You can’t be a cheap bastard and do cocaine, unless of course someone loves you muchly, and wants to give you cocaine. The odds of someone being a cheap bastard and being loved muchly is pretty much zero from what I can tell, and it wouldn’t be something I would pay for anyway, but I’m a cheap bastard. That would explain why I never did much cocaine. I tried it one time and it cost me two hundred bucks, and damn nearly my life. I went with a woman to buy some cocaine for an acquaintance of mine, and the woman and I did all of the cocaine. The only reason my acquaintance did not kill me was to collect the money the following Friday. The experience with the woman and the coke could not negate the experience of knowing there was someone who would kill me if I did not come up with some money. From that point to this day, I am a cheap bastard, and I have not done cocaine since.
I knew what coke cost back in the 1980’s when it was America’s Drug, and I knew Greg wasn’t making the money it took to do coke. He sold me an aquarium set, with the under gravel filter, hood, lights, air pump, wrought iron stand, and a ton of accessories for twenty-five bucks, but I had to get it out of his apartment. The water was a very thick green color and the water was very thick. What Greg did not tell me was there was a live catfish in there who was about a foot long, and there was also a giant bullfrog in there as well. The frog came out of the thick and terrified me, and the catfish thrashed in the scummy stuff and covered me with green. Both were released unharmed into the wild.
Greg’s life was measured in units of one hundred dollar increments. I can’t remember how much coke a person could get for one hundred bucks but that was the smallest amount anyone sold. Selling the aquarium was one quarter of the way there, and Greg knew it. He sold his room mates’ television one day and he had to move in with his girlfriend who kicked him out when he sold some of her jewelry. He moved into his girlfriend’s mother’s garage, and I remember the day she kicked him out of there for having a yard sale while the woman was at work. Greg showed up at my place looking for a home, but I told him I could not live with a person who stole and smelled funny. I asked him when the last time he had a shower and he couldn’t remember. Could I loan him a few bucks for a shower? He looked hopeful when he asked, but I wasn’t giving money to a coke head. I am a cheap bastard.
Greg bounced from job to job while living in an abandoned house. He would work long enough to get one paycheck, and borrow money from the people at work, a five spot here, a sawbuck there and on payday Greg would quit the job, go get some coke and some beer, and he would party until it was all gone. This was usually a day, maybe two at the most. Eventually Greg began to run out of people he knew who would let him into their house or apartment much less loan him money. The local pawn shops stopped doing business with him because everything he brought in was stolen. The end came when Greg stole a car, rammed a local liquor store to break in, and stole a lot of hard liquor. They found him a day later, in a culvert, nearly passed out, and very unclean. I heard he did some hard time, and that was the last I would ever hear of him, I thought.
He didn’t recognize me, but I saw him one day working for a contractor that was pouring concrete curb. This was a man who was once going to college but decided to major in cocaine instead. He was doing shovel work, getting worn out for it because he was no longer young, and wasn’t doing a very good job at all. The superintendent told me the new guy, meaning Greg, was one of those halfway house people the government would put in jobs trying to get them out of the prison system, but the man was nearly hopeless. Greg’s body was weak from years of drug abuse, and years of living in prison. The fast paced life of a construction job was confusing to him, and frightening as well. He stumbled his way through an hour’s worth of work while I watched, and I wondered how someone got to this point of living.
I asked the Super how half way house people worked out, and he said they rarely did, and were even more rarely worth the risk. This one, he said as he rolled his eyes, had tried to borrow money from everyone on the site, and finally had to be told to stop. Worse, he panhandled during lunch for cigarette money and the other guys made fun of him. One of the other men had penciled in a “not” by the “will” on his “Will work for food” sign and everyone thought it was funny. Still, the Super told me, it was surprising how much money a man could make in thirty minutes doing nothing but holding up a cardboard sign.
The next day Greg was gone, and the Super told me someone had offered him a job doing some yard work and Greg had rode off with the man, which was a violation of his parole. The Super didn’t report him right away, but when Greg hadn’t shown up for work the next day, he did call the Sheriff’s Office. The project was over in a week or so, Greg was still missing, but no one really cared. He would show up again in a robbery gone wrong, a funny internet story about a dumb crook, or just another homeless person who died in a ditch. There, but for the propensity towards being a cheap bastard, goes I.