I’m shivering. I shuffle under the covers. I put my head on the pillow. I force my eyes closed but they reopen of their own accord. I shut them again. Again, they reopen. I don’t have control over them.
“What’s the matter?” Lorna asks.
“This doesn’t feel like heroin,” I say. Then I remember I don’t trust her anymore. That’s why my eyes won’t stay shut.
“This is what the poison’s like here. It’s different from the shit you get in the UK.”
I don’t believe her. That’s not right. It wasn’t like this last night when we were shooting up together. She’s not all over me anymore. She never really fancied me. She just wanted to reel me in. I mustn’t close my eyes. I have to stay awake. Otherwise, she’ll have me, and everything I own that’s in my hotel suite.
“Try to sleep.” Lorna fiddles with my hair. I don’t like her touching me. Maybe I feel like this because I know she’s shaven. Maybe it’s not the heroin. Perhaps it’s all anxiety. If I talk about it, it might pass. That’s what happens sometimes when I talk to Shelley or Dr Fielding.
“I feel panicky.” I sit up and lean against the headboard. “Do you ever get that?”
Lorna looks at me. “Yes, not often but sometimes.”
“Why do you want to hang out with me?” I ask.
“Because I like you. You’re funny. We’re into the same things. Why do you think?”
To answer her question I need to leave honesty at this point. If she is here to rob me, there’s no good going to come from making her aware that I suspect it. And if she isn’t here to do that, then telling her will only offend and probably upset her. “Sometimes I just get low self-esteem,” I say. It’s the kind of thing Dr Fielding would say. In fact, Dr Fielding does say it and I say to her: that’s not true – I have no self-esteem.
I didn’t used to feel this badly about myself. Long ago, I did. But a few years ago, I was getting my life together. It wasn’t all okay, but I was better than this, not as low as this. I was overcoming the posttraumatic stress – the flashbacks, the nightmares, all of it was getting better. I stopped working as a call girl in 1997. Then not long after, it all got fucked up. It’s my own fault. I couldn’t handle not working. I had to go back. If only I’d known what would happen. I would never have done it. What example was I setting my younger sisters? How selfish I’ve been. It’s my fault what happened to Milly.
I push a cigarette between my lips and light it. “How long did you work in a brothel for?” I ask Lorna.
“A couple of years.”
“Were you able to shut down when you saw punters?”
“What do you mean?”
“Did you switch off when you were with them? Disappear somewhere else in your head? It’s like punters I’ve fucked could walk past me in the street and unless they’re regulars I wouldn’t even recognise them. Do you know what I mean?”
“Yes, yes of course I did that.” Lorna’s doing that twisting thing with her hair. The same thing I do, except she weaves a blonde strand between her ring and middle fingers.
“I think it’s ‘cos most of us were abused as kids.” If she shuts down, I’m nearly sure she was too. “That’s what my therapist says. That’s what makes us able to do that shutting down thing. I thought it was good but it’s not. I’ve got fragmented memories. They’re coming up – the feelings from them. That’s what happened last night when I was with you.” Part of me wants to stop now but I feel the need to carry on. “Because you’re shaven down there, it makes me think of a child. I see myself being abused again. I can feel it.”
I wish I hadn’t said that now. The feelings are becoming stronger, not weaker. The anxiety I feel is combined with a physical flashback. Electricity is powering through my legs. I shake my legs as if that’s going to shake it off. I know it doesn’t work. I can feel myself rocking. I can’t stop it. The tears are coming. I can’t move.
Lorna slides along the bed. She sits right up close to me. “You’ll be okay. I’m here.” She slips her arm over my shoulder. She pulls my head into her breasts. I don’t want to be touched.