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by Joe Ambrose
Literary Editor
originally published: June, 2005

The pain was as nice as the dope

The pain was as nice as the dope


story by Joe Ambrose
Literary Editor
originally published: June, 2005

Jesus pulled himself out of the pit. That involved a superhuman effort. Behind him 800 big guys and the occasional plucky small guy moshed on and on with ferocious violence in front of a New York hardcore band. They'd been rolling with the beat, using their adrenaline-fuelled fists and legs to punch out a space for movement. Only there were 800 of them packed into a space about the size of a big living room so they'd punched each other black and blue.

The rest of the packed hall was equally restive, just that they had more room to move about a little and were not participating in the rituals of the pit. Jesus was getting his rocks off, but now it was time to leave the blitz and head for home.

He stumbled into the nearest convenience store where he bought a load of expensive well-chilled Tropicana fruit juice. As he queued to pay for his juice another sweat drenched guy from the pit, also Latino, came into the store. The kid, sporting a huge black eye, fixed Jesus with a keen amused stare. "Well..." he paused for a second, staring at Jesus, "It was quite a time!"

By 3am Jesus was slumped into a battered old couch in the lounge of the Spanish Harlem apartment he shared with two others, listening to hip hop, recovering from the pit. He had a substantial weal on his right arm, a deep bite mark on his right shoulder. One of his big toes felt like it was broken or, at least, badly bruised. While it was now obvious that neither of his eyes was going to turn black and blue, he had visible lumps of both eyebrows so that it hurt every time he blinked. The sixteen-year-old boy he'd met in the convenience store - Jose - was crashed out in a spare bedroom. A suburban lad, Jose claimed to have missed the last train home but in the big city there is no such a thing as the last train. Two hours usually separates the last night train from the first morning one.

The reality was that Jose didn't want the magic and conspiracy of the mosh pit to end after the final encore but the music was over. Jesus was the big older guy who'd helped protect Jose during the chaos and tangle of bodies in the pit so it fell to him, a relatively inner city resident, to bring his Latino brother back to his place, feed him, and play him hip hop records until Jose - a schoolboy in reality - had to crash.

Jesus was older, tougher, and he'd built himself up for staying power. He'd been in mosh pits infinitely more times than Jose although, like all adolescents, Jose regarded himself as being a hardened veteran. Jose thought that Jesus was just like him only older. Earlier in the evening Jose said to Jesus, "What were you like then you was my age? Were you like me?" and Jesus, who went into the pit to be an isolated individual, not to be a part of the gang, replied, "No. I was like me." At 22, Jesus was old enough to realise that he and Jose had absolutely nothing in common other than their love of hardcore punk and their reliance on the pit.

Jesus' film student older brother, who lived in the apartment with him, had sprayed a large graffiti on the back wall of the lounge. It went "Unwelcome visitors permitted", apparently a quote from William Burroughs who'd invented the very phrase Heavy Metal. Sometimes, when he dragged pit survivors home in the middle of the night, Jesus felt that he should nail a sign saying "Unwelcome Visitors Permitted" to his front door.

He nursed his bruises gently, more or less proud of them, enjoying the soft beats of the hip hop music which seemed, along with the joint he was smoking, to relieve the pain. The pain was as nice as the dope. In the morning Jose would be full of surly, adolescent, embarrassment. Jesus would be busy getting ready for college, the same guy that he was right now. The same guy he'd been in the pit the night before when he gave Jose that black eye.

Joe Ambrose
Literary Editor

Joe Ambrose has written 12 books, the most recent being Chelsea Hotel Manhattan and The Fenian Reader. He is currently writing a book about the Spanish Civil War.

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