nigel reads a lot about girls his age. they don't wear bras. they are promiscuous and lascivious and they engage in sexual activity with men in the backs of vans or in the woods or in basements with rock and roll music blaring out of giant speakers. they have big hairy bushes and long straight hair and they wear miniskirts and knee high socks. nigel thinks about these girls and he imagines himself sitting with them on a couch and talking to them. in his mind he puts his hand on their legs and then he touches their vaginas and kisses them.
but in reality none of it is possible. nigel is in borstal training with 74 other boys. bigger boys who bugger him in the showers, beat him while he sleeps, and urinate on his face and in his trunk.
nigel is dead in the day and in the night; only alive in the pages of his favourite magazine. 1969. the girls and the politics and the music. 19 years old and 19 months to go.
but today there is a new boy settling in to the bunk above his. his name is otto and he talks about his kit, which is his clothes. and his hair. he tells stories about scooters and protests and making love to german and french girls and girls who are from liverpool. he has smuggled in a syringe and he fills it with a drug called methylamphetamine. he injects it into his veins and he puts his arms up behind his head and he says "everything is okay."
nigel does not know what it is like to think that "everything is okay." so in the middle of the night he rummages through otto's bag and pilfers the contraband drugs and their associated paraphernalia. he hides under his blankets and tries to remember how otto did it. he makes mistakes and spills the methylamphetamine. he pokes himself with the needle and he bleeds. he cries. loud sobs and other boys come and they laugh at him and tell him to be quiet. nigel screams obscenities at the boys and he tries to bite a hole in his own wrist. he wants it to be over but he cannot break the skin.
in the following days nigel's relationship with otto flourishes. they are friends now. otto tells him that his uncle is a teacher at the borstal and explains that he can get a steady supply of methylamphetamine. he shows nigel how to do it properly.
nigel likes the way the methylamphetamine makes him feel. he is strong and "everything is okay." he uses it everyday and he writes letters to his parents and to people in the government and to his favourite magazine. 1969. he tells people that there is an answer. he wants people to know that there is an answer.
nigel loses weight and he cannot sleep at night. he does not think about girls his age anymore. he thinks about methylamphetamine. he wants more. he asks otto if he can have more. otto tells nigel to relax. he tells nigel that he is giving up the methylamphetamine. he tells nigel that the drug is ruining his brain.
nigel then has what some may describe as a psychotic episode. he strangles otto until otto is dead. he kicks otto's head and face. the other boys circle around. some of them laugh. nigel does not understand. soon he is transferred to the men's prison where he suffers alone for 19 more years.
it is now 1988 and nigel waits for a bus. the bus takes him to liverpool where he gets a job in a donut van. he rents a room in a house. the room is advertised as a converted garage but actually it is just a regular garage without a car in it. he finds an old stack of magazines and one of them is his old favourite. 1969. he opens it to the letters page and sees the one that he wrote all those years ago. methylamphetamine is the answer, his old self declares. he crosses the words out with a red pen and over the top he writes:
"methylamphetamine is not the answer"
"the answer = promiscuous and lascivious girls with big hairy bushes"
the next day while working in the donut van nigel meets a girl. she is a scouser with long straight hair. she is wearing a miniskirt and knee high boots. "everything is okay," says nigel to the girl.