Acid casualties – Jeff Evans – a friend
There were a group of boys in the year above me at school who were into the alternative life-style. With them it was not so much about the music or even the Beats, it was an attitude. They adopted the long hair and rebellion and were renowned for their parties.
There weren’t many in my year who were as rebellious so I tended to gravitate towards them and was accepted in.
Jeff was one of these. He was a small boy with long curly hair a little reminiscent of Syd Barrett. He was a very good photographer.
Jeff always took things to the extreme. One of his predilections was to drink Demerol or Collis Brown’s cough medicine. He would consume bottles of them. Back then they had morphine in them. Jeff took so much that on one occasion he went blind for a while.
Most people would have realised that this was probably doing them harm and stopped. Not Jeff. He went straight back to it.
Jeff left school at eighteen to pursue his photography. I stayed on a further year and then went to college.
In the summer I was working as a road-sweeper and looked up to find Jeff sauntering down the road. He recognised me and came over to have a chat. He was very friendly, asked me what I was doing, and told me that he was living in a flat a little further down the road. He told me he was going for a newspaper but would be back in five minutes and perhaps I could take a break and come up for a coffee. That sounded good.
I worked my way up the road towards where Jeff had indicated.
Then I noticed Jeff. He was peering round a tree at me. He darted from one tree to another, hiding behind the trunk. Then scuttled into his house and disappeared.
It was too strange for words. But I figured that he’d changed his mind about the coffee.
That evening I met up with some friends and related what had happened. They told me that Jeff had become very strange. He’s been smoking a lot of dope and dropping acid and something had happened. He’d be perfectly normal and then flip into a paranoid state. He thought everyone was talking about him, spying on him. He imagined machines in the walls and conspiracies. It was very sad. Jeff was one of those delightful, congenial guys who wouldn’t hurt anyone – a lovely guy. It seemed to fit with what I’d observed though.
A few weeks later I heard that Jeff had killed himself. He jumped into an express train.
I was told that, in front of a number of school children, he had climbed up on to the parapet of a railway bridge, waited for the express train to come along and serenely stepped off.
I often wonder if there was anything any of us could have done. If I had gone in for coffee that day, would it have made any difference?
I doubt it.