No budget. I considered staying in Ireland. No budget. I thought about going back home. Not a chance.
Then one morning I woke up and thought about the Irish fella living in Bali. Perhaps possible budget wise?
I dropped him an email.
He replied swiftly. That is one of the first teachings of a break-up. You only need to mention it once, if only disguisedly, to make any reply rapid and coherent.
‘Sorry to hear about your break-up, dude.’
‘As it turns out we are looking for a house-sitter for October.’
‘Four cats and one dog, down in Amed, east coast of Bali.’
‘Write me a WhatsApp, much better than an email.’
Someone else said that when love cracks, other holes open to shine unexpected lights.
I replied as swiftly. ‘I’m in. Let me know exact dates.’ By bye Ireland, again.
I’m in Barcelona, that is where home became hell. It’s my last night. I’m flying to Bali in the morning. It’s almost October but it feels like July. I have deposited my unremarkable belongings in her attic. Leaving her the house and the books and the lamps and the housemates.
I have managed to secure a corpo fuck writing gig for the Spanish government – when love cracks, other holes shine a light. Leonard Cohen kind of said that, others have put it in myriad ways. Spanish gamblers have a rather self-indulgent expression: Afortunado en el juego, desafortunado en amores.
Bless me with your euros and corpo fuck me in South-East Asia.
I’ve secured the gig through a Catalan agency I usually write for. It is a terrible, damned, cursed gig. Except for the money – allegedly, the most terrible, damned and cursed creation of all. Invented by whom I wonder?
I’m staying over in my best mate’s apartment, my ultimate location when back in hell. It is a lovely place, except for the fuckt that my mate and his girlfriend are reproducing the same late night gymnastics I’ve been performing these past four months. Theirs is a fourteen-year relationship.
I’m out of the apartment most of the time, corpo fucking in random bars, either fancy ones with bikes hanging off walls and a menu exceedingly full of muffins and lattes, or in former neighbourhood bars, bares de barrio, now run by Chinese families after some sort of body snatchers episode.
Its window shops, its stools, its tables, its chairs, its ancient cockroaches, the plastic menus, the sign outside, even its name, everything has been preserved exactly like it was thirty years ago, but for the bartender’s native language.
ALL THE PATIENTS ARE ABORTIONS
Somebody said once that that every break up carries with it the memory of all your previous ones. I did fuck away to Brazil right after the previous one and lived on my stories for El País for a year and a half. They added the title ‘correspondent’ beneath my name for each story, but failed to pay me as one.
A year later I was back here, where everything seems to be preserved in sticky dampness, burning all my journalistic bridges plus sixty quid a day, in silver foil.
It was twelve years ago. Then came Ireland. I promised myself it would never happen again.
‘Never be a journalist again, dude’.
You can never trust someone who says never, let alone a former journalist speaking about drugs. Or journalism.
I gather four friends in a Chinese-Catalan bar. We sit outside. Scooters whizz past between the foam of the beer and the weed’s phosphorescent smoke; the first thing, along with crushed cocaine that anyone will smell upon landing in Barcelona.
Barcelona, the most unashamed drugged-up city in the universe, maintaining her pose as a 90s super model; a little tipsy, but unquestionably elegant, even after so many pimps and cunts and drillers have passed through; its former emotional geography cracked with the blatant blade of foreign credit cars.
For every scooter that passes one tourist gets lost and another intelligent techno song dries up in some monochrome intelligent fashion that nobody seems to understand. We drink cañas and eat boquerones and our burps smell like pink bleach. After the second caña a scooter stops right in front of us.
A colossal guy sporting a tiny helmet points at one of my mates with a massive index finger. My mate stands up with a cheeky smile. He is an accomplished plastic surgeon well capable of dj-ing African music with his scalpel, back in his American Psycho apartment. I wonder who is the patient now. As it turns out, we all are.
Ten minutes later we are inside the first toilet. An hour later we are downtown, inside an old bar full of unmerciful mirrors. We are reflected way too many times. Our generation has collapsed but its habits remain intact, colliding and erratically flowing with the push of the generation of our first girlfriend’s abortions. We are middle-aged men proud of our lack of offspring, though one of us might be paying money to increase their carbon imprint. The world is unsustainable and we feel weightless in some intoxicating way. This could be hell but it is rather enjoyable as a farewell party. We hit many toilet more, the latest being a less sustainable one. There’s a teenager inside it. I don’t know how that happened. But she tells me her age, which is the exact age as my first girlfriend abortion.
Tomorrow I’m flying to Bali and I have nothing to lose, she says. My name is Lucy.
In the sky, with diamonds.
Shine on, you crazy diamonds
Shine a fucking light
I might have told her that I’m also flying there, though I have no recollection of it.
I check my phone. 5am. I try to escape. I manage after an hour.
Lucy says: ‘see you in a couple of hours.’ Time is a downtown streetlight failing to come back to life.
Idem to love.
Back in the apartment my friend puts his whole body outside the five-storey window. His ex-girlfriend-to-be is not impressed. She is rather panicky. Me too. We could start a movement. And we actually do. We softly persuade him to inhabit the roofed part of the apartment, if only for what will turn out to be his last night there. And mine. My last home in Bcn has just vanished before departing. How beautiful is that?
One hour after the last toilet I’m packing up my things. My eyes are bat lasers. My breath holds on to the boquerones with the tightness of a tiny acrobat, one with a massive mouth. I gulp flashbacks, I burp dead hashtags and ambulances. I fear my fate. I can barely take care of myself and there are four cats and one Indonesian dog waiting for me in the fuck-all-hole I’ve decided on – did I? – to move to. Then my phone lights up:
‘Dude, I cannot find my little envelope,’ says the plastic surgeon. ‘If I were you I’d check my clothes: in Indonesia carrying that might bring a death sentence or life imprisonment.’
I only realise how fucked I am when I notice a strange wave of release growing and glowing all over my skinny bones, its joints, my jaw. Even my heartbeat seems to be slowing down. Somehow this is the first reassuring news since the break-up. That is to say that I was secretly convinced that some dear friend, if not my mother – a sophisticated version of Mourinho – would have come up with some alternative plan for my obscene lack of direction, namely roof, if not home. This was by far the worst thing of the whole demolition: to find myself homeless after losing the love of my life.
Though that also might come down to the fact that I’m still a damaged orphan.
There are two syndromes that any orphan develops when unable to deal with his or her trauma. Both are opposite – and wrong – ways of understanding revenge against injustice. The first one would be the Emperor Syndrome, Steve Jobs being its crown prince. The Emperor Syndrome is for those orphans whose ambition ignites after the trauma in some totalitarian fashion.
In those cases, ambition takes over from parenthood to show you don’t actually need parents to build your own empire, let alone be a father to your offspring. Stevie did have kids only to punish them with his absence. Though it is not punishment as much as mimicking what you already know, which is the basic source of coping or learning for any human being: we are all a sad bunch of imitators.
Unfortunately and thanks be to fucking God, this is not my case. I mean, I’m a sad imitator, but I belong to the offspring of the second syndrome, the Folded Arms Orphan Syndrome: reflecting the injustice of finding oneself deprived of the love of an adult at such an early age, Folded Arms Orphans expect any adult to nurse and take care of them, if only complying with the basic Catholic, Muslim or whatever other sect the orphan has found herself raised into. This, of course, rarely happens.
So yeah, the plastic surgeon’s text offers me an ultimate chance of getting a roof without having to nurse anyone else’s pets. I’m high as a kite, though, that is my second realisation, and perhaps the first paradox.
After having adopted jail as my new freedom my backpack is packed. Then a shiver reveals the boquerones’s parents, and all of their fucking descendants, and I realise how fucked up it will be to spend whatever life is left to me inside an Indonesian prison.
I proceed to unpack my backpack all over the tiles of my last home. My mate is horizontal, a stain of blood lying next to his pillow. I fail to wake him up. His brand-new-ex-girlfriend is nowhere to be seen. I’ll have to do it myself, something a Folded Arms Orphan is heroically incapable of.
I empty all my pockets, the secret compartments of the backpack, I open my passport, just to make sure the little envelope hasn’t found a new home among its pages. Only then negligence and dyslexia join sleeplessness, and I start to search inside the fridge, the bathroom, the roof and the tiles of the vanishing apartment until it is too late to conduct any other search if I want to actually get on that flight.
(PURE HYMN PATTERN)
Before Bali comes Singapore. And before Singapore there are Singapore Airlines hostesses, the first signs of the new Atlantis. Their uniforms are based on a set of magnetic patterns that seem to follow the soft stream of the half Valium I’ve swallowed before taking off. The stream follows her elbows, spins around the waists like an ambush of weightless cub tigers, until it reaches their smiles as the last bubble of a swimmer. I’m in the vegan Milky Way soothed by coconut hands and palm tree eyelashes, and my wine gets refilled without asking.
Haven’t done that in so long I can’t even remember I did it before.
After burning all my bridges and all the foil paper of every corner shop I knew, I had a little fridge with no food and tiny jars of methadone stacked up like an infinity pool.
As I landed in Bali I missed her so much.
My Little Goat, my love, the tiny jars, the fucking junction.
Everything is a big glowing SHE neon with a needle at the end. Then I go and burst it. And that is the story of my life before landing.
Yeah, I have landed.
I understand Franco. I can relate to him as a mummy.
I manage to keep my vowels disguised, the ascending foam just between the tip of my mouth and my premolars. But even a drunken Garda intern would have spotted me. Classic landing. Spot-on. My previous story seems to be rewriting itself. It happened almost exactly while landing in L.A., the only time I’ve been there, to interview Brad Pitt. Though this time it’s almost pleasant, Eastern quiet kind of pleasant. There are no words, just squeezed wrists and forearms and elbows – quite unnecessary but kind of gentle, and helpful, as I’m so wrecked I can hardly walk – and hectic shuffling and a hatch and some fluorescent lighting and an army of mosquitoes, and sighs, and the zip of my backpack going up and down, and up and down, like a fast-forward version of my doped heartbeat. The worst part probably being the ancient reek coming off centuries of dust and no armpit care of the stalled uniforms way older than the cops themselves.
I gather my belongings after a negative scan.
The Indonesian Gardaí are unimpressed. I’m grateful to be free, though exhausted. Lucy is nowhere to be seen, not that I can see much apart from the throbbing lights of the airport producing some stroboscopic belly dancing around my waist and my wrists and all the rounded ends of my lucky anatomy.
I see stars and flash-lighted heads, and only then shoulders. Or legs. Five metres after leaving customs behind, an organic cascade of debris and red wine comes out of my mouth, and I let it go while I keep walking, heroin addiction has a lot to give, especially unconcerned super model walking. There is a massive line of people holding signs with unreadable names. I slalom past them until I reach an empty gap in the fence to get a hold of myself. And there he is. Just ahead of me. Kadek. I’m reclined over the fence, both backpacks hanging off my torso and my back supplying the ultimate counterbalancing act.
Kadek looks at me
‘Mister H?’ he asks, and I embrace him and he kind of makes a swift Cobra movement and eludes me while offering graciously to carry at least one of the backpacks. I love him straight away.
Bullet Proof my ass
Over the next three hours Kadek would drive an endless frantic road that seems to have two lanes and four directions: you can either go right or left, and I could clearly see an expat driving backwards. It is some dyslexic paradise where there are scooters, chickens, gloomy stalls, and a bumpy, winding ditch, that has sub-ditches underneath. It’s pitch dark, all lampposts seem to have been swallowed by tree trunks, trees without any foreseeable end except for coconuts, its skin glowing under the moonlight. There are also many little vans carrying mangos and palm leaves and cardboard boxes on tiny opened rears.
I would ask Kadek all kinds of questions. He responds like a quiet man, not quite impressed with any of them, but polite enough to produce dry and thoughtful answers. I ask him about war, and dictators and genocide.
‘Did you fight in the war?’ ‘No, Bali was quiet, Balinese people always been peaceful people.’ ‘Yeah, ok, but Indonesia is like the Muslim mother of genocide.’ ‘No genocide in Bali,’ he says, ‘Balinese people good people.’ I nod and ask about bad people. He says: ‘no bad people in Bali.’
Does Buddha keeps them away from bad thoughts, does religion bring acceptance to invasion? I mean it only takes two kilometres to see as many locals in ditches as blond guys and girls floating around like doped calligraphy, missing the dots and the ellipses, funding obstacles and tropical necklaces with each step.
Kadek says that religion is important, that most Balinese people are Hindu rather than Buddhists. I ask him if he is sick of tourists. He says no.
‘What about Aussies?’ I ask him. He says: ‘perhaps, sometimes, when they drink. They love beer. They drink beer every night. Do you drink beer?’
I tell him no and ask him if we could stop somewhere along the way to buy some, not for me, but for my host, the father of my freedom, the same Irishman that employs both of us. I tell him Aussies never worry, they always smile and talk in extremely positive – and annoying – ways, about everything they do, as if Existentialism had passed them by, enough anyway to allow them cope with genocide or being the bastards of Boris Johnson’s exiled great-great grandparents.
He asks me about Ireland. I say: ‘wet, soaked, dark, but full of life, in some twisted, beautiful, and slagging manner that seems to comply and to take the piss constantly out of their insurmountable religious backgrounds.
He is not impressed with the “take the piss” line. He asks what I mean. I tell him that the Irish also piss on their chips, though they love their chips more than any other greasy understanding of deep frying shit.
I ask him if he has ever travelled abroad, I ask about East Timor, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. He says: ‘no, never, not a single one man,’ – only one of his family has been away from Amed, the town we are driving to, East Coast. Kadek tells me that Denpassar to Amed is one of the longest distances he has ever travelled.
And then he reflects on Papua people: ‘Maybe they are violent. They are tough people. You can shoot them and you won’t touch them, their skin would repel the bullets.’
I ask him to develop that: ‘Skin like metal. Not all of them, but the heads of the tribe. Real tough people.’
I’m utterly impressed now, I wonder if I should pay a visit to those people. He tells me not to do it.
There seems to be an accident in the middle of the multiple single road. Kadek slows down. There are two locals quietly departing, discussing a lack of petrol, and then the weather. He asks if they need help, no way, they are fine. It is a family dinner now, so it seems.
I ask him about his family. ‘Has he one?’ Of course he has, everybody has a family. I tell him not in Europe. I tell him about divorce and connectivity, and shattered lonely characters swinging with laptops, their ultimate offspring, looking for healing only to achieve damage. I tell him about burnt balls and demagnetized sexual organs. He will never look more unimpressed. So I take my chances and backslide on my shame: ‘I would like to stop somewhere to buy cigarettes and beer.’
He says: ‘yes, no problem,’ and asks if I like beer. I tell him I only want to be polite to my host, haven’t drunk one in twelve years, except for the twelve I had last night. He doesn’t care about numbers, but about my host, who is waiting for us at the end of the road, by the beach, where, apparently there is a party going on.
He has been sending me WhatsApp voice mails since I landed, though I have no reception anymore.
I’m free again. Have no signal, but a whole healing island.
What could possibly go wrong?