One of my favorite lines of bullshit in American Popular Mythology is the image of the modern day drug dealer. The modern day drug dealer on TV is a bizarre psychological artifact from drug PSA's in the 80's and 90's, lurking on the street corner next to a payphone with little tied off baggies and his hands in his pockets, looking back and forth and protected by a red slash of gang graffiti directly overhead. In this adorably folksy but gratingly persistent image, he is a black male with a tec 9 under his hockey jersey, or less often a greasy white guy with a skullet and a sawed off shotgun down his pants, calling out to random passers by "I got whatchoo need, I got whatchoo need." Like most archaic mental artifacts, it is woefully inaccurate, but creates a sort of hybrid truth by simply persisting as long as it does. This makes everyone happy. The users are happy because they learn a protocol that is instinctively adopted by undereducated, small time dealers in the worst of neighborhoods. The police are happy because it results in a predictable group of rubes doing exactly the same thing every time. And John Mackey is happiest of all, because he never gets caught.
My apartment is modestly upscale, nothing more than most other experienced telemarketer could manage. That's another important point-other than the bazillionaire tycoons, most modern dealers have a dayjob, if nothing else to cover their income. Other than an excessive amount of locks on my doors, nothing would distinguish it from the apartment of any other pink collar loser. Shaking off the rain in great glittering droplets, I shut the door behind me and slammed the chain into place. With one hand I flicked on the lights, revealing the neat interior, my other hand holding my cigarette and shaking badly. The itch was in my guts then; it coiled and snarled and thrashed against it's bindings, and I didn't even turn on the tv or radio, couldn't even bring myself to keep track of what was rapidly becoming dire news. All that mattered was the large plastic box in my utility closet, hidden behind the water heater. The world shrunk down to two very small, hazy orbs as I fumbled open the closet door and kicked open my treasure chest.
My phone rang again-Cesare's ringtone. Fuck him. I had more important things to attend to.
Most people also picture those tiny tied off baggies-what those who buy weed call "crack ties" along with other, less flattering racial epithets, mostly because it is used by dealers in the inner ghettos. The problem is that the cops have seen those stupid fucking gangster movies too, and anyone with a collection of small tied off baggies is booked for intent to distribute before you can say "reasonable search and seizure." A scale is much more likely to be written off, and so I tend to just keep my fine china in a small glass vial. My hands could barely work the stopper after I fished it out from among what Hunter S Thompson would call "a whole multicolored galaxy of uppers, downers, screamers, laughters" and I didn't even shut the box before I stepped into my bedroom.
Time tuned out to a vague dull roar as I went snowblind and resumed my favorite activity-pacing up and down my hallway and cursing. There was a well worn patch in my carpet already, and it was easy to slide back into the groove and let it all go away-the stripper ex, Crystal, Cesare, the fucking apocalypse outside my door. In fact after awhile all I could see and think about was Phebe's valium blue eyes-they haunted me from end to end of my little apartment, from groove to groove, from line to line, from cigarette to cigarette. Nothing else shone through that loud white wall, not for several hours. As I said before, it was past midnight before I even cared enough to flick on the news.
The thing about yay is that you focus on minutae a lot. The tv was flashing with a lot of big crazy movements, but all I could really take in was the ticker, which was scrolling torturously slowly across the bottom of the screen. It said "...MASSIVE RIOTING CONTINUES IN GREATER INDIANAPOLIS, GARY, BLOOMINGTON, FISHERS. TRAVEL ADVISORY: SEVERE FLOODING I-65, IN-465. GOVERNER DANIELS "STAY AT HOME AND REMAIN CALM." ALL EMERGENCY SERVICES PERSONEL..." My eyes finally unfocused enough to take in the images on the screen, sort of like a magic picture in reverse-as my vision sharpened, I could see a mob of people charging through the rain up Broadripple, filmed on a shaky handcam from the roof. Not gangbangers or malcontents, but folks in the uniforms of all those trendy cute shops and resturaunts, screaming in a mass hysteria and throwing bricks through plate glass windows. The handicam image was accompanied by a steady flow of inane reporter babble. "...sent into our station by a viewer at Pepper's on Broadripple, where the south side riots have spread to. Tom, what do you make of this?"
"Well, uh, I can't say for certain Andrea, we've never seen rioting on this scale without an underlying ethnic cause, and, uh, most studies say that riots like this are highly unlikely in the rain..." The image had looped itself again; now I saw the beginning, which differed only a little from the end except that a few loud gunshots could be heard in background. The guy talking, which the subtext identified as a "Social Psychologist" which I liked to interpret as "Professional Bullshitter," continued in his bland academic monotone while I bent my head to ride another rail all the way across my mirrored coffee table, my own reflection wild eyed and flushed with excitement. "I think we're seeing something new here, Andrea, and I'm really uncomfortable with it. Ethnic tensions could be to blame; Indianpolis has always stood out as a starkly divided city, uh, I mean economically of course..."
An unpleasant thought occured to me; Broadripple was right in the guts of Indy, and thus right between me and the always unpleasant south side projects, where I had expected the riots to be confined. If they were rioting downtown, with it's heavy police presence and a fucking rainstorm on, it could easily spread to where I was. Paranoia spiked hard in my gut then, though the bottom didn't quite drop out of my razor sharp equilibrium. First thing I did was go and check my locks again, though I did look uncomfortably at my large picture window while I finished a roach from my ashtray to calm my nerves.
Second, I went and reached under my bed for my gun. If I was inclined to educate the younger generation in Illegal Business 101 (that is, if I were interested in competition) I would probably start with this truism-if you need a gun on you all the time, you are dealing with the wrong class of customer. Most of the time this thing, a heavy steel brick of a .45 like they use in old war movies, just collects dust under my bed. But the fact of the matter is that I can't go to the better business bureau if I get screwed over, so I have to plan accordingly. It had never been fired in anger, and in truth I wasn't that great of a shot, but I felt better immediately once I had it in my hand. Lacking a holster, I tucked it in the back of my pants and went back in the bedroom to do another line.
Afterwards I smoked a cigarette and watched some more of the news; predictably it was mostly replays of the Broadripple footage with more retarded voice overs from so called experts-I figured nobody could get a news chopper in the air with the rain still coming down like it was. The ticker spat doom regularly, a long purple ribbon of alarm scrolling just underneath the carnage. I was starting to get nervous, mostly from not knowing, but I insulated the feelings well with a higher-than-usual drug intake. Still, I was strung pretty high when my phone went off again in front of me, nearly buzzing off the side of the coffee table, and I almost jumped through the roof.
It was Phebe-her name was entered in my phone's contact list now, though I still didn't remember doing it. I snatched up the phone, thinking of her eyes again, that old terrible, womanizing Jon Mackey hunger only heightened by what I still couldn't quite admit was fear.
"Hey, Johnny," she said. I was impressed by how well she was hiding her own jangled nerves. "You watchin' the news?"
"Yeah...it's bad, isn't it?" I said, in a low, serious tone that sounded oddly unreal coming out of my blasphemous mouth. My buzz was holding at a high hum, and it was a little hard for me not to giggle or curse.
There was a long pause before she continued. "Listen," she said, and in her tone at the first word I could already see her pants tossed casually aside, though a strange new voice inside me seemed oddly offput by the idea, "I am going to fall asleep really soon, and I really don't want to get caught by surprise...did you..." Her voice dropped to a whisper, though on the razor's edge of my fresh coke high I could hear it easily "...did you see what they did to that girl in Chicago? I was hoping that, well, since you slept over here earlier, that, uh..."
"...that I could return the favor?" I supplied the response, sensing how uncomfortable she was asking for help, and laughed a bit. "Yeah, yeah...no problem. It's only fair, and I'm up anyway."
I could practically hear her quizzically cocking her head. "Really? It's 1am."
"Oh, I'm a night owl," I lied, and added quickly "Listen, I'll be right over." In fact, I was in motion almost before I realized it, pausing only to grab a pack of stale rolling tobacco off my dresser and some papers from my treasure chest.
"Thanks, Johnny...I appreciate it." Her blue eyes burned in the back of my brain while I stepped out into the unyeilding rain. Maybe that was what blocked me from hearing the nearby sirens, but I don't think so-the dull roar in my ears was all my own making.