August 05, 2009


By Paul McGuire © 2009

Rafi handed me $25. The $20 bill was crisp, but the five singles were wrinkled. One of them had the eyes of George Washington blacked out by a pen.

Rafi didn't say anything and just nodded. I didn't say anything back. I was actually disappointed. He still owed me $200 and at the pace that he had been paying me back ($25 every two weeks), Rafi would be debt free in at least four months... provided that he didn't borrow any more money.

We were paid every other Thursday. Museum security guards made a couple of bucks above minimum wage. The paltry pay was for the simplicity of the job. Most of the time, I slacked off or stood around all morning and talked about the Yankees with Rafi for hours on end. By mid-afternoon, we had figured out how to solve the team's pitching problems and worked out at least three possible trades.

As soon as Rafi got his check on Thursday afternoon, he rushed to the bank to cash it. He spent the rest of the day telling me how he was going to blow his cash.

"I'm gonna score some crack and then I'm gonna bang a ho."

The first time he told me that, I assumed that he was joking, because I had only known him for a few weeks. A couple of months passed and I noticed the pattern... we got paid on every Thursday morning, and all afternoon Rafi insisted "I'm gonna score some crack and then I'm gonna bang a ho" and then he was absent from work the next day. Rafi called in sick every other Friday. Rafi never went on vacations. He never had enough days because he always called in sick and instead of docking him pay, the union made him use his vacation time to cover the days when his sick time ran out. You got five sick days a year at the museum and ten total vacation days. You also got one personal day at the beginning of every month that you could use towards a sick day or vacation.

One of the maintenance guys grew up with Rafi in Santa Domingo and helped get him the job at the museum. He told me that Rafi let loose on Thursday night and went on a three-day binge. As soon as we got off work on Thursday, Rafi rushed uptown and scored. He smoked the rock like a fiend and picked up a girl, sometimes two. By Sunday morning, he ran out of drugs, the hooker left and he was broke and jonesin'. He was so worn down after being up for three days straight that he went to bed at noon on Sunday and usually slept for the next 18 hours.

"I'm gonna score some crack and then I'm gonna bang a ho," Rafi said to me while we both worked the Modigliani special exhibit.

Like clockwork, Rafi did not show up for work on Friday. On Monday morning, I expected him to tell me about his weekend, except that he was absent on Monday... and Tuesday. By Wednesday morning, everyone wondered what happened to Rafi. I asked around but no one seemed to know about his extended disappearance. I found the maintenance guy that grew up with Rafi. He told me that Rafi had been murdered over the weekend.

One of the hookers that Rafi had frequented did not tell her husband that she was turning tricks on the side. The husband followed his wife to Rafi's apartment and confronted the two in the hallway. The scorned husband went berserk and emptied six shots into his wife and when Rafi tried to flee the scene, the husband pulled a knife on him and slashed and stabbed him fourteen times. Rafi bled to death on the front steps of his apartment building. All he had on him was $42, a Metrocard, his museum ID card, and a pamphlet to the Modigliani exhibit.

Paul McGuire is the author of Lost Vegas. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

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