This year, to coincide with The Signal House season of 'The Stones' at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Edition collaborated with Edinburgh based new writing organisation Page2Stage on a monologue competition for Scottish writers. As the winner of the competition, our editors worked with Stephen Christopher to refine his monologue 'Thirty Days' which was presented in a reading with Page 2 Stage in October 2022.
MICHAEL is alone. He has two black eyes and his ribs are probably broken. He is used to using gestures bigger than himself, but he can’t raise his hands above his shoulders.
It was me who read my dad bedtime stories.
I would lie on the bed next tae him and pretend I could read, doing all the funny voices, getting him to turn the page. They were never sad stories. In my stories ALL the porridge was just right.
I suppose that’s how it happened. That overwhelming need for everything to be just fucking right. It’s why I keep getting back on it. It’s why I keep trying to get off it. Too cold. Too hot. It is the constant seeking of absolute perfection.
- Mummy why’s that man sleeping in his own shite?
- Well honey, I believe he’s seeking perfection.
I made it tae thirty days. Come on, that’s decent. I was well proud. I even made a wee homemade chip like they have in meetings. A fifty pence piece, coated in tipex with thirty written on the front with a marker. People have always called me a crafty cunt.
Thirty days without a drink.
Thirty days without feeling human.
I don’t do well without.
I want more.
It wasn’t enough that my dad bought me a model spitfire. I wanted it tae fly you know? Right out the window, proper flyover, doing a show for the neighbours; dipping the wings for the lollipop lady.
Like in a story.
I was sitting in my flat with my homemade chip and the only way to describe it is I had a feeling. My first feeling in weeks. Maybe feeling is the wrong word, more a sort of urge. I wanted to get myself a present. A wee Christmas morning after my dark winter.
I turn the music up and I am feeling it. Kick drum and bass. My heart is going in my chest and for the first time in thirty days I can hear my song.
I hadn’t actually used anything yet, just the knowledge was enough.
I reactivate my Tinder.
I put in a text for some drugs.
- What do you want?
I’ll have anything. I’ll have whatever you’re holding. I’ll have what she’s having, and what he’s got.
My song is getting louder, it is intoxicating. It must have been right? Cause next thing I know I’m out the door and onto the street and I have nothing on me. Not a thing.
I forgot my keys, my phone, even ma fuckin Monzo.
All I had was twenty quid and ma homemade thirty-day chip.
Let me tell you: It is all I fucking needed.
I stoat down to Lucky’s, peruse the menu and select a bottle of house red tonic wine. He tries to upsell me to a bottle of vodka but I see right through him. I have the top off before I leave the shop. BAM. Merry Christmas ya filthy animals.
A lot of people think that if you’ve got a wee substance misuse problem, you can take your drink, practice makes perfect and all that. But that’s shite. Sometimes you get what you want in life and I want to forget.
Ah bounce back to my front step and before you know it, I’ve drained the bottle. I wouldn’t have used a glass even if I was in the house to be honest, haven’t done for years.
Back to Lucky’s and this time he’s more persuasive. He convinces me that what I really need at this point in time is a bottle of vodka.
350ml – 40 per cent volume – but it’s louder than that.
Now this is exactly how it happened. I spot two boys on the other side of the street. I think they were enjoying their own wee swally. I check left and right and then cross the road carefully tae join them. I sit with them. We talk. No idea what the conversation was, but it’s always the same patter isn’t it?
I think they must have given me the Valium.
I only know I had them because my tongue was blue the next day.
See, it’s the not remembering that…
I’m lying on the pavement and I can still hear the music blaring from my open window.
You try to remember, to get all the images and make sense of them, but my drawings man, they are monstrous. Dark eyes, colours bleeding everywhere, sharp fucking teeth.
I’m in the back of an ambulance, or it could be a police wagon. She’s in uniform anyway. When you’re fucked it’s easy to mistake medical questionnaires for sexual advances.
- What’s your name?
- Where do you stay?
- How many fingers am I holding up?
- Youaregorgeous. Dopeopletellyouthat?
Poor girl, having tae cope with absolutely pathetic pieces of shit like me day in day out.
I think they tried tae leave me there but the neighbours must have kept getting them back.
- He cannae get in his house!
- He’s scaling the pipes.
- He’s sleeping on the street!
- He keeps shouting something about his Monzo card!
Proper fucking flyover.
Is there anything more disgusting than a thirty-five-year-old man in the drunk tank? All the nurses giving you proper evils. For three hours and fifty-nine minutes I ask them: Am I wasting your time? Am I wasting your time? Aye, I’m sorry, I’m wasting your time. No, no not at all, they said. After four hours: Am I wasting your time?
She checks her watch. Aye, now you are. Getfuckin moving, son.
So I do. That was when ah saw the payphone. Are hospitals the only places that still have them? Nae cash, but I still have my wee chip, my sad wee fifty pence piece covered in tipex. I scratched the thirty off the front and called the only number I know off by heart.
I don’t remember being taken out to my dad’s car. I don’t know if he had a sly wee chat with the nurses. Thanking them and apologising for me.
- He’s always been like this, so was his mother mind you.
He keeps making jokes on the way back about how he had done this 35 years ago, left the hospital with me sleeping in the back. Funny fuck.
He probably had the child lock on then too.
Back at his house he’s only got Guinness, so I have a few and smoke some of his specials. He hasn’t even taken his jacket off, he’s wearing it over his pyjamas. I am wasted and he, he just potters. As if this wasn’t. As if…
I can see myself in him as he lights a smoke and picks up the guitar. Fag in mouth, he studies me like sheet music, and I just lie there, willing myself to feel something, to show him. The whole. The whole fucking song.
He strums and stops, makes a small change to the tuning key, and strums again. He tunes up and he tunes down. Too cold. Too hot. He’s searching for something, something that only he can hear.
He starts playing a song by the Beach Boys on the guitar. "God Only Knows". I think about trying to sing, to make up new words to this old song, but I don’t trust myself not to cry. So instead, I ask him where the string section is.
STEPHEN CHRISTOPER is a writer based in Edinburgh. He writes about addiction, recovery and the grey area between. He was recently selected for the Traverse Breakthrough writers’ group where he became passionate about writing for the stage. He is currently working on his first full-length play Escape Reality; a story about escape rooms, rehab and masculinity.
(Image credit: The Drinker (1914), Umberto Boccioni).
Supported by Creative Scotland, Page2Stage is a new writing incubator co-produced by Michelle McKay, Lailia Noble and Emilie Robson of Clarty Burd. Matching playwrights with actors and directors, P2S hosts live, script in hand industry sharing nights providing a valuable networking opportunity for new writers, and facilitating focused discussions with an invited industry panel. WEBSITE