by Sinthop Katawanij
A drug dealer gave us the down payment for our house. I was in the first trimester of pregnancy and we were renting a space that could’ve been listed as a closet, one staircase above a pizza parlor. Everything was expensive and we had no money. My husband thought of asking the only rich guy he knew, someone he’d grown up with in the post World War II track homes of Redwood City.
Marvin’s dad was MIA or at least he never showed his face. His mom hailed from a family of lace-curtain Irish, had spent most of her life signing in and out of mental institutions, but nevertheless, between visits found enough time to school her son.
She taught him things that only women know: ingratiating himself to people without groveling–handing out birthday cards to the town’s elite as a way of distinguishing himself from the riff-raff and doing whatever else it took to cultivate favor, a rule he used in reaching out to my husband, who played the lead in every high school drama production, but was dimly viewed by the administration for his refusal to pledge allegiance during the Vietnam War, which brought him to Marvin’s attention.
“Man, you get all the girls.” I’d heard this story many times before.
“Guilty as accused,” my future husband said. He’d already been impressed by Marvin’s clothing and white Camaro that he parked outside the school. My darling inquired, “Hear you work at the golf course? Guys standing around and hitting cow turds all day.” Marvin was making hay while the sun shined on his millionaire project, cultivating friendships with men who could afford the price of membership.
“Every weekend. Say, d’you know Mrs. Romano from drama?” Sneaky, like he didn’t know.
Mrs. Romano, the music teacher, had originally moved to Redwood City from the East Coast after a long and successful piano concert career and had connections with local officials. Her husband played golf at the club. My husband took voice lessons with her. Shortly afterward, Marvin began mowing her lawn and was offered a small scholarship to college.
For a kid with Marvin’s home-based education, dealing drugs was a natural.
He started out with the usual stuff, building a clientele at the edge of football fields: uppers, downers, red pills, blue pills, pills from his mother’s cabinet, no one too sure what they did, except they all had an equal opportunity to find out. A contact from the golf club recognized Marvin’s promise and tipped him off to bigger things: LSD, heroin, coke, and by the time I was introduced to his Lordship of the Peninsula, he asked me where I bought my underwear. Just to be a smart ass, I told him Walmart, but fortunately he didn’t hold that against me, particularly after my husband asked for the big favor. I saw a leather suitcase filled with bills. It was crazy, but I didn’t say no.
Sometimes he called our house at two in the morning.
My lovey guy asked, “What’s up man?” Marvin was convinced the mob was after him. “Crazy. Bug off. Get some sleep.” He became an insomniac and kept calling. As the years rolled along, Marvin’s mother died from an overdose and he had a brain aneurysm.
When we divorced, my husband told me that he owned the house.
“How do you figure?” I’d been paying all the bills for years, including child care.
“Marvin gave me the down payment. You had nothing to do with it.”
I handed him the leather suitcase that had originally contained Marvin’s drug money. “Fuck you,” I said.