Meanwhile, at the Bus Station…

In which The Author rejects the hand of friendship

After doing a bit of shopping yesterday evening, I decided to catch the bus home. The sky was extremely dark, and the lunchtime forecast hadn’t been too promising. Even though I’ve got a proven track record of getting into the house just as the rain starts, my luck is bound to run out eventually.
When I got to the station, there were a few people waiting for the various buses heading north out of Aberdare. I was counting out my fare when a vaguely-familiar voice said ‘Hi, Steve.’
It was Clare.
We haven’t spoken at all since we quarrelled on- and off-line, over a year ago. We’ve seen each other around town, of course. Aberdare’s a small place, and you’re bound to bump into everyone you know sooner or later. Last time I saw her, we were on the same bus the day I photographed the war memorials around the valley. However, every time I’ve seen Clare she’s been with some piece of lowlife or another. As I’ve pointed out several times already (most notably in Not Born Beautiful), they’re not the sort of people I want in my circle of friends. I don’t even want them at one remove – and if Clare and I somehow picked up where we’d left off, I’d have no choice but to have them in my orbit.
In fact, the bloke she was with looked like a prime specimen of lowlife. I’ve seen him around the place as well. Life in a goldfish bowl has that effect. I don’t know his name, and I doubt very much whether we’d have very much to talk about. After all, I’m not into drugs or petty crime.
So, when she asked me if I was going to start talking to her again, I pretended to think about it for about half a second.
Then I said, ‘No, I don’t think so.’
She mumbled something which was obviously intended for me, then carried on talking to her friend. My bus came in and I got on without looking back.
Starting with Clare, from now on I’m going to be far more selective about the people I spend time with. If that means that I’m called ‘a snob’, or ‘rude’, or ‘ignorant’, then so be it.
I doubt very much whether I’m missing out on very much, to be perfectly frank. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time on the periphery of that scene. As I told you in Zigzagging Down Memory Lane and Leaving No Turn Unstoned, my favourite music, books and films are often products of the drug culture. Even so, I’ve never indulged in that scene personally. If I want to ‘expand my consciousness’ (whatever that means!), I can usually do it through music or books. I’ve never wanted to experiment at first hand.
You see, I noticed a strange phenomenon many years ago, while hanging out with the stoners and/or trippers. If you read the literature of drug use (the Beat Poets, for instance, or the psychedelic papers of the late 1960s and early 1970s), they all maintain that drug use ‘heightens your appreciation’ of Music, Art, Films, whatever…
It sounds tempting, doesn’t it? For instance, I’ve often wondered whether Christopher Priest’s debut novel Indoctrinaire would be any more terrifying if I dropped some acid first. Would sitting in a room with a bunch of people who’ve all read the book, and all dropping acid before we started discussing it, enhance the experience?
Personally, I doubt it. To judge from my previous experience, the only topic of conversation in a drugs group is the drugs themselves: how much they cost; who the end-customer bought them from; what the effects are like (good, bad, or different from the last lot); what the group did last time (pretty much, sat around and talked about drugs); what the group is going to do next time (pretty much, sit around and talk about drugs); and so forth.
On the rare occasions where I have been present, and have tried to steer the conversation on to a different topic, it soon returns to its set trajectory. It’s like being a man in a rowing boat, and trying to shift the battleship it’s tethered to. Even trying to raise the subjects which are supposedly ‘enhanced’ by the drugs experience – music, films, art – doesn’t appeal to them. So much for the hype!
So I hope you see why I don’t feel at all bad about rejecting Clare’s friendly overture yesterday. She’s firmly established in that crowd now, and I never will be part of it. We had little enough in common to begin with, and now we’ve got hardly anything in common now – apart from living in the same town where we’ll cross paths every now and again. That simply puts her up there with the thousands of people living here whom I don’t know, and will probably never know. Perhaps we’ll have some overlapping friends in our relative circles, but I doubt it. I’m taking positive steps to keep well away from the Aberdare drugs scene now. If I have to lose friends and alienate people as a result, then it’s for my own safety and security.
Believe me – I’m telling you straight!
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