Does that Make Me a Bad Person?

Maus was an exotic-looking beauty with chestnut skin and a pixie haircut that clung to her wobbly head. I met her through Huff, a friend who’d vouched for her. Whenever she’d stop by, she’d run straight to the bathroom. The moment she’d see me, actually. I didn’t think much of it at first, but then I realized what was happening. She was associating me psychologically—and by extension, physiologically—with my product: a diuretic despite the baby laxative. I’d become a stimulus—a walking Pavlovian trigger with Maus as my first salivating dog.

Maus lived just a few blocks east and we became friends. I was in the process of breaking up and I confided my predicament. “I can’t kick Carrie out,” I said, “that’d be kinda mean.” Maus happened to be in a similar spot. She’d broken up with her boyfriend, Jazz, a musician who was currently touring. She suggested that I move in with her for a while. “I think it’d be good for us both,” she said. “We could bond over our issues.” I wondered if she was being allusive, but it sounded fun regardless. I told Carrie I’d be crashing with a friend. “So you can get your bearings,” I said. It felt close enough to the truth.

We had a party the first night. People kept trickling in, all of them empty-handed. I considered that tacky, but Angelinos are a bit scruffier; plus they all worked till two, so one can’t really hit the store. I’d gone ahead and bought extra booze and I was pouring out party coke as well, which was becoming habitual for me. I figured I was investing in people. But really, I just wanted to please them.

A girl named Jeannie showed up at four or five in the morning. She had that skater girl look: Vans, skinny jeans, spaghetti top. She was thin and tatted up all over. I wanted her immediately.

The party lasted through the morning and into the afternoon. Things were winding down, but I’d somehow managed to charm Jeannie, and draw her into an adventure. Wearing sunglasses and clutching road beers, we staggered into the street like drunken vampires. After a brief search for my car, we took an ill-advised drive to the Roosevelt Hotel. I had a Viagra pill on me, 100mg, so I broke it as evenly as I could and popped half right there at the front desk. Some crumbly bits fell onto the marble, so I dabbed them with my finger and put them on my tongue. They were bitter. The lighting was harsh, and check-in seemed to take forever, but by the time we got to the room and hit the mini bar, I had a Duraflame in my pants.

I awoke parched and disoriented, eyelids fluttering, tongue pasty. Light was pouring in from a series of windows to my left. Jeannie was lying next to me, snoring. It could’ve been any day of the week. I called the front desk. “We need late check-out.”

We stumbled sleepily through the lobby and out the front door. I asked Jeannie where she lived. “Near Melrose and Western,” she said.

I fidgeted with the radio as we drove. I hadn’t given much thought as to how I’d explain myself to women. I hadn’t anticipated needing to, being that I had a girlfriend when I started. But what did I think—that my relationship with Carrie would outlast my dealing? I knew myself well enough to know the improbability of that.

So, how best to explain? Most dealers have some other gig, some suitable identity. Something one can call oneself, even if it’s bullshit.

I waited till I pulled into her driveway. I put the Geo in park and turned to her. “Listen, Jeannie, I’d like to see you again, but there’s something you ought to know. I make a good living, but I don’t exactly operate inside the law.”

I actually said this. And in the ensuing silence, I began reevaluating my life.

If this is how it’s going to be…. If no woman will ever want me this way….

But then Jeannie put her hand on mine. “I get it. It’s cool. It doesn’t bother me.”

I was relieved immeasurably. Had she balked, I don’t know what I’d have said. How I’d have handled that. But she made it easy. “I’ll call you,” I said.

When I got home, Maus was snoring on the couch. I stood there for a moment, gazing at her cherubic face. She looked so peaceful. I walked over and pushed the clingy bangs from her forehead and gave her a light kiss. Without opening her eyes, she moaned a little and smiled. I turned off my phone and went to bed.

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