The Long Drawn Out Process of Becoming A Lost Soul (Or: The Beginning To A Short Story I’ll Probably Never Finish Part I)

I had spent the summer hanging out with a group of coke heads who I thought were the most awful, craziest, most unbearable people I had ever met in my life. But apparently they thought the same thing about me, which kind of makes me wonder: what is that makes me so awful and crazy and unbearable? Maybe it’s just that I’m not that different than the people with whom I keep company, even though I certainly walk around like I’m better than those coke heads I spent the summer with. I walk around like I’m better than most people that I meet, mostly because I can walk an average of eight city blocks in my six inch heels, which is much further than what the manufacturer’s label recommends on the box that the six inch heels came in.

I thought that I was better than the coke heads because I wasn’t a coke head, but I’m not sure if that was all in my head or if everyone else could tell that I wasn’t a coke head, too. I think I might have started to blend in after a while. After enough group trips to the bathroom, people tend to automatically judge you as a coke head. Especially if you come back out sniffling like a baby with a head cold, and even more so if what you were doing in the bathroom was cocaine. Ugh. People are so judgey. Just because I was doing cocaine in the bathroom doesn’t make me a coke head. Although, I haven’t looked up the dictionary definition for ‘coke head’ lately, so I’m not sure exactly how much cocaine you have to do in order to be a coke head or if the location where you ingest cocaine impacts that at all, but, trust me, I was not doing that much cocaine.

I was, however, drinking pretty heavily, which is kinda how I justified doing all that cocaine in the first place. I have a penchant for rapid fire consumption of alcohol, and seeing as it was all pretty much free I didn’t have the usual financial limitations on my alcohol consumption that most people suffer through. Most people bring their $40 to the bar, and when they get down to $34 they have to call it a wrap. Me? I’d walk out the bar with more money than I walked in with sometimes. Not because I was doing anything salacious in the bathroom, but mostly because people would hand me $20 to buy a round of drinks, and I’d keep the change.

The trick to that is being a pretty girl, and that’s how you get the bartender’s attention. The guy who buys the drinks knows that this is how bars work, so he hands you the money, tells you he wants a Don Patron and ginger, and watches you bounce around in order to get the bartender’s attention. You order your drink, which is something nice and mid shelf, and then you order a well tequila and ginger for the guy. That means you get to keep the extra $5, leave your $5 tip and say, “It was $20.” Do that four or five times, and you’re set to buy a twenty sack from the dope guy.

But you don’t let the guy who’s paying for drinks know that you’re palming his money for blow. The guy who’s paying for drinks is a mark, and a mark has no street smarts. A mark is easily enchanted by feminine wiles, and I’ve definitely noticed that marks tend to be white or Asian. The dope guy is usually black or Mexican, although sometimes he’s white but in a kind of ratchet hood way. Regardless of ethnicity, there’s always a class divide between the mark and the dope guy. So much so that if the mark sees you talking to the dope guy, he’ll know what’s up.

The mark will ask, “How do you know that guy?” if he sees you talking to the dope guy, and since you don’t want the mark to know that you’re copping blow, you have to lie and say something about, “I saw him here last time. He always hits on me, it’s weird.” This is just because the mark is always intimidated by the dope guy, and also the mark will start to catch onto the fact that he’s a mark if you’re not smooth about it. The mark knows that dope guys con men like him, and if he thinks you’re in on it, then good luck trying to juice that dried up well. Remember: long con is the name of the game. A free drink tonight is all fine and dandy, but getting him to buy you something more than that, and to do it on a long term basis – that’s game.

This was a game that me and the coke heads played all summer long. We’d mosey up to the bar, find some nice looking guy and run him for his money. Of course, at the end of the night we’d play shy girl and jet off to some after party trap house to cozy up to whatever broke ass dude was the flavor of the month. But it all evened out in the end: spend the night at the bar, getting shit paid for by some random ass dude, then fly home to daddy to fuck like dogs until the wee hours. Daddy never paid for drinks because daddy, like the dope guy, knew better than to be a mark for girls like us. But daddy always had blow because that’s how daddy rolls, and daddy rolls with me, so that’s good enough for me.

My daddy in particular was king of this trap. We’d go to the same bars and he’d watch me from the other end of the bar working my charm. He’d laugh the whole night long, pretending like he didn’t know me but appreciating my talents from afar. He knew that I could drink anyone under the table, but at the end of the night when it was shot o’clock I’d pull my favorite move, and I knew he loved to watch: ordering rounds of shit tequila shots on someone else’s tab, then refusing to drink mine because I was “too drunk.” The trick was to make it seem like the mark’s idea. Like the mark (who was already getting sloppy by this point) wanted me to be drunker so I’d have the confidence to go home with him. I had by that time been palming $12 a round, mostly because I’d order his “Don Patron” and ginger and switch myself over to plain soda water when I started to feel it. Getting drunk around a mark is a bad look because it makes you sloppy and also because why get drunk with someone you don’t like? This is work. Anyways, get the mark to order a round of shots, and then I’d refuse to take mine, force it on him, and watch him trip and fall his way out of the bar.

What can I say – the bartenders loved us. We were the girls that were in there, selling the booze for them, and we knew to always tip generously. So they never harshed our game. All the bartenders knew us by name, but they’d never get too familiar. That’s what I love about bartenders: they knew we were working a short con, and they knew to keep their mouths shut. They got their pay off, so they didn’t care. Everybody won at the end of the day: the bartender, the dope guy, me, my daddy. These marks are just sitting ducks, and I’m the lucky girl who gets to take their hard earned money and disperse it like Robin Hood among the crowd.

The marks deserve it anyways. That’s what they get for coming to this city in the first place. I know everyone thinks that the Oakland natives are stupid, but really we’re just quiet and crafty. Daddy tried to get me in on the phone hustle, but nicking phones at the bar didn’t seem like good business. We’re looking for repeat customers here. We’re looking for guys who don’t know what hit them until the hangover clears up two days later and their money is gone. It ain’t my fault if they blew all their money at the bar because those things happen, but a missing phone is bad for business. You can pin that on someone. Sure, every once in a while, if the mark was particularly annoying and drunk, but not on the regular.

The other coke heads were better at this game than I was. More experienced. They’d been doing it longer. They taught me the ropes and threw me in, and they gave me the cocaine confidence I needed to get it done. Daddy didn’t mind, either. He thought I looked good taking another man’s money. I knew it, too, which is how I wound up in his bed pretty consistently throughout that summer. Daddy wasn’t what I would describe as a particularly good person, but he was good to me, even if at the end of it all he was bad for me. He was sweet to me when I needed it, and he held me in the dark when the blow started to wear off. We’d get sticky and hot in his room, to tired and dirty to fuck anymore after four hours of nonstop sex. He was that kind of guy. He was the kind of guy who never stopped, but when everything was over, he’d get me home safe to tuck me in at 8 am with a bottle of water and my drapes pulled shut and all alone back at my house where I belong. Then he’d tell me that he loved me, and then he’d leave, and I wouldn’t see him for days later until we were back in our usual positions. Like players on a chess board, only drunk, and in a dark bar.

I don’t know what Daddy did when he was away from me. He could be doing anything. He could be living a rich, full life. Or he could be doing the same thing he did with me except with other women. I never knew, but I still had a life to live. In between my nights out with the coke heads and my nights in with Daddy. There were still bills to be paid and shoes to buy, and I don’t know how the coke heads did it. They barely seemed alive at any given point in the day, but come night fall they’d be strapped up and strutting around like a million bucks. Me? I needed beauty rest and a latte in order to get up after three days.

I assume that the coke heads spent their days doing more elaborate tricks that were just different versions of the bar mark con. The coke heads all had online accounts with websites that had lurid names that seemed to belie a financial transaction in exchange for femininity. I’m not the type of person who asks questions because I have seen what happens to people who ask questions, but I do know that their swimming pool filled with marks was much bigger than mine, and they were much bigger sharks inside of it.