Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Catholic Boys: continued

7. Cocaine

It played such a huge role. Not the white elephant on the couch. More like the white mountain we all happily climbed.

In 1983 a half gram cost fifty dollars. These half grams were sold in intricately folded pieces of magazine paper, usually Playboy. It was important that the coke be wrapped in a sex mag. I don’t know why. But they were, folded up in an origami borrowed from high school girls who sat in the back of class, passing folded bits of gossip.

An entire gram cost $100. You got it in the same folded square, only the paper was plumper. More promising.

An eight ball was an eighth of an ounce. I can’t remember how much they cost, though I recall one usually got a break, especially if you bought from the same dealer all the time. Eight balls came in baggies, like marijuana, rolled up and licked shut along the top.

At first we only bought half grams or the occasional whole ones, but then Jay started dealing and we could afford eight balls. He sold them to us cheap and uncut, no speed or Mannitol mixed in. Mannitol is an infant laxative. It gave us all the runs. We didn’t care, because we were high.

I used to be able to fold and unfold these squares expertly, spilling nothing. I carried my coke in a concert kit. That’s what people called them in the head shops. Concert kits. I still have mine: a blue leather wallet, about the size of a credit card. Here it is, taken from its hiding place for description purposes.

“What’re you doing with that?” My husband asked, seeing it on the kitchen table. He has a heart murmur. He’s never done coke.

“Just writing about it.”

He nodded, satisfied. Just writing about it covers a range of behaviors.

The concert kit. Parts of it are missing now: the brown glass vial capped with a black plastic lid, equipped with a tiny spoon. The cheap razor blade that came with the kit, long discarded for the real thing. Now only the slot remains, empty. There is still the implement with a spoon on one end and a surprisingly sharp edge on the other. A gold straw. There are proper names for these items. I no longer know what they are, if I ever knew. A thick square of mirror slid behind the tiny tools. I used to keep my envelopes of coke behind the mirror. For a long time I had an empty bit of paper there, folded up. Now that’s gone, too. I tilt the mirror to the light: it is unscratched. I didn’t use it much. I had a beauty mirror, white plastic, the kind with a magnifying side and a flat side. I used that, and standard blades, and dollar bills. I would use a spoon if I was out somewhere—a concert, in the car. But snorting through money was our preferred method. I was especially good at chopping rocky coke into powder and arranging lines. Everyone always let me do it. Now those same skills serve me well in the kitchen, mincing garlic. Dicing onions. Mundane, middle-aged behaviors.

I did cocaine only on weekends. During the week there was school, and my job, which was part of the school’s cooperative education program. I took my studies very seriously: my goal was to attend college. Nobody else in my family had. We suffered economically for this. I was certain a degree would be my meal ticket out of the lower class. In retrospect I was not wrong.

But coke snared you.

If I have it, I do it, you said. How can you have it and not do it?

You did it, your brother did, all the people flocking to your house did. Off a Miller High life mirror perpetually gritty with coke. I did it off that mirror, too. But only on weekends.

I never became addicted. Everyone else did. Now we understand addiction is a purely genetic business. That I get no gold stars for good behavior.

Returning to the cocaine. There were a couple close calls with it. The first time I was with you. We were going to see a movie. We arrived before the theatre opened. In the freezing car you produced a hand mirror and rapidly arranged four lines. I had the mirror in my right hand, a rolled dollar bill in my left, and was getting ready to snort when red light flooded our vision. A police cruiser, lights on, had pulled in behind us, blocking the car.

We were terrified. Dump it! You cried. I bent forward and slid the mirror, lines and all, beneath the seat.

We sat, hearts racing from coke and terror. Waiting to be arrested.

Then, abruptly, the car pulled away. The cop was not looking for us. We retrieved the mirror, did up, and went inside to buy tickets.

Another close call, this one without you. I drove to Jay’s apartment to pick up a gram.

It was noon, a freezing, snowy day. The apartment was large and windowed, with a long walkway to the front door. This walkway, indeed the entire apartment, faced the street.

Jay was not home, but Mandy, his girlfriend, invited me inside. The place was immaculate, freshly dusted. Mandy was still in her pajamas. An ironing board was set up in the kitchen; I had interrupted her doing laundry. A square table was set up in the tiny dining area. There was a mirror on that table with a pound of cocaine mounded on it, a pound of glistening cocaine facing all the windows, their curtains opened wide to admit the bright winter light.

Want some? Mandy asked. She gestured to a smaller mirror on a side table. It featured a smaller pile of coke, a gram or so, and a few lines. A razor blade, a silver straw.

I demurred, bought my gram, and hurried off, rattled. If the cops had come. That very very clean apartment. Coked up at noon. Coke, to me, was always a night drug. Doing coke in the daytime was like eating ice cream for breakfast or driving without shoes, behaviors signifying a serious collapse of daily reality. Mandy had recently been fired from her job at a banking firm. At the time I did not connect these events.

Much later, the police did come. Jay’s dealer was arrested. He was certain the dealer would talk to reduce his sentence. Jay and Mandy lit out. While they were gone, the police searched their apartment. They did not find the coke. It was hidden in a common place to stash drugs and either the police lied about finding it and took it home themselves or were amazingly inept.

Time passed. I don’t think Jay ever saw trouble over it. He did stop dealing.

The question is whether or not you all stopped doing coke.

8. Amanda

Jay’s girlfriend. Long before her there was a girl who shared my name, his great lost love. You told me she wasn’t especially pretty, but had lovely long hair. She was very smart, and you wanted Jay to marry her. I never learned why they split. I don’t think you knew.

I’ve never known a man not taken with long hair.

After the girl with my name came lots of other girls, then Mandy. Mandy told everybody she wanted to be an actress, but she never acted in anything. Instead she held secretarial jobs. She had missed pretty by a hair, and worked hard to fix herself up. Like me, she was slightly overweight. Unlike me, she was tall, taller than your brother. This did not stop her from wearing high-heeled pumps with her jeans, which made her tower over everybody. I had never seen any girl wear dress shoes with jeans; nobody in our town dressed like that. The weather was too bad: we wore hiking shoes, or fleece-lined boots. Indoors we stripped down to heavy socks; during the three months of humid summer we wore cheap sneakers. But Mandy always wore heels: she favored a pair of purple leather pumps. She also had a leather jacket with multiple zippers, the kind Michael Jackson popularized. Her nails were always carefully red. Once she left a bottle of nail enamel in your living room beside a thick copy of Glamour magazine. Both items struck me as unspeakably exotic. But you scoffed at her nail polish, poked fun at her magazine.

You disliked her, thought her shallow and stupid. She was those things, though she was always nice enough to me. She was older, in her mid-twenties. Our age gap was an excuse: we never had to try to be friends.

Jay gave her a diamond ring for Christmas.


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