The junkie knocked on the door. There was no answer. The junkie then yelled at the door: "Dave, it's me." After a moment passed, it opened, and a man in his 40s, white, with messy orange hair let us in his apartment, which was in a massive, North London building colonized by squatters. Dave's place was tiny and furnished only with an exhausted-looking mattress, next to which was an overflowing ashtray and a double tape cassette player. He locked and bolted the door quickly once we were inside. Had I walked into a trap? What was going on? The junkie, who lived in the apartment above mine in the Docklands, was supposed to take me to a great party in this part of town. But after we walked out of the tube, he explained that he needed to get some drugs, and that something was up with his dealer, and that this guy, Dave, could help sort out the problem with this dealer. He needed to see him quickly before taking me to the great party.
But Dave was clearly in a state of fear. He was smoking furiously. What was up with him? The junkie explained to Dave some complicated business that I could not follow. Dave, however, understood it easily enough, but could offer nothing in the way of a solution. And besides, he had his own big problems. "What's wrong," asked the junkie, with real interest and concern? (The junkie was sitting on the mattress with Dave; I was standing by the door with hands in pockets.) Dave then told the junkie that Jamaicans at a construction site he worked at earlier in the week discovered today that he stole some of their equipment and sold it for drugs. These Jamaicans are members of a posse. This posse is looking all over for him. Dave may not live to see tomorrow.
What was I doing in this room?
I needed to get out of here before the Jamaican posse appeared and whacked this stupid-ass thief. If they burst in the room at that moment, they would think I was tied up in this bad business and whack me. The junkie failed to see this clear and present danger. He wanted to hear more of the story. Before giving him all the details, Dave lit another cigarette and pressed play on his tape player. The tune that made the situation as unforgettable as it was terrifying: "China Girl" by David Bowie. The year was 1988. I was in my teens. I somehow lived to write this little story on the penultimate day of the year, 2016, the man who sang that tune on the doomed thief's player died.