These days my flat isn't anywhere near as bad as it used to be, but I'm still usually a little behind on the dusting. I like things clean, but not too clean.
A friend of mine used the recent holiday to catch up, to clean out his place. As he's kicking up the dust, he notices it's giving him a kind of mild buzz, a sensation in the eyes, nose and throat. Stimulated, like an allergy, only enjoyable. The same way chilli burns, but also excites.
Empties the Dyson. Done. Then, an idea. Where's all the dust hiding, giving him these effects? He strips off the covers and lifts the empty vacuum cleaner on to the mattress. Gives it a thorough going over.
And afterwards, in the bottom of the canister, there it is - an impossibly fine, grey-white powder, about three or four centimetres deep. It's him - his own dead, shed skin. And lots of it, I mean that thing is noticeably HEAVY - if anyone asks you for a pound of flesh, here's the painless way to provide it.
All alone in the flat. Licks his index finger, then blots it on his thumb. Slowly reaches into the drum, and touches the surface. It's soft, silent. His finger sinks into the dust, deeper than he expected, like the first man on the moon. Draws it back and - eyes wide - dabs it onto his tongue.
Imagine being completely in possession of yourself. Being able to tell exactly, to the very cell, where the tips of your fingers and toes are, even with your eyes closed. Even the ends of your hair. An intense, personal high.
He tells me this in roundabout terms, the same way men always talk to each other about stuff that really matters, in the pub. Overhead, the blue gun has gone on the projector. The match plays out in sickly greens, yellows and oranges.
Transpires he's been snorting his own dust, on and off, for about two weeks.
He sees I'm flagging, it being after the fourth pint but before the second wind. Flicking gaze off stage, he slides a small pastic wrap across the table under his hand, pushing it under my fingers.
Try some, he says. It's a rush. Go to the gents, take a cubicle, dip your doorkey in the bag. Have a toot.
No thanks, I confide back. It's not really me.
Fair enough. He returns about five minutes later, absolutely full of himself. Like a different person, I mean it's painfully obvious.
- And yeah like probly number one performing team in the whole organisation yeah - yeah and how the whole like redundancy thing was actually PLANNED the whole time just what he'd wanted and -
That was he last time I saw him, turbo-talking nonsense. He must've worked his way through the rest of the mattress soon after that. So he re-hoovers the flat over and over, beats the curtains, dusts the ceiling, anything he can to get more of the powder. But it's a law of diminishing returns... every time there's less and less.
Addiction becomes madness. Rubbing his head half-bald just to suck up the dandruff. Dabbing drain cleaner onto his wrists, to bring up a decent patch of dry skin, eventually rasping his own back bloody and raw, just to collect enough of his own sweet flakes for a decent high.
And that's how they found him - slumped in the toilets of some lounge bar near Camden Lock. Looked like he'd finally tried to take his own face off with a cheesegrater.
It guess he just couldn't get enough of himself.
There was a pretty good turn out for the cremation. And I heard that when they broken into his place, there was no denying it was clean. Too clean.