Working is for suckers: cocaine dealers I have known
I once knew a drug dealer in Raleigh who, after many years of being a moderately successful coke slinger, abruptly decided to go the straight and narrow. He felt avoiding jail was in his best interest and recently he’d made some bad decisions that were about to land him there.
And while he truly enjoyed snorting coke off the titties of a constant bevy of eager strippers; being the center of attention at wild parties; receiving the red carpet treatment at certain clubs and restaurants; and cruising around nightly in rental limos stocked with liquor, well, he supposed it was time to give all that up. “I’m done,” he told me one night on the phone. “I’m out.” And he hung up.
So one of his closest friends got him a job in a downtown furniture-making shop and he went to work eight-to-five pulling in just above minimum wage. He abandoned his nice rental house in the Raleigh historic district and moved into a dilapidated 2nd floor walk-up with a buddy of his who delivered pizzas. The apartment was a dump that reeked vaguely of rotten oranges but it was cheap and he could manage his half of the rent.
Every morning, he got up at 7, got to work by 8 and worked until quitting time. During this uneventful period of manual labor in his life, he ate lots of Oodles of Noodles and Big Macs and drank Food Lion brand soda. Every night, he watched t.v., usually wrestling, until he fell asleep. Or played video games on a very large, top-of-the line t.v. he’d acquired during his drug dealing days. Few people called and, unlike the old days, strippers stopped dropping by at all hours of the night for a visit.
Every Friday at lunchtime, he’d pick up his paycheck, cash it, and have just enough money left for a week’s worth of groceries, a cheap bottle of bourbon, and to pay his part of the bills. He went through these motions for about 6 months and found that he was more depressed than he’d ever been in his life even though he no longer suffered from the fear or pressure of being arrested or robbed (I don’t know if he ever worried about actually being killed. He never said so.) Although he came to realize who his true friends were and that the number had diminished greatly since he’d become a working stiff, he missed the company of dilettante acquaintances and the easy thrill of superficial good times and weary fucked-up sex with chicks who probably had some sort of venereal disease.
One Tuesday night, I was bored and went over to visit him. I knocked on the sagging screen door and he yelled for me come on in. He didn’t ask who it was. I don’t think he cared. Odd thing, a screen door on a 2nd floor apartment. Never seen that before. Through the screen, I could see him sitting in the Lazy Boy there in front of the door and past him I could see the tiny kitchen table covered in dirty dishes and over-flowing trash bags. I walked into the tight apartment and he motioned towards the flatscreen,
“Oh, hey, you’re just in time for wrestling.”
I shoved several empty pizza boxes and wadded-up McDonald’s bags off the torn leather sofa, a once-glorious piece of furniture that originally cost $5,000, and sat down on something sticky that soaked through my pants. “What the fuck?!” I yelled, leaping up, “Why don’t you clean this hell hole up??”
He didn’t look away from the t.v. and shrugged. “What’s the point?” he said. “What’s the point?”
I decided to keep my mouth shut and picked up a rancid, faded beach towel off the floor and gingerly spread it across the couch cushion. I sat down and stared at him. He turned off the t.v. and closed his eyes, leaned his head back and said, “Working is for suckers, Angela. It’s for fucking chumps.”
The next day, he didn’t show up for his job. And he didn’t show up any other day after that. He went back to selling coke. I don’t know how successful he was at it that time around.
I only know that he was dead 4 years later. He was my brother. And every morning these days, I wake up and wearily haul myself onto the metro to head for the office. And most mornings his words seep into my muddled thinking,
“Working is for suckers. It’s for fucking chumps.”
My corporate job is in a grey building in Washington D.C. Sometimes, on my way to work, I nod off while sitting on the crowded subway train thinking about what he said. And I miss my stop and have to take the next train going back. None of the other people packed into the car know that I think they are suckers. I think they are chumps.
Author’s note: This little story might be true but then again it might not be.