"I'm here on business..." he tells me. His voice is trailing off. He must be desperate to trust me.
There is a certain magical place for any all middlemen. That is a place when a person approaches you that is both too sick and too scared to get product for themselves. This person is firing on both cylinders. How he ever acquired a heroin habit, I do not know. I suppose he started popping a few percs after a sports injury or someone gave him a few lines in college. He stuck the straw in his nose expecting something similar to coke. Instead, he traveled down the rabbit hole where heroin became an orgasm, a first love, and a bowl full of fuck you all in one. As he settled in, he told himself this was the best feeling in the world until he began violently puking on his loafers. He couldn't make it to the bathroom so he yakked in his empty big gulp while his edgy female companion told him "I knew you would like it".
I suppose when he stepped off the airplane in that printed polo shirt and zip up grey hoodie from the Gap he considered going to get it himself. "I will just walk right up to the first one I see and ask them for..." He sighed. Ask them for what? A gram of you finest heroin, sir. Or perhaps he would make friends with one then ask. All these ideas must have sounded terrible to him. I supposed he anguished over doing those last few bags he was saving for tomorrow. Why did he have a layover? The San Francisco fog strikes again. It enveloped all of his hopes.
I saw him standing on the periphery, like a child that wanted to get included in a dodgeball game but was afraid to ask. "Hey?" Is that a question or a statement.
Despite his outward appearance, I saw what I needed to see. Cops don't have runny noses, water eyes, and the sweaty look of desperation. It had taken many hours after his marathon of meetings to summon the courage to even walk here. "Hey" was the best he could do.
I caught a whiff. That smell- new money in the air. Yes. Like napalm in the morning. I love that smell. The smell of new money is intoxicating. It signals hope. It signals adventure. It signals a day without putting a dick in your mouth to get well. Unless he wanted that too. Luckily, I'm not that desperate.
"Hey", I tell him. "You alright?!"
This is a manipulation. I already know he isn't. I can't scare the gazelle by leaping too soon.
He asks me if I want to go in the doughnut shop for coffee. Fine. His hand is shaky as he pours himself a cup. He wants to make small talk. He wants to feel better about handing a stranger money. He is going to size me up. Can he trust me with $50? A $100? A few hundred like he is used to spending. He is a business man. He is used to a negotiation.
"Do you live around here?" He asks.
Hmm. Live is a strange question. I literally live here. I live on these streets. He is looking for an address, a place, something tangible where he can find me.
"Not here," I tell him. "I live farther up."
I decide to risk it all and skip to the point.
"What are you doing here?"
He tells me the usual. I'm here in the city on business blah blah blah. I'm 25 years old and travel a lot. This isn't a bar. You don't need to pick me up, I think. I notice his face for a moment. Those eyes of his. So beautiful with long lashes. I can see if he smiled he would have dimples. If only we were meeting at a bar. If only we were both two normal young adults going out for coffee. We would go to the movies later. He would fumble for my hand in the dark and wonder when would be the right time to get a kiss. He would smile at me knowing that we would see each other again, those butterflies of starting something new. Instead, we are two dope fiends ignoring mutual attraction because we are in a state of mutual usury.
After 15 minutes of small talk, I am ready to end this game. "How much?" I ask him. "How much do you need?"
I can tell he is scared to pull out his wallet. He shoved $100 in his sock before he left the hotel. He reaches in his pants leg and shoves it under table. This man just handed $100 to a stranger. Oh lucky day.
I know what you are thinking, reader. You are thinking this writer was a sleazy junkie who ran off with his money. You would be wrong. I was there and back in less than ten minutes. I didn't want his $100. I wanted a piece of everything in his wallet. I wanted to be the only person he knew on these streets. I wanted him to ask for me by name.
When I brought him back the balloons full of dope, I kissed him. This was the only way to transfer the drugs without raising suspicion. Two strangers in a strange embrace on the corner in a seedy part of town.
"What is this..." He looked confused.
Of course! He was a snorter that had never seen tar before. Good luck with that sweetie. I had my own bag to do- a tip from my favorite Mexican. Plus I kept $20 of his dollars. Felonies aren't free. As I stumbled off into the coffee shop bathroom to do my business, I never expected he would be there when I got out. Of course, he wasn't. I suppose it was a successful trip for both of us.