They appeared at the top of the road as if they had come from nowhere. Both men were thin, both medium height, and both were chortling out cold mist as they made their way down. From the distance they were at it was hard to see who was in front. They seemed to walk with some fatal force on them, coming together and veering across the pavement, shouting and pointing in each others face before staggering down towards us some more.
> Yeah, that's them, said Mum, looks like they've come good for once.
As they came into view proper I watched them more closely. I was a little mystified as Mum had said they were identical twins, yet the two, now almost to us, couldn't have looked much more dissimilar.
Rodney, the oldest, the one in front, had short fine hair, a raw shaven face, and blood plump lips. He wore bleached jeans and an expensive puffy brown leather bomber jacket. Tattooed on his neck was a gliding swallow. Rather than give off the impression he was tough or free, it seemed to mark an incarcerated sadness within him. The other one, Andy, had no locked-up sorrow. He tottered along, a hit's length behind, his eyes closed and hands trembling, an open-temple of hurt and misery without the slightest attempt to conceal it. He had a wild uncontrollable perm, wore thin framed glasses, and sported a weeks old stubble with open itchy sores sat beneath it. His dress was a mis-match of gaudy sports wear, blue tracksuit bottoms tucked into his socks and an oversized skiing jacket with a large pink V across the front. The only real physical characteristics the twins seemed to share was the same thin, runny nose and a dense, apish skull, like something that would take a cricket bat quite well. Heroin addiction was another common charge.
> By the state of ya shadow I take it ya got it done then? Said Mum, casting her eyes at Andy who was now stopped and stooped forward like an overhanging tree.
> Course, darling, said Rodney, I told ya it'd be kosha.
Mum put her hand out and watched closely as Rodney counted notes into it. As he finished palming Mum the notes he started talking very quickly, saying he was late for an appointment he'd only just remembered about, creating a divergence. Without giving my mother a chance to speak he was edging his brother along and rushing him up.
> Oi, and the fucking book! Said mum, waggling an index finger. Rodney gave a laugh and then handed the book over. He nudged his brother, making him stumble into a wall.
> Wake up, bro, he said, get it together!
And that was that until the following week.
And that was that until the following week.
It was that Income Support book which first brought the twins into my mother's life. Mum had found it along the high-street but didn't know a post office that would cash the payments without ID. Asking around she was put onto the brothers who said they knew a place but it'd have to be a four way split. As there were three months of payments in the book Mum agreed, and each Tuesday she'd meet the twins along the neighbouring street, hand over the payment book and half an hour later she'd return to collect it back and receive her share of the spoils.
As Mum got to know The Twins better she started meeting them outside of payment days. She introduced them to the Black House and allowed them home to shoot heroin in her bedroom when my step-father wasn't there. It got to just about everyday the twins would come searching her, passing by out front to gauge the situation or chucking tiny pebbles up at her back bedroom window. Mum started hoarding their stolen goods and even got involved in other Post Office scams revolving around stolen payment books. Mum would go around cashing the smaller payments which required no ID. As long as you had a face that either looked honest or promised a blowjob the postal clerk would rubber stamp the crime and finger off the notes. For whichever reason, Mum never had a single payment refused.
Most evenings now The Twins climbed the stairs of our house and hurried sniveling and smelling of beer into Mum's bedroom. As Mum poured herself neat vodka the twins would sit on the floor and cook up their heroin or crush down pills to inject. It was an intense thing to watch, made even stranger by the mundane conversations The Twins kept going, speaking of everyday trivialities while performing such a taboo act.
Being addicts the twins would often finish bare-chested or dropping their trousers while searching out veins. There was always a lot of flesh and masculine smells on display. Mum sat on the bed and watched the Twins wildness with a weird kind of admiration in her regard. It's not easy to explain, but she seemed proud of them, as if their recklessness with heroin and needles somehow gave them the right qualities in other areas of their lives. Even I could sense the sexual thrill of young men, half-naked, uncaring, feral, their bodies lean and sculptured through a lifetime of running, not a spare ounce of fat anywhere, bruised and scarred, kissing needles and handing them back and forth. It wasn't long after that that my mother found excuse to remove her own clothes, returning from the toilet with her jeans unbuttoned, or changing into her short nightdress and slipping her knickers off as the boys sat on the floor cooking dope with a view of the false prophet between her legs. From there it was only a matter of time until one of The Twins progressed to the bed while the other took his shot; one twin fucking away as the other blew out his greatest veins; my mother getting off on something abstract, as neither of The Twins really had the slightest thing in the world to offer her.
Still, in a sense, there was at least some romance. There had been a gradual progression towards sex over weeks and not just a gangbang striking up out of nowhere. And the twins weren't nasty or violent or dangerous in the ways most of the men around the Black House were. The Twins' problem was that they were always together, and only very rarely was one without the other. The possibility of my mother separating one and having him to herself wasn't an option. It was both or none, not either/or.
In regards to that fierce loyalty the Twins had for each other, it made the fighting and arguing weirder still. The Twins were always jostling and arguing. They would frequently square off and fight and attack each other. Between their four eyes at least one was always black. It wasn't so much that the twins despised one another, it was the more they despised the curse of seeing what they had each become reflected in the other. It was inescapable and went far deeper than the cosmetic changes they had made to look apart. They were indeed identical twins, something that became clearly obvious the more time spent around them once you could see past their haircuts, clothes and accessories to the replica shapes and features below – a grim mock of each other. So when Andy fucked my mother as Rodney shot smack on the floor, each caught glimpses of themselves in that moment, felt the tragedy and horror of their own lives, not even able to close their eyes on the way to ground. I suppose they were damned, together, caught in a wicked hall of mirrors.
My mother never had both brothers at once. She probably would have. Her previous wasn't too encouraging in that respect. I guess it was the Twins who weren't interested in that circus. So it was always one fucked or got pleasured while the other took care of his drug business or relaxed into it on the floor. Then they'd swap around, like lovers awkwardly changing positions. The closest it ever got to a ménage à trois was the three of them laying spent in the bed, my mother in the middle with a junkie twin to either side, curled up and drifting in their own moment of numb bliss, looking like a family who had been tenderly laid to rest together.
It was one day when we were alone, the summer having crept in and the house in light, that Mum said:
> You know The Twins knew Puggy? They used to run together sometimes. Rodney described him down to a T... even remembered the old Breton t-shirt he always wore.
Puggy was my mother's great love, my father, a junkie who had been murdered some years before. I didn't reply. Mum seemed lost and sad, and in that moment I understood it all.
Mum ran with The Twins herself for some months and then the scams run out and I suppose the excitement of what was new and wild became everyday and as boring and straight as any other get-up. The twins stopped coming around as much and sometimes now mum would hide or send me down to tell them she wasn't in. So The Twins would then head to the Black House, pay their beer entry in, and spend their day dossed down there. But it wasn't easy for them. Due to their drug habits and their reputation for having light fingers, they were only just supported in the house. Not even arriving with huge cuts of expensive meat for the stew won them any friends. It remained an uneasy relationship, no one much seeming to like the brothers on the floor with the spoons. Even my mother during these times would cut a huge void between them, taking the side of the West Indian men as they joked and picked arguments with The Twins. And it was one such day which spelled the end of the twins stay.
Andy was on the floor cooking up a fix. As always he was carrying on with some casual talk, asking people about small things and making throwaway comments as he measured out his gear and water. Rodney was besides him, passing things over and commenting on how Andy was cooking the shot. he'd say things like: Enough bro! It's fucking evaporating! You don't need to cook it so long.
With Andy having sucked the shot up and now pushing the liquid up level in the spike, Lloyd kissed his teeth at him and mocked him. Andy, jokingly, called Lloyd a 'nigger'. Lloyd laughed it off, said he was proud to be a 'nigger' then cursed Andy alluding to his pale white skin. Andy waved him away, this time labelling him a 'Black Cunt!' The moment he said it shadows passed across the sun and the room fell dark like a violent storm was on its way. Andy couldn't help but feel the tension as the cold weather front moved in. His reaction was to ignore it, hope it'd pass, as he poked around for a vein in his hand.
> You can call me NIGGER, you can call me BLACK BASTARD, but NO MAN call me BLACK CUNT! Spoke Lloyd with vicious retribution in his voice. From under the bed where he sat he reached out a long handled demolition mallet and calmly walked towards Andy.
The first blow put Andy over on his back. He lay there choking from the force which had hit him in the chest. Lloyd raised the mallet above his head and brought it crashing down on Andy's chest again. Andy doubled up like a folded mattress, his glasses shooting off. Rodney scattered back. The mallet hit Andy again, making him convulse like he was being resuscitated. Then Lloyd began kicking, all over – vicious, ruthless boots turning Andy over onto his stomach. Somehow, through all this, Andy had managed to keep hold of his needle. It seemed that was his ultimate struggle. Lloyd stopped kicking and now towered over Andy, screaming, OUT!! OUT!!” Andy crept painfully towards the door, drops of blood marking his progression. He had difficulty crawling any faster as his right hand was still clutched, gripping the spike. Lloyd, through a thick mist of drunkenness, somehow spotted the needle and understood it was that which had kept Andy going. In his most vicious act of the assault Lloyd brought a hobnailed boot crushing down on Andy's hand, pinning it flat to the floor and bursting the fingers. He ground his heel in. Andy lost grip of the syringe, but still, even with his hand crushed and useless, tried to recover it. Lloyd brought his boot down on Andy's hand, once then twice more, then on the needle itself, shattering the white plunger. Andy gave up and crawled on, crying, without his fix, his hand dragging, making noises like a wild pig or something. Lloyd watched with fire eyes as he inched towards the exit.
Rodney, who had stayed well away from the fight now came to his brother's aid. Lloyd kissed his teeth in Rodney's face as he passed, but let him help his brother - get him out the Black House. As Rodney came around to Andy he stooped and deftly picked up the needle, sliding it in his pocket. He consoled his brother, right close up, his nose to Andy's face, asking him questions, if he was Ok to move. Andy just nodded his head each time, whining. Rodney rushed and unlatched and opened the front door. Bright, fresh light swamped the Black House. Then, Rodney, the eldest twin, bent down and shuffled his younger brother up, gripping him around the back and under his armpit. he kinda ducked low so as Andy's arm with the crushed hand fell around his neck and dripped blood down the front of his jacket. And like that, Andy only just able to walk, looking like he'd been in a bomb blast, Rodney helped his brother out, and slowly, painfully, The twins, first and second, staggered away from the dirty war...