Where is your star? Was it far…was it far!?
Look at my flesh and bone
Now look, look, look, look
Look at this tower of stone – I see a rainbow rising!
Look there on the horizon… And I’m coming home!
Coming home, I’m coming home!
These are parts of the lyrics to Stargazer by Rainbow from their 1976 album of “Rainbow Rising”. Yes, I know most people are wondering what this song has to do with the continuation of the previous part. And it does look like my typical digressing – and lengthening the account of whatever I’m talking about. But there’s a connection; and I only realise the significance of this song when I was doing some research “for the original Part 3” (which might now become “Part 4”).
It had happened exactly one week ago. As has been the case so often for the past few months, Sherry Nor-Jane had a ringside view to it… of knowing exactly how much I was affected by it all (I had SMS to her about the emotional turmoil that had gotten to me. Thankfully, it wasn’t long). And the reason why I’m writing this particular post is, I have to!… I had tried to ignore it – or maybe to write it `later on’. But NO, my self says, `This one first’. I had tried to write “another post” here, But it didn’t come out! So…
*Stargazer: 1. An astronomer. An astrologer. A physicist who studies astronomy. A daydreamer. Someone indifferent to the busy world. Heavy-bodied marine bottom-lurkers with eyes on flattened top of the head.
The lyrics above: They don’t leave much – or any – impact on you, most probably. And why should they indeed? In fact, they might even seem “crazy”. Plus many won’t be able to stand the `noise’ when they listen to the song. There’s an MP3 download from here at BeeMP3.com. For those who have the time and inclination to “try understand deeper”, listening to it might help. “With what?” I don’t really know…
But it’s a VERY significant song for me because of the memories associated: 1) I had first listened to it in early 1977, while waiting for the MCE results – a time when I was steadily addicted to heroin for the first time – so very confused then and didn’t know what to do.
2) The last two lines of the quoted lyrics: They came to mind when I was on a Transnasional express bus from Kuantan to Kota Bharu from 3PM onwards on Monday 19 Dec 2006 as the bus moved out from the Kuantan Terminal… Going home/Coming home, almost 17 months after that fateful day when I was detained, spent time in a dank lockup, then prison, then dank lockup again where I spent Hari Raya Puasa 2005… And then to what unexpectedly became a sacred place; called Pusat Serenti Gambang. 17 months is quite a long time for anything – Only those who had gone through that would understand; of not seeing someone you love so much – in my case, my youngest child who was 14 when I had last seen him…
And Ronnie James Dio’s melodic wailings of those lines were in my mind on that bus… And I was later to discover over the months, “other things” in the song about this “coming home” – the (sometimes) disappointments of this much-vaunted `freedom’; and of wondering where I actually belong, of where is this “home” for me really is…
But it’s not home, but it’s not home
Take me back, take me back
Back to my home
It was this – and memories of how physical addiction had felt like the first time – that had created the turmoil last week. I could feel a bit of it again, and the body even felt hot – the same heat that one suffers when in withdrawal. That’s how powerful the mind is!
“How did I ever get addicted to heroin?” In the previous post, there was mention about “leaving the flock” – of a group comprising my classmates and those who had joined our discussion group that gathered at SAHC most nights (except Fridays). Not for the first time, and nor was it to be my last, I made a wrong choice when it comes to “deciding on friends”.
From the middle of 1976, night classes were held for the benefit of private candidates who would be re-sitting for the MCE and HSC. It was my knowing one of them that was to bring about frequent usage of heroin.
There was one particular night when someone in my pack somehow decided to `tong/collect’ – polling money to buy some heroin through one of the night-class students. Previously, this was done on on special occasions; like during the school’s Talentime Night. Or during the dinner after the annual Sports Day.
[There was one for the officials and students who had helped. Us, we’d gatecrash after the teachers were gone. And fellow students didn’t dare tangle with those from Form 5H. There was beer and a punch bowl too. Although some of us did consume it, I didn’t; for this very simple reason – it is haram. However, we didn’t see drugs as such then.]
Somehow the heroin I had consumed on those occasions previously didn’t result in much effect as it had “the first time” – there was too little of it. Or, “there were too many tempek (freeloaders)” who wanted a few puffs too. No complaints, for I was one of the tempeks. As such, there was no attraction or pull the following day “to want to repeat the previous experience”.
But this particular tong/collection was to be way different. Heroin was at RM4-5 per small sachet. For someone moderately addicted, that’s quite enough to see him through the day, even if he consumes it through the `wasteful’ cigarette-spiking method. Here, a hole is punch through the centre of the cigarette – Lucky Strike was the choice. Then the heroin, which was crushed into fine powder, was sucked in.
Of course, there would be more of the stuff near the tip; which was why people would argue `for the right’ to light it (the one who had forked out more usually wins. Or the guy who went to buy it). The spiked cigarette was made moist to slow down the burning rate.
That night, five people had pooled for the heroin that was enough for two spikes. And one of them was Azmi Che Pi, who was three years older than I was. He was invited because he knew someone else who could buy it from the top pusher in Alor Star – a woman called “Leng Kang” who lived beside the Mahawangsa Hotel (just after Cathay Cinema). Incidentally, the district police station was quite close to it, and Leng Kang’s longhouse actually shared a fence with the police barracks.
CAPTION: William S. Burroughs (1914-1997). American novelist, graduate of Harvard University. Former heroin addict. Click on pix for details from Answers.com
Ask anyone from SAHC during that period and he’d know “Mi Che Pi”. On quite a few occasions and for various offences (smoking in the school compound, sneaking out, not attending classes etc) he was given public caning during the assembly, and/or `live’ – during the public announcement at noon through the school’s PA system. Far from being shunned by others, those who were caned were actually looked upon with respect!
He was also a member of the school’s rugby team which was the Kedah champion – very prestigious, and players were accorded “hero status”. Mi Che Pi was going to sit for the MCE again after disastrous results in 1974 (he didn’t in `75).
Suffice to say that when `only’ six people shared that RM5 sachet, everyone was bombed. For just RM1 each…
When the effects wore off, one would feel jaded, tired… and yearned “to have that feeling again”. Yes, it will come again, of course – plus the tiredness, jaded effects and “unhappiness”. The addiction to heroin, morphine – it’s grip is so soft and subtle; and so deceiving where the user simply doesn’t realise he’s getting hooked!
My friends were not happy that I was taking it so frequently – always seeking out Mi Che Pi, who’d then ask another one of those at the night classes – Mahadi, or “Di Cina” (he looked a bit like a Chinese). If we couldn’t scrape the RM5, it’d take longer – have to find one or two others first.
My friends were concerned, for they had heard of addiction; and they knew that I was well on that road. Mokhtar Ibrahim of Batu 2, Jalan Langgar – the leader of our pack, and who was also the class monitor – had a talk with me… to advice, remind, warn and plead about what I was getting into. They were okay enough with taking heroin “on occasions”. However, my usage was no longer that.
When they saw that I had ignored their advice and pleas, they made one desperate effort. In wanting to shake me out of it, they issued an ultimatum – be friends with them OR with Mi Che Pi… either one, NOT both. And arrogant dumbass that I was, I chose the latter…
In essence, it wasn’t really me who had made that decision – the addiction did. How did it come about? Through regular consumption. With me then, it was at least once every other day.
The result would be the same thing for anyone in this wide world regardless of the nationality, race, religion, political leanings, sex, age, social status, education level or favourite colour – physical addiction.
And the misery of addiction to heroin is something that only those who have actually been in the situation would know about. I had read many accounts of it, but in ALL of them, “the descriptions are never complete” – you can’t fully describe it no matter how good your writing skills are!
Would anyone want to argue about the writing skills of author William S. Burroughs, who was a heroin addict too once? But I find even his descriptions “aren’t complete”. But he’s close enough with this one:
“Junk is the ideal product… the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy.“
Exaggeration? We’ll have to ask those who are heavily addicted about the veracity of Burroughs’ claim. I forgot – I was one too, once; so that means I’m qualified to give an opinion. He’s correct. Yes, including about the sewer part, although I never had to crawl through one… and you’d actually feel the seller is doing you a favour by selling! That’s how bad physical addiction to heroin is; its power and pull.
I wasn’t in the “heavy” or even “medium” class yet. But when it comes to “addiction”, any class or level is “bad” – especially when it’s something as devious as heroin. And there I was, addicted to heroin… and the MCE examinations arrived too. It was the Day of Reckoning for “the Form 5H superstar, and school’s English Language and Literature top student; plus the `History challenger'”…
[To be continued in Part 4…]