New York was beautiful this time of year. The sky at around five would house a light purple color from a drowsy sun. The clouds looked like thick curls of cream while the sky scrapers and towers of American wealth would be pasted in darkness amongst the backdrop. There was a continuous sound of motion echoing along the Manhattan coast. There wasn’t a single moment when life wasn’t heightened to its fullest potential. Even during the winter, the cars would screech and cry out for attention. Manhattan was the neediest city in America, but it was so caught up in itself it never noticed the filth boiling right under its nose.
“I don’t think you understand Mr. Vandel, I don’t have that kind of money”. A man puffs on a large cigar, his deep breathing shows evidence of frustration as the smoke curdles out of his cheeks. He stands up; a polished black tuxedo houses his fit body. His silver hair shows proof of aging as you begin to see more of his scalp in the proper light. It is slicked back and made to create a mirage of youth and full hair. He casually slides his hand in his pocket and begins jingling loose change as he stares out the window of a dimming city. “6 ounces of Blue Magic for 5g that is an offer no one can refuse” I responded. I stood up, dressed similarly to the man with the cigar and put my hand around his shoulder in comfort. He seemed off put by this gesture. “I’m a man of understanding Mr. Kane, but you got to recognize that I’m running a business here, and the way this business works is that I got to make sales, and if I don’t make sales it makes my job a lot harder to do,” The man seemed to tense up, knowing that I was heading somewhere with my rant ‘now, as I seem to recall, You just got married right?”
Mr. Kane threw my hand from his shoulders and backed up in anger. A vein began to emerge in his neck as he clenched his jaw and stared me down. I took my floating arm and slid it into my pocket; I was used to the hostility. “Do you have any idea who you’re talking too?” he said. I smiled and looked out the window in the same position Mr. Kane had recently been in, the position of power and confidence. “I think I’m talking to a customer, who owes me a lot of money. The purchase of this offer that I am making to you right now, would clear all the debt you owe, and save your wife a lot of heartache if she were to ever find out of your . . . habits”.
Mr. Kane pulled out a check book and began scribing my sum. Funny how much power paper holds. Such a thin slip of parchment can ruin a man’s life, or in my case make him a king. After mere minutes Mr. Kane thrust the check in my face, which I grabbed with diligence and respect “thank you, a package will arrive soon for you”.
I left his office into the pouring rain of Manhattan. I slid on my coat and darted over to my Cadillac Escalade. It was too late to go to the bank, so I decided to head home. The cash out could wait till tomorrow.
My sister Sabeen was waiting for me when I got home. Her long dark brown hair a mess from tossing and turning in bed, she had no makeup and dark crevices under her eyes that displayed how she was beginning to age. “Where were you?” She asked in Arabic. “Working late, I’m sorry” I replied. I walked over and gave her a kiss on the head. We continued to speak in our native tongue.
“I told you not to wait up for me”
“You’re my brother Ashur. A young sister tends to worry”.
“You got that from mother”.
“Yeah, and you got fathers egocentricity. You couldn’t have called?”
“I’m sorry, I will next time” I said facing the fridge. The only sound that remained was the sound of me rummaging through the fridge for something eatable. “Have you seen the news?” Sabeen asked, now in English. I shook my head as I slurped on a yogurt. “They blew up a bridge back home, killed a school bus full of children.”
I was so used to hearing this type of update from Sabeen that I only gave a mumbled mmm as a response, and continued eating my yogurt. Even though we had moved to New York about 10 years ago, she was still unable to let go about what was going on across the seas. I would always tell her to cherish her own life and be grateful for our safety, but there was some residual guilt on her skin that couldn’t be washed off.
“How can you not care Ashur?”
“Jesus Sabeen I do, but not at 1 in the morning after a long day of work.”
She shook her head “mother and father would be disappointed” she said in Arabic. “Mother and father are dead” I said in response. I put down the yogurt and walked over to her. I squatted down so our eyes met. Her milky brown pupils seemed dilated and silky, like she had been drinking. “The only thing we can do is pray now. It’s in God’s hands. You can’t help them right now, not until you finish school.” Her eyes darted away from mine. “I know” she accepted grudgingly. “Don’t you have class tomorrow?” I asked. She nodded; she was a senior at NYU that was just waiting for her time to become a humanitarian and help our people. All she needed to do now was finish. “Now off to bed, I have to make a quick stop across the hall to Sam then I’ll be in for the night ok?” She nodded. I kissed her forehead and walked across the hall.
On three knocks Sam answered. “Today’s earnings” I said holding up the check. Sam’s blonde hair was a mess. He breathed deeply out of his nostrils and squinted one eye to shield him from the light of day. Chances are he had just tumbled out of bed. “This couldn’t wait till tomorrow?” he asked. His voice was moist and weak. “It’s not every day I hold 5g in front of your face” I said. Sam froze; he was unaware exactly how much was on the check. He gave a big smile and held up his fist for a fist bump. “You need to shave” I said. “Beer?” he asked. I hesitated but then agreed due to the special occasion. I walked into his messy and tiny apartment. His clothes were spewed all over the dark brown carpet. The only light was illuminating blue from the TV; the kitchen was rusty and aged. Sam handed me a beer and watched as I opened it and sipped. It had been a while since I had a nice cold beer with a friend.
“We got more supply coming in like a week or so, I’ll hit you up when it-”
“Can we not talk about work?” I asked politely. Sam froze again.
“Oh, um, alright, what do you want to talk about?”
“How’re the kids?”
Sam stumbled on answering this question, hardly ever did we have time to discuss anything but work. “They’re goo-good. Timmy is turning 11 in a month or so, and Clara is shooting up uncontrollably, already taller than her mama. How’s, um, Sab?”
“She’s good, will not stop watching the news though.”
“I heard about the school bus this morning, such a damn tragedy”.
“I just wish she’d make some kind of attempt to move on. It’s been almost 11 years now.”
“That stuff stays with you Ash, you were pretty fucked up by it when we first met”.
I had met Sam when I arrived to the states 10 years ago. My sister and I were thin and frail from a long stressful journey, and Sam quickly showed us his hospitality and helped us get an apartment quick and easy. Sabeen was merely 13 and I was only 17. During the Hama Massacre in the 1980’s my parents had snuck us out to the docks where a man on a boat was waiting for us. The boat was cramped and tiny, and ma and pa said that they’d soon join us in New York. Later find out they died that day, packing their bags to escape. When I learned, I shot into a serious depression, and was unable to hold any jobs or make any money. As a result of this Sam took me under his wing and showed me a little operation he had going at the time. Next thing I knew I became roped into the drug business and with my charm and his supply, we had ourselves a thriving occupation. We began to escalate after I caught Mr. Kane, my ex-boss, buying from one of our employees. He promised to connect us to big time fortune, as long as his secret remained secluded from his family, next thing we knew we were each making 6 figures.
“Did Kane give you a hard time?” Sam asked me. “No,” I lied ‘he’s always been a straight shooter”. I thought it be easier not to ruin the reputation of our money maker. The air seemed heavy and foggy. “Did you smoke in here?” I asked. Sam said nothing. “Sam, did you seriously smoke in here?”
“Sorry man” he said looking at the floor ashamed. “Sam! What if a neighbor called the cops? Our whole business would be ruined, is that what you want?”
“No, dude it’s not that big a deal, seriously it was fine”.
I walked up to Sam’s face and grabbed the collar of his shirt. I pulled him close so he could taste my breath. “Don’t,” I said “you know I’m not a violent man Sam, but I swear-“
“Alright, alright” Sam said pushing me off of him. “I’m sorry” he said. I stared at him and gave a deep sigh. “Thanks for the beer” I said, and walked out without giving another look.
© Copyright 2016 Mackenzie James. All rights reserved.