They stood in front of her mirror, Pamela and Nicola, and behind their reflections was the open window and beyond that, all of Glasgow, it seemed. ‘Don’t say I look like a boy.’ Pamela turned her head to see her profile.
‘I feel like battering you. I should have stopped you,’ her friend said. ‘Your curls were gorgeous.’ ‘Suits me, for fighting.’ Pamela’s hands were sticky with the mousse she’d used to spike her hair. Her neck felt bare so she zipped her ski jacket to her chin and wiped her hands on her jeans.
‘I bet your ma had a hairy canary.’‘ I like it. Richard likes it.’
They stood a little longer in the mirror, the two friends
‘I would have thought you’d do something with numbers,’
Pamela said eventually.
‘Nah. Shall we go?’
Pamela checked her hair again in the mirror and replaced her sleeper earrings with studs. Then she looked around her bedroom for her boots. ‘What are you going to do?’ her pal asked.
‘I don‘t know,’ Pamela said. ‘I don’t really care. Now where’s my boots?’
The girls were used to searching for Pamela’s lost clothes or shoes. When they’d checked the wardrobe and the piles of clothes on the floor they lay on their bellies on Pamela’s bed and took a side each, pulling up the valance and sticking their heads underneath.
‘Here they are,’ she said, pulling them out by their laces.
A bottle rattled out of one boot. Pamela picked it up. It had a chemist’s label and her brother’s name on it.
‘Come and look at this,’ she said.
Nicola turned herself around and crawled to Pamela’s side of the bed. They lay there, the girls, on their bellies, looking at the bottle.
‘I reckon my brother planked these,’ Pamela said.
‘In your boot?’
‘What are they?’
‘Temazepam. Jellies. He called the doctor out the other night. Said he was freaking out, because of my dad.’
‘Give us one then,’ Nicola said and Pamela looked up at her pal. She’d never taken one before. Glue and fighting had been enough.
The lid was difficult to undo – it just clicked round and round – so Nicola took the bottle from Pamela, pressed hard on the plastic cap with her palm and twisted it off.
‘How many?’ she said.
‘Look at the size of them. They’re not going to do nothing to me. Two?’
They took two.
The walk across the field was exciting as they waited to feel something. Their boots swished on the damp grass. Gulls cawed overhead. And when Pamela’s ma shouted from the veranda ‘Don’t you be out late,’ they only turned and waved, her warning cry ineffectual, her body and waving arms tiny against the vast wall of concrete around her.
Back in Pamela’s bedroom the girls lay on their backs. Afternoon. Still wearing the previous night’s clothes.
‘That wee guy from Blackhill took four off me. I just took the two and I can’t remember the rest of the night,’ Pamela said.
‘You were out of your face, buzzing glue an all.’
Nicola drank from a can. ‘Check in all your shoes,’ she said and the girls upended all the shoes and boots they could find but there were no more planked jellies.
‘We’ll buy some. Or I’ll get a script,’ Nicola said.
Pamela spiked up her hair and looked at the ceiling. Her head was sore. The night’s events were patchy but she knew that Nicola went off with some of the guys from Avonspark Street and she and Richard sat against the wall of the community
Nicola laughed. ‘I ended up down at a house in Sighthill, chapping the door and demanding to get in. I was like that, I stay here, and the person inside was like that, no you fucking don’t, this is my house. My uncle found me and got me up the road. He’d been to a pal’s.’
‘I thought those wee things wouldn’t do nothing for me.
Sure did,’ Pamela said and then her ma put her head round the door and said, ‘Can you get me twenty Mayfair and bring them up the stair before you go out.’
‘All right, Ma,’ Pamela said and followed her mother into the living room where the table was set up for her card game with her pals from the bingo.
Nicola stood in the doorway and said, ‘I start my course in three weeks.’
Running through the town to take a script to Boots as the workers clog the bus stops and pour down the hills to Central Station. Running through the sizzling lights, the black sky leaking its rain, the script in Nicola’s hand and Pamela running behind, dodging the people with bags and brollies. Running through the town to catch Boots.
‘I can’t sleep is what I told my doctor. It was easy. My nerves are jangling, can you give me something for my jitters?’
In Boots they take the paper bag with the pills rattling inside. As carefully as the pharmacist taps out the tablets from the big bottle they cup their hands and tap out with a forefinger two, three, four jellies. Swallow them.
The fighting was funny that night. She got lamped with a brick and the skin above her right eyebrow cut and bled. Her tracksuit was filthy from where she fell. The boy who threw the brick jumped about. I got that guy a cracker, he said and Richard said That guy’s my girlfriend and the two of them fought, clamping arms and heads and punching ribs in the dark. Pamela watched them lunging at each other on the top of the embankment on the other side of the lines.
Stones and bricks and bottles. Pamela and Richard kept each other in sight, Gringo girl, Gyto boy, meeting up after the police sirens and the flashing blue lights signalled the end of that night’s fighting. The useless police, seen from miles away, giving all the fighters time to scramble through the undergrowth and Pamela and Richard a chance to winch.
She used to meet him when it was quiet and the girls from their side went to meet the boys from his. His mouth tasted of lager and mints. He liked to fuck standing up. Pamela thought she loved him. She pure fancied him. He said he liked her hair either way; curls or spikes. He took her to see Scheme and they both joined in the fighting that went on while the band played. He said he felt fierce about her, got done for breach several times then disappeared to live in Greenock with his uncle.
Kat Fisher was indignant for the tenants of Red Road, for the tenants of Glasgow, for the tenants of Britain and the whole capitalist world. It made her so angry. Shame on electricity companies that charged their highest prices for metered electricity in rented flats that were generally the domiciles of the poor and the struggling. Shame on Glasgow City Council for installing the meters. Shame on everyone for not stamping their feet and refusing to take this crap from the multinationals. It annoyed her even more because she always paid her electricity bills on time and now she and her two flatmates were being penalised. And one of her flatmates was tight enough. They’d never have the lights on any more and the television would be censored. At least the heating was included in the rent.
The wind shot leaves and dust around the tarmac when she left the building. It lifted the skirt her sister made her high up her thighs and she had to hold it flat against her legs with her hand. Her black woollen tights kept the chill off and the wind didn’t matter to her hair which was tousled and bowl-cut anyway.
Hardly anyone about. She walked on to the bus stop. John, one of the concierges, waved at her.
‘I’m not talking to you, John,’ she said.
‘Oh. What have I done today?’
‘You could have stopped them putting the meters in.’
John used a hard-bristled brush to sweep up bits of wet cardboard box. He made a pile of the cardboard, and the bristles made a sharp noise on the concrete. He leaned on the broom and said, ‘I knew I’d get a telling from you. It was coming, but. The electricity board were up here every five minutes cutting off someone’s supply.’
‘That’s not the point. They’re charging their most expensive electricity to those that can least afford it. We’re all in thrall to big companies and we all let it happen.’
‘Aye, you start the revolution, and I’ll join in,’ John said.
Kat tucked the billowing ends of her scarf into her jacket and put her hands in her pockets.
‘John,’ she said. ‘My da’s coming to visit this weekend. Can I borrow the Hoover?’
‘Aye, sure you can. Tell him to park in front of the cameras and we’ll keep an eye on his motor.’
John began to sweep again and Kat walked to the bus stop, her notebooks and textbooks heavy in her bag.
Nicola stopped coming up the stair. Pamela saw her from time to time with a snakeskin handbag. She changed her hair colour then kept it blonde.
New friends took tablets out of their pockets and chased them down with Irn-Bru or Buckfast. It was easy not to leave Red Road. Sofas in high houses were comfortable.
‘I’ve never done a Ouija board,’ Pamela said.
The new friend, Sarah, cleared stuff off the wee table and
Pamela watched her take things out of a shoebox.
‘We done it ourselves,’ Sarah said and the other new friend sat on a cushion and crossed her legs.
‘Close the curtains.’
Pamela went to pull the curtains across the shitty day and kicked the leg of a man lying in the corner, his body half in shadow.
‘Oh my God!’ she said. ‘Who’s he?’
‘My ex, Liam,’ Sarah said. ‘He comes here to sleep.’
‘I thought he was dead.’
The man rolled onto his side and pulled a blanket over his shoulder. ‘I’m still alive, honey,’ he said. ‘Five minutes more.’
Pamela saw his sleeping feet sticking out of the blanket, a toenail showing through a hole in his sock.
‘We’re ready,’ Sarah said.
The Ouija board was well used. Sarah put a glass in the middle and the girls held hands.
‘Will we try and get the wee boy again?’ the other new friend said. ‘Close your eyes.’
The room was quiet. Pamela heard a slow breath from the man in the corner and then nothing. The fridge buzzed.
‘Darren, are you there today?’
Pamela opened her eyes and saw the girls with their eyes shut tight. The other new friend, Kirsty, swayed. Her shut eyes twitched hard.
‘Darren, are you with us?’
‘Right, well you’re obviously playing with your wee pals today,’ Sarah said. ‘Who else shall we do?’
They looked at Pamela. Pamela shrugged.
‘My granny,’ Kirsty said.
‘We always do your granny and she always says your granda’s a cunt.’
Sarah tapped the glass against the board. Pamela kept quiet but she thought loads. She thought about her da up there.
‘Right, will we do my uncle Tam then?’ Sarah said and the girls were quiet again. The man in the corner rolled over and yawned.
‘Shoosh,’ said Sarah.
Pamela closed her eyes and thought of her da. She could no longer see him in her head but she heard his voice and followed the sound of his voice. It was taking her somewhere.
‘Fucking Christ!’ Sarah shouted. ‘She’s took a fit.’
Kirsty was shaking, her eyes rolled back into her head, spit coming from her mouth. Great shudders in her body, her knees coming up and knocking the table, Pamela not knowing which way she was going to fall.
‘Lie her down,’ the man in the corner said. He was up, in his socks and boxers and T-shirt, pulling her, sliding her legs along the floor from under the wee table.
‘She’s got a spirit in her,’ Sarah said. ‘Oh my fucking God, she’s taken on a spirit.’
And Pamela thought of her dad.
‘Get a spoon!’
Someone was shouting. It was the man. To her.
‘You, get a spoon from the kitchen.’
Pamela ran and her legs were sick with fear. Her dad. Her dad. Her dad.
The man lay the shaking girl on her back and put the spoon in her mouth.
‘Get back,’ he said and knelt at her head, putting his palms on her forehead and cheeks as she thrashed about.
‘Get the spirit out,’ Sarah said and she was crying and screaming and shaking herself.
‘It’s not a spirit,’ the man said. ‘Somebody get an ambulance.’
Sarah phoned downstairs and the concierge said he’d send for an ambulance and the three of them waited while Kirsty fitted and sweated on the floor.
‘Vodka, Ponstan, Temgesics and hash,’ Sarah told the ambulance woman when asked what Kirsty had taken.
They’d done something else as well, Sarah wasn’t telling. Pamela didn’t even know what it was but had put it in her mouth and swallowed it with her vodka. She pressed her back against the wall and watched the procession out of the house; Sarah first, to open the doors, the ambulance woman at the head of the stretcher, Kirsty flat out with the drip in her, the other ambulance man at the back and the man in the corner last, carrying her bag and cardigan. She stayed pressed against the wall as they closed the door, imagining her da, as crazy as ever, wondering about the spirit world.