A drug dealer, M, helped us with the down payment of our house. He was one of my husband’s oldest friends. They’d grown up together in Redwood City.
M’s dad was MIA or at least he never showed his face at home. But his mom was around. She hailed from a family of lace-curtain Boston Irish, a misfit who’d spent most of her life signing in and out of mental institutions, but found enough time to school her son in the three tenets: the first one was: it’s not what you know but who you know, and steered M toward getting a job at the local golf course as a caddy, allowing him to hob-nob with any man who could afford the price of membership.
M’s mother also insisted upon his getting a good education because important people didn’t like to associate with dunces, and lastly, that he should never, ever give up on the project of getting filthy rich.
She began to teach him things only women learn early in life: how to ingratiate himself to people without groveling, to hand out birthday cards to the town’s elite, a gesture that would allow him to stand-out from the riff-raff, and do whatever else it took to cultivate favor, a rule he used in reaching out to my husband, who was the lead in every high school drama production, but dimly viewed by the administration for his refusal to pledge allegiance during the Vietnam War, an act that brought him to M’s attention.
“Man, you get all the girls.”
“True,” he said, not disagreeing with his new friend. They took time to share a cigarette. “Hear you work at the golf course? Guys standing around and hitting cow turds all day.”
“There on weekends. Say, d’you know Mrs. Romano from drama?”
Mrs. Romano, the music teacher, had originally come to Redwood City from the East Coast after a long and successful piano concert career. She had important contacts. Shortly afterward, M began mowing her lawn and the Chamber of Commerce offered him a scholarship after he’d graduated from high school.
For a kid with M’s education, dealing drugs was a natural.
He started out with the usual stuff, building a clientele on football fields and in gym lockers, uppers, downers, red pills, blue pills, pills from his mother’s cabinet, no one too sure what they would do, except they had an equal chance to find out. A contact from the golf club recognized M’s promise and tipped him off to bigger things: LSD, heroin, coke, and by the time I was introduced to M, he asked me where I shopped for my underwear, which I thought was rude, and told him Walmart, just to be a smart ass.
He owned one of the first cellphones always stepping outside to “do business.” Trips followed to Paris, London. He developed an international clientele, and in time, became an insomniac and often called my husband at night.
“What’s up man?”
“Nothing much.” He was convinced the mob was after him.
“Crazy. They’re not coming tonight. Bug off. Get some sleep.” My husband was glad he’d taken the route to a menial job and didn’t have to worry about anyone running after him, except maybe a bill collector.
Toward the end of our marriage, M’s mother died from an overdose of drugs. M had a brain aneurysm after years of not sleeping.
“I own the house,” my husband told me when we divorced.
“How do you figure?” I’d been paying all the big bills for years, including child care.
“M gave me the down payment for the house. He was my friend. You had nothing to do with it. All about my connections.”
“Go fuck yourself,” I said.