Mickey’s waiting outside the Radisson for me. I’m in a phone booth in the lobby. My backside aches from sitting on the lightly padded seat so long. I was on a call to my brother, Enda, for ages, convincing him that I’m okay and looking after myself. He said Milly was doing better. She’s out of hospital now, staying with him, and Susie’s helping to look after her too. I’m pleased and relieved they’re coping without me but I was the mother to my brother and sisters. I feel redundant and I am.
“In the state I’m in, I’m useless to them,” I say to Dr Fielding who I’m on a call to now.
“You’re not useless, Nicole.” Dr Fielding’s voice is gentle and calm, like my mother’s used to be before she started drinking. “How many days clean from heroin are you? It can’t be more than a week.”
“About that,” I say. I don’t usually lie to her, but I don’t want a lecture. I’ve also decided not to tell her about what happened the other night after the party in Dee Why. There’ll be another lecture about drinking too much. Regardless, if I don’t talk about it, it’ll be easier to forget. Although I must remember to get tested at a clinic soon.
“It’s early days. I’d say give yourself a break. Enjoy the holiday. You can’t do anything from the other side of the world.”
“I want to talk to you about something else. That’s why I called. I’ve met someone, a man.”
“And how’s that been for you?”
“Nothing’s happened yet.” I pick at a spot on my chin. “He held me before, like he hugged me when we were lying down, and I went away – that dissociation thing. It took ages to come back. It was awful. ”
“How are you feeling now?”
“I don’t feel like myself but I feel more like me than I did before. I want him to touch me. I want to… How can I stop it happening again?”
“It’ll take time. I’d say take it slowly. You’ll need to build up trust so you feel safe. Remember, that’s been your coping mechanism for most of your life. You might not need it, but it’s become an automatic response. We can work on it more when you come back to London.”
I thank her for her time and end the call. But it’ll be too late when I’m back in London. And anyway, I don’t know when I’m going back. I haven’t decided. I’m not needed in London anymore. Maybe I’ll stay here.
I run across the hotel lobby and out through the automatic doors. When we arrived, it was light outside. I’ve been on the phone so long, now it’s getting dark. Mickey takes my hand. It feels okay. I like it. With my hand in his, we walk to his van parked up the road.
I’m craving a hit and finally, we can go to the dealer. While we were in my suite earlier, I picked up my purse – that’s what we came back for. Although I have enough cash to pay for the gear we’re buying, I’ve told Mickey I need to go to a cash point. I always like having a few hundred pounds on me, or as I’m in Australia, dollars. I feel safer when I’ve got money, like I feel safer when I’m wearing high heels.