I was walking up Kingsland Road with a 4 can haze when I spotted the slinger, he was standing in the shadow of the DIY store, beneath the giant wooden hammer. I nodded as I neared, so he jostled forward, hands jabbing.
Coke boss? Fuckin best in London bruv.
I shook my head, I want some weed.
Nah bruv, don’t mess about, buy these fuckin wraps, he held out two lottery ticket wraps, probably full of lidocaine.
I don’t want coke, I’m leaving early tomorrow, I just want to get stoned on my last night.
The slinger looked pissed off, he was posturing aggressively, but it was busy there at the junction. He glanced around and gave a quick nod across the street.
Come with me bruv.
I followed him down a side street to a shadowy spot between lamps. He relaunched his hard sale with vigour, pushing the wraps into my hand, barking into my face.
Take the fuckin wraps and give me 50 you fuckin pussy.
Behind us came a tough, serious looking teenager, still baby faced. The increased confidence of the slinger indicated that this giant boy was his colleague. The power of my imminent departure mixed with the 4 cans of strong Polish lager kept me calm, I smiled, I was amicable.
Wagwan? Said the baby-faced slinger, eying me up.
I just want some decent weed, I said.
Nah man, fuck dat, said the first agro slinger, give me ya fuckin money ya rasclaat cunt!
Babyface made a pacifying gesture, and the agro slinger backed off a little, then he was saying, sure bossman, we got your shit, let’s take a walk.
I followed the two of them along streets parallel to Kingsland High Street. Babyface ambled slow, he had a wise disposition, Agro hopped along the curb, flashing fists, saying, ain’t we gunna merk im? Babyface waved Agro down and started casual conversation.
I’m tired as shit cuz, all that building down my ends for that Olympic bollocks has been messing wid my snooze.
Agro chilled a bit, he began listing off what other drugs he could get: coke, crack, mandy, speed, spice, whatever you like bruv.
I said I like hallucinogens, Agro snorted, hippy pagan shit, you like brown?
Yeah I like it, the few times I tried, but I’ve seen it fuck up friends.
Agro replied with a whistle that suggested depths I could only imagine.
I just want to smoke some weed on my last night in town, I went on.
Where you heading? Enquired Babyface.
Prague. To study.
Yeah, study what?
Bless cuz, dat’s my subject, laughed Babyface, I’m da economics master, I run tings round ere, ya get me?
Nah, it’s just some rich boy pussy-o shit, said Agro, growing hostile again, dis rat leaving a sinking ship innit.
I’m not rich, I said, I’m fucking 33 and I’ve just scraped up enough to study, I’ve been working bars and shit for the past decade.
Nah bruv, said Agro, I’m 33, you look fuckin 12 bruv.
The two of them laughed at my expense.
Tell me about it, I said, I still get ID’d for baccy.
Then Agro grew serious.
One more year and we beat Jesus.
Babyface looked confused, Jesus? What the fuck you on about fam?
Me an this pagan are both 33, Jesus was merked at 33 init, explained Agro.
At that point Agro became Slinger Jesus.
The side streets delivered us further up the main road outside Oyun, the arcade bar. Slinger Jesus demanded 10 quid upfront, 20 after, I took out my wallet and leant away from the slingers, I had a wadge of notes in there, mostly euros. Once he had my advance, Slinger Jesus slipped into Oyun and I waited outside talking to Babyface, who gently hustled me for another 10 to buy them both a drink. We stood there 7 long minutes and I was starting to think I was being ripped off altogether, when Slinger Jesus returned with a small baggy in his hand.
‘Ere’s your food bruv, dat peng haze, now give me the fuckin 20.
He held the baggy towards me, flexing its mouth, wafting the pungent vapours. It was barely a ‘teenth, not worth 30, but I bought it. A few years before I could’ve got a fat bag of excellent homegrown for the same price, but my squatter friends were all gone, the old block on Richmond Road ripped down by hydraulic dinosaurs.
Peace, said Babyface as the two slingers slunk back down the side street.
There’s a prize in there for you bruv, yelled Slinger Jesus.
As they departed I dug into the green herb and discovered a rizla wrap containing a little powder. Without thinking I entered Oyun, there was no queue, the colossal bouncer waved me in. The place oozed with viscous bass, whipped like cream by the electronic storm of the arcade machines. I moved through the jibber jabber of the post-new-rave party animals, the Turkish guys in leather jackets, the mandem and gyaldem from London Fields to Hackney Marshes, drinking, dancing, playing air hockey. Soon I had a mojito slushy in my hand and was washing down the wrap of mystery powder. It was a bad place to wait for a drug, the multicolour glare and chittering bleeps bore their own delirium.
The exit light started to splinter into spidery legs and an unfamiliar power installed itself below my solar plexus, I immediately regretted my decision. The 7 or 8 hours I had intended to spend mostly asleep were now at the whim of this alien intelligence. Across the blood brain barrier, aroused receptors purred into life, a pang of paranoia rattled me and my vision exploded into a carnival of geometric automatons. I lost control. An LED serpentine helter-skeltered across the purple dark, casting the shadow of family, a longing for repentance became an uncoiling mandala of exposed brick textures, a female singer sang: dream a little dream (suck the life out) of me.
Then from the crowd emerged Slinger Jesus, abysmal but radiant, like an event horizon, his serene face gripping my guts with terror.
He proclaimed: The people that sat in darkness have seen a great light.
Then He was lost among art grads in corpse paint, forlorn like nettles.
I contemplated the dreadful vibration of the floor, I felt myself the only one living in a room of dead souls.
Forever passed away.
My hand arose and the slushy was at my lips. Clarity came. Red light vomited a silo of severed heads into my eyes, but the scene was deadened by the ‘cool’ originating from the tip of my tongue, freezing all I beheld. I could perceive the factions, the gangs, the crews, the pimps and the plainclothes policemen among the clientele. I heard the fanfare of minor demi-gods moving about the room, clicking and beeping, manifesting in powders and drinks, in grubby cash and confidence tricks.
You cannot serve both God and Mammon, said the idea of Slinger Jesus concealed in the leopard print upholstery of a barstool.
I saw the spectres of the ‘underclass’ projected by the psy-op implants black-magicked into my skull by the capital owning elite. I saw the taxonomy of my prejudices. I saw behind the mask of the ravenous wolf the raw fear of poverty. I saw in the face of the outcast the loss of all fear.
Abrasive grime crashed onto the speakers, I was back in my body, throwing it towards the nearest dancefloor. Chains spun around the neck of a furlined elf child, two bears hugged, something mechanical whooped, I knocked into the drink of a stellar incarnation, they smiled, no care, the glaze of the cosmos insulating them from drama.
The scene became muted.
Without respect, food won’t go into the belly, said Slinger Jesus, orating melodically from the blood pumping through my heart as I danced.
The meek shall inherit the earth.
Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Judge not lest ye be judged.
When He fell silent, bittersweet reggae pumped, I felt back in control. I caught the words: your soul is worth more than diamonds, as I stumbled outside to smoke a joint. Out in the alley, as I inhaled, I realised that the aberration of inequity was the true crime, Slinger Jesus had come not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it. A premature burn-out in a grubby t-shirt sidled up to me, a St Francis forced to poverty before he could choose it, one of many saints without autonomy wandering the city at that time. I rolled a substantial joint and shared it with St F, soon we were joined by 2 Mary Magdalenes, (the Old School Catholic and the Gnostic, prostitute and scholar), then came the Penitent Thief with a rucksack full of iPhones, all drawn by the alluring odour of the weed to Communion. As St F raved about a rare white label to PT, and the 2 Marys discussed the mayoral election, I remembered I was leaving this great cursed city, 4 years since the crash, 1 since the riots, an economic exile, a refugee of class warfare, if I ever returned it would be as an outsider.
Then down the alley by the fire escape, I caught a glimpse of Slinger Jesus. As I drew deeply on the zoot I knew I was imbibing of His flesh and His blood, and as I watched Him cut a deal with a crooked bouncer, I understood that He had come not to bring peace but a sword. Slinger Jesus would remain here to battle against the Pharisee of The Square Mile, against Babylon International, against the rentiers and enforcers, against the bailiffs and screws, destined to be slandered and crucified, the odds as stacked as the First Coming.
A little later I left Oyun and wandered to the park to smoke the last of the weed, the hallucinogen was on its slow decline and a little sleep still seemed possible. On that mild summer evening many people were strolling, some drinkers had gathered by the park entrance, laughing bombastically. I found a quiet bench and checked my pockets. I still had my wallet, and it still held the 350 euros, plus about £12. I sighed; it had been a perfect goodbye to the city. Sitting on the bench, beneath a blood orange lamp, I avoided the gaze of the cottagers and watched the last of the smoke unfurl.
Then I saw him again, Slinger Jesus, walking down the shadowy path, with Babyface and a dozen or so other youths. His demeanour was predatory, the rhododendrons a harsh jungle under artificial light and the shimmering menace of broken glass cracked beneath his trainer tread.
Ders dat pagan cuz.
Da rat dat flee da sinking ship.
Fucking hell fam, cunt looks propa baked.
Man got bare euros cuz, I saw dem over by Os.
Let’s fuckin take dem den.