February 01, 2009

Kitchen Table

By Paul McGuire © 2009

The loft was filled with hipsters. Strangers sipping wines and eating vegan hors d'oeuvres. I hid out in the kitchen. There was a small clock radio near the stove that blasted the local classic rock radio station. Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones filled the small kitchen area that included a table next to the refrigerator. I sat down on a stool and sipped a warm bottle of Sam Adams.

A guy I had never met before sat across from me on a folding chair. He was in his forties and wore a leather jacket. His salt and pepper goatee had strands of grey and white hair. He looked like an older version of Charlie Sheen. His left ear was infested with too many earrings. He reeked of excess aftershave. His Asian girlfriend was about half his age with lime green colored nails. She was propped up on his lap and chain smoked Benson and Hedges. She asked me non-stop questions for about twenty minutes. She was friendly but he was acting odd. He was suspicious of me and carefully listened to all of my answers. He did all of this without uttering one word. For some reason, I also had a feeling they did not know anyone else at the party.

"What do you do again?" she asked.

I write plays.

"Like stage plays?"

Something like that. I used to live in Sante Fe for about two years above a small theatre with my then girlfriend. My friends and I had free reign of the place three nights a week. I used to write these weird scenes and sketches.

"Like Saturday Night Live?"

Something like that. More like weird monologues involving a couple of characters. One was a meth-addicted truck driver. His name was Joel and he drove back and forth between from Texas to California. He lived in his truck and never slept. He constantly snorted meth and hauled shipping containers from San Diego to Dallas. He would buy meth from a dock worker in San Diego and got lit all the way to Dallas. He'd drop off the load, snort the rest of his drugs, bang a hooker, buy some weaker product in Fort Worth and head back to San Diego to repeat the process. I wrote all these little scenes that he'd have with waitresses and cashiers and hookers at different truck stops on the interstate.

"Sounds so art-imitates-life-like. Did you ever drive a truck before?"

Actually, no. And I never did meth either in case you were wondering. I once snorted speed but that was only because I thought it was coke. A friend of mine from New Zealand invited me to a party in the Hollywood Hills. Much like this one, he disappeared, but I got stuck hanging out in a random bedroom with six people. They were the hardcore druggies. One guy was cutting up lines and the next thing I knew it my nose was burning and my nostrils were on fire. My eyes watered up and I thought I was going to suffocate. That's when some guy in a funny accent told me that it was speed.

"You don't have any Charlie, do you?" asked the guy in the leather jacket. That's when he palmed me something underneath the table. I went to the bathroom and had to wait for three people in front of me before I stepped inside and inspected the goods.

"That's like $100 worth, but I'll give it to you for $80," he said upon my return. "Because I like you. You tell great stories."

Thanks. I like you because you sell great coke and that I'll sell this for $120 and pocket the $40. I handed her three twenties, a ten and ten singles. She jumped up and grabbed a couple of beers out of the fridge. I assumed that they were hers. I showed up to the loft emptied handed. "So, who do you know here?" she asked.

Know anyone at this party? Nobody. Except you. And I know you told me your name but I forgot.

"How did you get here?" she asked.

Williamsburg? A cab, obviously. No way the princess would ever ride the subway, especially to an outer borough. I got dragged to the party by my latest fling. Betsy was pretending to be an aspiring painter but her artistic endeavors were funded mostly by her uber-rich investment banking father. I was perfectly happy at a tapas bar in the Village when she got a call and the next thing I knew it, I was in the back of a cab headed over the Williamsburg Bridge. When we got here, her friend Sidney was in tears. They disappeared and went outside and I got lost in the shuffle. I watched a couple of guys play guitar hero in the other room and thought that was kinda gay. That's when I decided to seek out a drink. I ended up here and talking with you guys. So who the hell do you know?

"I'm friends with Doug. He went to school with my sister, Em. Doug used to live here with his cousin Big Pete. But they both moved out and his former roommate's brother, Lil Pete, lives here no with one of the dudes from Pseudo Barcode."

Oh, that dweeb with the orange Mohawk who kept fucking up the Aerosmith on Guitar Hero?

"Yeah, he's the bass player. Have you seen them before? They're like gonna be the next Green day."

The cokedealer frowned. It got quiet for a second when Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young played on the radio.

"Now, if the Pseudo Barcode were anything like Neil Young, then I'd be excited," he said.

Hell yeah. Now you're talking. Who wants to be the next Green Day anyway? It's like admitting you love Coldplay.

"I happen to love Coldplay," she said.

That's cool. You're a chick. And chicks are supposed to like sappy shit like Coldplay. I need something that I can play air guitar to. Not 'insert and remove tampons from my ass' kinda music.

"Funny guy. You should be a comedian. So what ever happened to that girl?"

Which one?

"The one from Santa Fe. Was she an actress or something?"

Yeah, she was. A good one. Her problem was that she lacked confidence. I guess that's why it never worked out between us.

"So what are you doing now that you're back in New York?"

Well it appears that I just stumbled upon a potential entrepreneurial adventure with your boyfriend. I have never run coke before, but I used to deal pot when I was in college. We bought pounds at a time from these two Mexican brothers. They owned a painting business in Tucson and showed up at my fraternity house in their van. They'd be covered in paint too. They stuffed bags and bags of ditch weed into large white buckets. It looked like they were dropping off paint. They even took a check from me once when I was short. Can you believe that? A drug dealer who delivered to your doorstep and who took checks. Worst weed on the planet, but the smoothest transaction system ever implanted. Imagine how much more money your business could generate can make if you could accept credit cards?

"Now hold on a second, I think you're onto something," he said.

It's not very hard. All you have to do is set up some sort of store front. Like a bookstore or nail salon or something. Get your customers to swipe their credit cards. Charged them a huge markup. They'll pay it and probably buy more because it's all on credit. The best part is that you're not loaning them the money, their credit card company is. It's also the perfect way to launder some money.

"I like what you are saying. But there's a paper trail. It's very risky, we could get caught," he wondered.

True, unless you get someone who you trust or find a patsy to set up. There are a lot of coke fiends out there who will do immoral things for free blow.

"I could tell you stories," he said.

I'm sure you could. I mean, you're a coke dealer. Talk about an interesting life. I'm sure you run into freaks of all sorts.

"These days it's pretty tame. Most of my clients are all my age. Older cokeheads with day jobs and mortgages. They're kinda boring actually. In the 80s, it got pretty out of hand. Everyone was doing blow when I first started dealing. I worked at a hotel in Midtown as a doorman and snorted more shit when I was on the job than when I was off. That's just the way it was. Man, some days I miss it. I used to deal coke to Jamil Jefferson."

Jamil Jefferson. Wow, he used to play ball for St. Johns. Didn't he get drafted by the Nuggets?

"I have no idea. I never followed basketball. I also sold blow once to an Arab sheik from Assistan or Butrain or some place like that. He asked me to get him as much as I could. I was dealing small potatoes at the time. Like an eight ball would be considered a huge deal for me. I sold $20 bags and one gram transactions mostly. But this sheik wanted everything I can get my hands on. He's short on time and gave me a fistful of cash. So I had to go uptown to Spanish Harlem on my lunch break, dressed up like I'm a fuckin' total nerd in my doorman outfit with tassels and white gloves wandering around the hood with like four grand on me. I bought a ton of shit from this brother who totally ripped me off. Half of it was probably powered milk for all I know and wrapped up in fifty deflated balloons. So I rush back downtown and I jump into the back of this limo. I'm sweating my ass off and I handed over as much coke as I could find in an hour to this sheik, and he's tearing open these balloons and ripping the biggest rails I have ever seen."

God bless oil money. Our addiction to black gold funded that jackoff's cocaine habit. I guess that's the best description of trickle down economics that I ever heard. So I never asked, what do you do now? Do you have some sort of day job or deal full time?

"Funny you should ask," he said. "I'm actually a teacher."

No shit.

"Yeah, 5th grade science at a middle school in Queens."

Paul McGuire is a writer originally from New York City. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

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