The smell of the night

The smell of Rome, that smell that makes you think you can do everything. And then the noise of the muffler of the modified scooter to go faster. Via della Stazione, go straight down to the intersection. Orange traffic light. Quickly curved to the left, the scooter on one side my body that balances on the other. Via Anagnina. The wind pulls my hair back and makes my eyes water, my neck is outstretched forward to reduce air resistance.

The accelerator is at full throttle: my hand tingles, but I don’t give up. I pass a car, overtake a bus that lights up a solitary inhabitant of it. Is he also going in the same direction as me? The helmet inside the seat, safe. A backpack at my feet. I can already smell the stuff I’m running towards. The damp sticks to the bare arms and I have no thoughts.Beside one. “Via del Archeologia”. I head safely to my usual door. The houses of the drug dealers are illuminated, while outside youngsters looking for visibility and a salary, they take turns waiting for customers: they wear Sportswear  or jeans with a sweatshirt, curved backs and that springy movement of the body of certain suburbs, they wait with their hands in their pockets or smoking a cigarette with a friend, indifferent. The cell phone in his pocket and his voice always ready to scream the usual words: “Hey”, “Maria”, “Amore”. And then whistles that refer to other whistles. Surrounded by buildings, low lights, doors that illuminate other dealers, lookouts on the street, writings on the walls, Graffiti that remember people who are no longer there, the heroes of those neighborhoods.

I have arrived now. I decrease the speed, my hand decelerates, I brake, I switch off, I put the stand and I get off the scooter.

There they are those quick and constant lines in front of the door and that perfect assembly line: the youngster arrives, asks,and the seller takes what he needs from his pocket or from a hiding place or from the door, money in exchange for heroin, heroin for money . They walk without seeing: if they are there it is because they need it. Like me. How many times have I smelled this smell, I’ve seen these fast but endless lines: I arrive and then thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight, twenty-seven, twenty-six … and here’s another young man. One goes, the other arrives, with the same pace, with the same thought. Processions of people in withdrawal, of boys who arrived here before those cramps begin, that unbearable pain, young people who want to have an evening, files of junkies without the need for that daily mask that we always wear of fathers, employees, professionals, unemployed people, women, husbands and wives, boyfriends, mothers, teachers, pizza chefs, assistant pizza chefs, doctors, pastry chefs, dishwashers, workers, unemployed, minors, rich or poor: here we are all the same, all with the right cash. I don’t know where the others come from: they appear as shadows. We don’t need to introduce ourselves, faces change all the time. And we all know why we are there, in Torbella: for that smell, for that taste, because the supermarket is always open, the guaranteed quality and affordable prices and then because after you try it everything changes. What do others know about how impossible it is to go back? But I am different, I want to end it. This is not the life I want. Everything will change. But starting from tomorrow. Now my turn has come: here comes the dealer, his hands, my hands. My money, his drug. I walk away, get on the scooter and run away home, with a bag hidden in my underwear.My name is Filippo and I’m from Ciampino. My first joint at thirteen. The friends who smoke, that smell that tightens the stomach, the guy next to you who turns around to let you try, the heavy taste in his mouth, the feeling of coming off the ground, that everything will be fine, that today’s friends will be for always. You’re different after that, you opened a door to a room you didn’t know, one room where you can let anything in. The door is there in front of you, follow the movements of the arm: you extend it, grab the handle, open. On the other hand, emptiness, well-being, absence of pain, omnipotence, chemical happiness. Then it is no longer enough. That feeling doesn’t last long. The pain comes back, and it’s worse than before. I start going to rave parties, those organized in Testaccio at the Global Village, at Forte Prenestino, at Strike. The first time I go to a rave who forgets it! From Ciampino we head to Testaccio: people on the street walk towards the clubs. What a good smell Rome has at night! I am with an older friend of mine and this is our first evening at the Village. We enter, timid, we smoke our joints. The music rises, we look like shadows. There is fog in the air. The walls are colored with writings and murals. We also leave our signature. Someone pisses in the corner. Then one passes us the MDMA: it is the first time for me and my friend. A small colored pill is enough to light my world.I throw it down with alcohol. My eyes widen. Suddenly the melancholy goes away, I’m happy, I love everyone, even that boy leaning against the tree who is shooting something in his vein, I’m hot, I don’t need anything, I’m not hungry, I’m not thirsty, I’m ecstatic. I feel my heart pumping blood, I seem to feel the contractions, I seem to hear them all, broken down into infinitesimals of a second, the music is louder, the clear sounds arrives to my brain. Almighty: that’s what I hear it is called! From that moment on I start taking it all the time. If I want to dance all night, it’s perfect: when I want to be a little outside and a little inside, I prefer Ketamine. And then acids, acids, acids … Ketamine also arrives in my school. For the money there are no problems. The beauty of Rome is that you don’t spend a lot, because the market is very cheap, especially in the social centers, where prices are very low. After MDMA I try Ketamine, speed and then opium, yes I also start with opiates. But it is at fifteen that everything changes when I meet cocaine: my drug. They tell me that I risk to become addicted. And so it happens. I am weak: as soon as I touch it I start using it every day. In Ciampino there is a lot of cocaine and I just have to find the money. I start stealing, inside the house, outside the house, at the supermarketIn a short time I am accumulating a debt of eight hundred euros with dangerous people. They begin at look for me and I barricade myself in the house. I am desperate: I go to my father, he decides to help me and makes a mistake. Wrong because they keep giving it to me, because they know that someone will somehow pay. I buy it at Romanina, and then at Case Verdi, in Ciampino. A small fort near via Mura dei Francesi: it is the only shop square. But then Ciampino is no longer enough and I start going furthe to get to Torbella, but I also go to San Basilio to buy drugs. Sometimes I am afraid, yes I admit it. I am afraid when I was arrested at seventeen: they take me for a drug dealer, because I started selling hashish to buy cocaine. I am sentenced to one year and eight months: a crime committed as a minor and then tried as an adult, so they give me the suspended sentence. I stay two weeks in a first reception center. I only know that I’m sick, that my father comes, looks at me, doesn’t speak: I’d rather have his hands on me. But nothing happens, it doesn’t stop me. Not at that moment. And before he decides to do it, I know heroin and I start getting punctured. One day I do not find cocaine. So I’m going to a friend of mine. He is lying on the sofa with a basin beside him full of vomit. He’s been on heroin for three days. I ask him for cocaine and he tells me he only has heroin. But I don’t want heroin: if I take heroin, I will become a junkie. And I’m not a junkie. The junkies they are the ones who inject drug. And I don’t inject drugs. I wait a quarter of an hour: my head whirls, I feel chills in my cheeks, dry mouth, dry lips, my skin is on fire. Then a thought makes its way, subtle: after all, for once, what can happen to me?Those twenty minutes are enough to start with heroin. But she is not my drug. My drug is cocaine, which when mixed with heroin becomes the top. My first time with the needle is at sixteen. At first, I started snortting and then I smoke it, while my friend injcets it. He tells me the first time: getting injected by someone is something that remains forever, it’s like making love for the first time. Then something happens. I’m with a girl: the first year she doesn’t know that I use substances, even if I get a injection, she doesn’t see my holes. When we break up, she’s pregnant. But I don’t want the baby. However, she decides not to have an abortion, but then she spontaneously loses it and when she tells me we have it lost, I feel for the first time an infinite sadness, an emptiness never felt before: I see the abyss, I look inside it, I stick my head, my arm and then the whole body, all the way, until I feel the cold of the bottom, of the lifeless earth, where there is no light, where only the desire to die remains … yes, to die, because this is what I have been doing for years, I am trying to die. So I definitely try, in the only way I know how: I want to die of pleasure, overdosing with my usual friend. We do it together, one last time. Then the light goes out and I don’t remember anything. When I open my eyes, I’m in the hospital and I’m alive. At that moment I decide to say enough and to cross the threshold of San Patrignano: for that unborn child, for that infinite sadness I felt. Because it’s time to walk towards myself.

Taken from “ Sanpanews N° 24 september 2018”