I’ve gone round to Sharon’s and walked into a stand-up row between Sharon and her brother in their kitchen. They’re yelling at each other and the dog’s going barmy. She’s a slut and he’s a dick is the argument in a nutshell. The phone rings. I make myself useful and answer it. It’s Trevor, Sharon’s ex. He’s drunk, he’s down the pub and he wants Sharon to drive him and his van back to his house. He’s shouting as well. I relay the message to Sharon. She sags theatrically in despair, bursts into tears and aims a girly haymaker at her brother.
I drive Sharon, who’s still weeping, to the pub. We can hear Trev shouting in the pub from outside in the carpark. He got a real gob on him. Trev’s in the back bar. It’s a snug little bar with open fire and pool table, crowded as usual with tearaways, addicts, spongers, the lonely and the unloved. Trev’s in his element. He’s shouting and shoving and dancing and stealing kisses like an extrovert, populist tribal chief at a public feast. The moment he sees Sharon he howls like a wolf, bends her over backwards tango-style and crams his lips against hers. Sharon is surprisingly complaisant.
It’s not a pub I’m used to. I keep my anorak on. A boy and his underage sweetheart come through the door. Trev snatches the cap from the head of an old man at the bar and places it on the girl’s head. He steps back and cocks his head. Could have been made for her, he shouts. (It could, actually.) She models it shyly for her boyfriend. ‘To you, my handsome, a pound,’ says Trev. The poor lad hands one over. Trev shimmies away to the pool table to put the pool champion off his stroke.
When Trev comes back, it’s to pose the inevitable question. Before we drive him home, will Sharon and I go thirds with him — £15 each — on a gram? I’m beginning to wish I’d stayed in. Of course, I say. But Sharon says she doesn’t trust him. He’s a con man, she says. A robbing bastard. She wants to see his money first.
Trev puts on his little-boy-denied-sweets act. (He should have gone on the stage, he really should.) Then he puts a crumpled fiver on the bar in front of us. It’s all he’s got, he says. But if Sharon will pay his share as well, he’ll pay her back tomorrow. Miserable now beyond words, Sharon draws back her fist and aims another one of her girly haymakers at him. She’s been going to kick-boxing lessons twice a week lately, but doesn’t appear to be learning much. Trev easily catches her wrist, pins it against the wall, laughs, and snogs her.
His van won’t start, so Sharon and I have to push. Sharon is incandescent about this more than anything. To be emotionally snagged, at her age, by a middle-aged thug with a van that won’t start, is to have signally failed in life. Back at Trev’s place she gives him a verbal pasting, finishing with, ‘And you can’t even afford your own crack, you loser!’
For a volatile man, Trev takes the tirade surprisingly well. In fact, now he’s back at home presiding over the little pile of white powder on the table in front of him, he’s calm, rational and sober. Listen, babe, he says, patiently. He’s supplying the coke, the acetone in which to dissolve it, the dessert spoon, the home-made water pipe, the technical know-how and the venue —including heat, light, CD player, CD, coffee, milk and sugar. And because Sharon and I are such a pair of muppets, he says, he’s going to have to take it on himself to load the pipe, hold it in the air for each of us in turn, hold a flame over the lump of crack, and even tell us when to suck. He’s entitled to a discount.
Sharon’s not having it. ‘Oh, you’re so kind, aren’t you, you spiv!’ she yells. ‘You and your spiv family!’ (She and Trev were together nine years.) ‘The only reason you’re washing the coke and loading the pipe yourself, you bastard, is so you can have a few sneaky extra goes when we’re not looking!’ Then she goes to a drawer, gets a sheet of paper, slams the drawer, and all business-like draws three columns on it, headed S, J and B (‘for Bastard’).
Trev washes up the coke and round goes the crack-pipe, with Sharon carefully recording each turn at the crack-pipe like a cricket scorer. And she’s right! When the crack’s used up, Trev’s somehow gained an extra three pipes on the rest of the field. And then the shouting and the recriminations begin again. I go out to the cold kitchen to sit with Trev’s anxious-looking labrador for a while, wishing I’d stayed in.