Author: Melinda Ferguson
Publisher: Oshun Books
Cape Town, 2005
Soft cover, 13x20 cm, 320 pages
For six years Melinda Ferguson was driven by one motivating force: the next hit. For this, she would abandon her promising film-making career, lose her comfortable suburban home, her husband, her two children and, in a gruelling finale to six years of remorseless self-destruction, herself.
Rescued from the maw of Hillbrow’s drug and prostitution underworld, Melinda not only survived, but recovered to tell this harrowing tale of how an intelligent, middle-class girl from Joburg hits rock bottom, face first, and claws her way back to redemption. This is the bravest book you will read this year.
Melinda Ferguson is the Senior Features Writer for True Love magazine. Shortlisted for several prestigious awards, including the Revlon Woman of Courage award, she now divides her time between raising her sons, writing and speaking publicly about her battle with heroin and cocaine addiction. Smacked is her first book.
„Few drug novels are as harrowing as this - some scenes will literally take your breath away. Her frankness and personal triumph make this essential reading.“
„It’s real and shocking. It’s Trainspotting meets Hillbrow. It’s a story you won’t soon forget and a lesson you never should.“
Witness (Sharon Dell):
„... the power to express herself and her facility with language are intrinsic aspects of Ferguson’s recovery, and in sharing her ongoing struggle not to use, she undoubtedly gives hope to many others in search of a way out of the hole of addiction.”
‘What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from’ TS Eliot ‘Four Quartets’
I have a gun in my mouth. I don’t know much about guns, but the taste of the metal makes me want to gag. It’s 1999, 3 am on a Saturday, Hillbrow, Johannesburg and I’ve never been more terrified in my life.
There are four people in the one-roomed, dingy flat on Soper Road: a Nigerian dealer, two coloured gangstas and me.
‘Open your legs,’ a surly, scar-faced specimen called Baby Face instructs me. I’m huddled in a frozen ball, my hands pressing my knees together.
‘Please don’t rape me.’ My voice is small. My lips mercury-cold. I’m a broken bird - no crying, just a crackled whimper. Oh God, this can’t be happening to me. The terror, the fear gets the better of me. Hysteria rises.
‘Shoot me, don’t rape me, shootmedon’trapemeshootme.’ The words are a desperate mantra. God’s not listening. The gun thuds into my temple. Pistol-whipped. Metal on skull silences me. Blank out.
‘I don’t like sex,’ he grins. ‘I like rape.’
He unzips his trousers. It’s all slow motion now.
‘Please wear a condom,’ I whisper.
Weirdly, he obliges. In this moment that is extended like elastic in time, I am vaguely relieved. Safe sex. No diseases. No Aids, gonorrhoea, STDs. It’s insane. I am about to be raped and I am relieved that latex is going to put some weird distance between this sicko and me.
I enter into a place of white noise. The kind when you’re a kid and hold a shell against your ear and you hear the sea rushing in, that’s the space I go to. I turn my head and concentrate on the floral pattern on the yellowing wallpaper. I know I am defeated. Now I close my eyes. Blank out.
He pulls my stockings down and he rapes me.
It’s strangely silent, unemotional. There is no violence, no struggle. Just empty blank. He is weak; cocaine cock can’t do much, pushes pathetically into me. Sad stocking sausage. It doesn’t last long. Maybe three minutes. I turn to the side and see the other two watching. I know they are coming to get me.
‘Condoms,’ I say. ‘Please wear.’
They oblige; one by one they move to me. It’s like a weird, ominous dance, slow motion. I am on an altar, a sacrifice, and they are penetrating me in some kind of symbolic hatred against all women. Maybe they just want to get laid. Who knows?
Are they having a good time, I wonder? What are they getting out of this? Do they like me? Do they think I’m fat?
This must be the most unsexual, unerotic experience. It’s like fucking a dead person - necrophilia. Maybe they like that.
All these things go round and round in my head while one by one they rape me. The whole experience is over in less than 30 minutes. That’s all the time it’s taken to change me forever. Now I am raped. It hits me dull force. I am a zombie, dead. I am cut off, truncated to the core.
It’s over. I go into the bathroom. I run a hot bath. I need something to burn me, clean it all away. The condoms are left lying near the bed. Pathetic drooped latex near the cigarette butt-burnt plastic dustbin.
My head is showing swelling, bruising. The eyes that stare back at me in the murky bathroom mirror are not mine. The steam is washing everything I knew about me away. I know I am never, ever, ever going to be the same again.
I lie in the water. I get out. I put on my clothes, pull on my stockings. I go back to the bedroom. They are smoking. My rapists give me a rock. Crack cocaine, my reward. I smoke it greedily on the glass pipe. Some call it sucking the devil’s cock. It is, it is. It is this little white drug that has brought me to this place, this hell.
Three weeks ago I was a mother, a housewife, a poet living in a four-bedroomed house in the North West. I had a full-time maid, a husband, a washing machine, two sons, a drug habit and a percolator. Now I am raped. It feels like a career description: ‘What are you?’ - a question to be asked at cocktail parties, glasses tinkling. Pause. ‘I am raped.’
Now my addiction to crack keeps me in this room with my rapists. I share more drugs. Soon it’s as though nothing has happened. They seem nonplussed by the events of half an hour ago. They laugh and speak, referring to me intermittently. I seem to be forgetting quickly too! If I block it all out and take loads of drugs right now, perhaps it will be like this has never happened. Perhaps I will forget it all.
As I bend down to suck the pipe and feel my heart race triple speed, I think... ‘What you really need now is a hit of heroin, some smack.’
‘Can you organise some brown for me - you know, heroin? I need to come down,’ I whisper to no-one in particular. My relationship with heroin began in 1993, as a flirtation.
‘This is the baddest, worstest, most pushing of the limits of life,’ I think secretively, hugging my tummy that has for the last hour been heaving merrily into a rust-orange, urine-stained toilet bowl.
All from smoking a single line of brown liquid, gliding like a snake dragon slowly... Tinfoil catching the glint of a single candle, blowing weakly in the large, dank lounge of a draughty, pre-election unrenovated house in Yeoville.
‘This stuff is amaaazing!’ I sigh languidly. Sarah Bernhardt to herself. Mata Hari in an opium den. Maud Allan. It’s just me and the brown and Lou and the darkness of the Velvet Underground. I’ve never met a junkie who liked light. You can’t.
It reminds you too much of the other world, the ‘real world’, the world of tomorrow, later, sometime, soon, whenever... 8-4 jobs, insurance, medical aid, 2.5 kids, Aids, policies for life, death, hail, rain, cancer, kids, education, plastic surgery, space insurance if you hurt your foot on Jupiter or Mars.
So much fucking insurance it made me hurl, bring up again. I had recently travelled to Europe with my boyfriend, Boy 2. We had won first place in a local film competition and, as part of the prize, we were awarded a free passage to Europe to attend a prestigious film festival in Germany.
From being a little sheltered white chick in SA, now - like a cooing pioneer -1 suddenly found myself raving on foreign soil: all my hunger and thirst for knowledge of ‘out there’, away from the laager of our oppression, made me want to eat and gulp and chew and swallow everything that was possibly on offer.
I dropped my first E in London in a club called Heaven and experienced pure Ecstasy! Coming home, two months later, I wanted to spread that vibe, be at the forefront of cool and embrace all that our country’s imminent freedom was about to symbolise.
So when I came across the heroin, ‘smack’, ‘brown’ or ‘horse’, as some call it, there was nothing to do but jump on its back, dig my heels in and spur it on full speed ahead into a delicious yi-haa canter!
We’re at Matt and Winn’s house. They’re the couple who’ve been kind enough to invite us into their sordid little ring of poppies, their little seedy lives. Like bone-hungry vampires, they get to Boy 2 first. About six weeks back, I think; times and dates seem hazy now.
Boy 2 and I had been seeing each other for just on a year and we were in love and inseparable. We had always done everything together, slept, woken, eaten, worked, travelled, laughed, played pool - we were one of those perfect couples who loved each other’s company, an almost Siamese connection: joined at the hip, I suppose.
Then one night, he didn’t come home. I sat up waiting. The clock said 2.30 am. We did not own cellphones back in ‘93, so I couldn’t call. I naturally assumed something dreadful had happened to him. I phoned all the hospitals I could think of and then finally, not driving myself, I decided to take a walk around Yeoville to see if I could find him.
When I walked past a house in St George’s Street and I saw his small orange Datsun, my heart all but leapt out my chest. Thank God! I had found him. I ran down the driveway to the back of the house, where I saw a light burning. It was 3 am and most of the neighbouring houses were in darkness.
Something made me slow down as I approached what seemed to be the kitchen window. I looked through. […]