October 12, 1976, Soho, London. Andy stood in the alley outside the Prince of Wales. He felt in the pocket of his leather jacket and found most of a sheet of orange sunshine. Andy couldn’t remember putting it there. He couldn’t remember how he got to the cinema from the squat in Stoke Newington. But he knew that it was morning, that he was in a crowd of people, some heavy, heavy people, some lightweights, old freaks, young punks, odd straights, and that Fantasia was about to start inside. Andy balled the blotter in his hand and quickly stuffed it in his mouth. He gagged but kept chewing until it was gone. He turned and gestured to a wrinkly geezer wearing a tartan scarf but no shirt who was seated on a blackened sheet of cardboard in front of the fire exit. The man held up a can of bitter. Andy bolted a swig and handed it back. ‘Ta very much’, said one, ‘Nae bother’, said the other. A short time later Andy was sat in the dark amid zoo noises, crying and slurping, and that is when the lights began.
April 13, 1972, Blackpool. Andy opened the front door and dropped two plastic bags at the foot of the stairs: one with his schoolwork, the other with his PE kit in. He went into the kitchen, turned off the radio, took a bowl from the draining board, opened a cupboard door and took out a packet of Weetabix. Andy put two biscuits into the bowl, hesitated, and took one out, placing it back in the packet. He opened the fridge, which was empty except for a withered scallion and a dried piece of cheese. Andy returned the remaining Weetabix biscuit to the packet, folded it neatly down and put it back in the cupboard. He washed the bowl and placed it on the draining board. Andy went into the living room, sat down and stared into the empty fireplace.
January 5, 1990, Liverpool. Andy kneeled on the wooden floor, naked and sobbing, snot roping out of his nose and down his chest, into his lap. His hands were clasped together, the bones showing as he gripped himself hard. ‘Holy…mother…holy…mother…mother of…’ And he began laughing. His body shook and he coughed, and he stood and looked out across Huskisson Square. He remembered seeing a gathering of silver ghosts there once but today there was just one man, who looked real enough, seated on a bench with a mug of tea. The man shook his head, his dreads tumbled around his face, and he called up. Andy raised the sash and icy air rushed into the already cold flat. ‘Don’t take this the wrong way but… You want to have a word with yourself, la’’.
August 29, 1983, Snowdonia. Jeff had made the morning’s porridge in a stockpot and burned the lot. Andy dug out most of the blackened gunk with a wallpaper stripper, rinsed out what he could, and was now working on the inside with steel wool and a large quantity of bicarbonate of soda. ‘Bloody starving’, said Jeff. ‘Us and all’, said Jenny on behalf of her other half Cathal, who was lying on the red quarry tiled floor with his hands over his face. Several children in purple velveteen tops and trousers ran around the table whooping. Jenny started to roll-up. ‘Where’re the others?’ ‘Gone into the village to buy more porridge’, said Andy. ‘They’ll be ages’, said Cathal. ‘They won’t’, said Andy, ‘the pub’s not open yet.’ Seb walked in with Samira and four boxes of oats. ‘Cost a fortune’, said Seb. ‘And you lot haven’t paid your share for the last two weeks.’ ‘We’re broke’, said Jenny. ‘You’re always broke’, said Seb. ‘Look, I don’t think this is working…’ ‘Who made you boss?’ said Jeff. ‘It’s my house…’, said Seb. ‘Fucking typical’, said Jeff. ‘It’s mine, actually’, said Samira, and left the kitchen. Twenty minutes later Andy was out on the road with his thumb out, more in habit than expectation, when a car pulled up. ‘Where’re you going?’ ‘Wherever…’ ‘Hop in. In the front, like.’ Andy threw his rucksack on the back seat. He sat down next to the driver and noticed a claw hammer on the dash above the steering wheel. ‘Make yourself comfortable’, said the driver, with a smile that didn’t reach all of his face. Andy tried the handle, which came out limply. ‘Oh, I don’t think so’, said the driver.
December 23, 1992, Drumcondra. Jess had taken most things but had left behind a nearly full bottle of Soberano, which they had brought back from their almost happy week in Spain that summer. Andy put all the pills he could find into a tumbler, filled it to the lip and drank it in one, and kept on at it until all the brandy was gone. Earlier that afternoon he had found a length of electrical cable under the sink and tied it to a plank. He had carried this upstairs with a chair, poked up the loft door, laid the plank lengthways and tested the cable. He sat on the sofa staring at the bottle; unsure as to whether he had the legs left to go upstairs where the chair waited. Andy got to his feet and made it to the bannister. He pulled himself up step by step, took a breath when he reached the landing and climbed onto the chair. Andy tipped backwards and fell, bounced twice on the stairs and lay unmoving in the hall by the front door.
March 15, 1989, Dalston. Andy released Ambrose from a long embrace, their greatcoats flapped apart. ‘You’re going to make it, Andy. You can really make it.’ ‘There are good things in the world, Ambrose. I never knew that before. And you’re one of them.’ Ambrose grasped him at the elbows, and they hugged again. ‘I’m not going back there, Ambrose. I can’t go back.’ ‘You don’t have to Andy. You have a world of tranquillity inside you now. The universe takes care of its own. Love is wherever you are, stand still and you will find it.’ ‘I’ll find it. I’m sure I will.’ And Andy picked up his carrier bag, crossed the busy high road, and walked through the spoiled vegetables, the fish heads, the burst fruit, the broken packing cases, the greasy newspapers and the scattered cans of the street market. He looked left and turned right and was away around the corner and out of sight.