By Tenzin McGrupp © 2006
I bumped into a guy I grew up with. Pedro lived in the apartment building down the street and we went to grammar school together. Long story short, he was a former cracker dealer who went to jail. When I saw him, he was with his wife and driving a brand new Mercedes.
"Things have changed. This is my new wife. I got three kids and a fourth on the way," he told me as he pointed to his wife's large stomach.
Pedro knocked up one of the neighborhood girls when we were in highschool. I think she had two kids with Pedro. She seemed like a nice girl but for the life of me I kept wondering, "What the hell are you doing with a crack dealer?"
In the late 1980s, when crack was the cash cow in New York City, Pedro took advantage of the addictive trend. He started out in an entry level position. He dropped out of highschool and sold nickel bags of weed to kids who would cut class and hang out in the park to get high. He eventually started scamming the private school kids and sold them oregano and other spices. If you complained, he beat your ass to a bloody pulp. Rich Jewish kids were not going to mess with a crazy Puerto Rican with a loaded gun and a pitbull.
Pedro eventually graduated from low level thuggery to middle level drug dealing. He started out at the bottom as a look out, then a runner, then a full on dealer. He would hang out at bus stops and at subway stations and deal his goods as people got on and off mass transit. His peak sales happened during rush hours, when his highly addictive clients would step off the subway and Pedro would be waiting there for a $20 or $40 rock. And it wasn't just poor people smoking crack. Tons of suits and functioning drug addicts with real jobs were part of his expanding customer base. When I was in college in the early 1990s, I heard that he got busted and went to prison upstate.
Years later I bump into him on the way to the subway. Mercedes? How was he making those car payments? The world finally made sense to me now. Former imprisoned crack dealers with four kids are rewarded with luxury German cars late in life. I should have skipped college altogether and started dealing smack in Phuket.
On the subway, a chubby black woman wearing an orange jump suit with Uggs sat across from me. Except the Uggs were knock offs and they were actually called Iggs. The orange jumpsuit hurt my eyes and I wished I wore my sunglasses. She had gang tattoos on her hands and listened to an old school Walkman. She thumbed through an old copy of People Magazine with Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey on the cover. Sitting next to her was the guy who ate is entire breakfast on the train. He got bacon, eggs, sausage and pancakes from a diner. They put it in an aluminum take out container and he struggled to eat everything in his lap. I admired his efforts and the bacon smelled good.
A guy wearing a fur coat got on at the next stop. He carried an oversized Hefty garbage bag with him and stood in the center of the car. His fur coat looked like it was made out of some sort of rabbit or raccoon. The lady in the orange jumpsuit started making fun of him.
"How many dogs you kill for that?"
He ignored her and she continued to taunt him. That happened for three more stops. When he was about to get off, he walked over to the lady in the orange jumpsuit and slapped her. Twice. Her Walkman fell onto the floor and she knocked over the breakfast of the guy sitting next to him. A piece of half eaten bacon slid a few inches away from my right foot. The guy in the fur coat ran out of the car when the doors opened as the woman screamed in agony and embarassment.
Bitch slapped on the subway.
Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.