Atlanta– I exited my hotel room drunk, stoned, and very tired. I avoided eye contact with the front desk – sudden pangs of panic and anxiety – and stepped through sliding glass doors onto the avenue, where a Cadillac convertible waited for me.
Christ, I thought. They still make convertibles?
I looked at the two men in messy business attire, who earlier had said they wanted to “talk business,” and saw in their wild eyes that business was already miles away from this night. There they were, to get me.
“How in the fuck are you a-doin’,” the driver said. “I said how is it on this beautiful night we could stay inside? I said let’s get tore up and show Atlanta what it’s all about, and I knew the motherfucker we wanted, and I knew he was you. Get in.”
I hopped into the back seat and landed on a hard leather briefcase.
“Just kick that out your way,” said our passenger.
His face twisted open, exposing a rotten pallet, fuzzy with mold in the maw. It was the color of a cow’s tongue. His necktie flapped belligerently in the breeze, and he rocked his fat head over on one side. His eyes rolled back in his head and I thought he was about to puke, but then he blinked, and when he opened his eyes, he was looking straight at me.
“You’re a fucking animal,” I said. “You’re a fucking beast. A monster. You’re the worst thing that ever happened to this country.”
He laughed, because of course, I was kidding. Just kidding around. I’m one of the boys.
“James, you’re pretty cool, man.”
We went out for drinks, to one of those smoky sewers where anywhere feels like a bathroom, at any time. I looked at the mirror behind the liquors into my own eyes, and for a moment I could not recognize myself. I felt alone. Even the barkeep wouldn’t look my way. Nothing felt real, but owed to the bleakness of this moment, I recall thinking that was for the best. I overheard a conversation about politics, and it filled me with hate. After some terrible attempts to make conversation, I gave up my efforts to serve the servants, and decided then was as good a time as any to give this meat to the dogs.
I said let’s go.
The driver slammed our rented Cadillac Eldorado into a curb and stalled on the sidewalk near the intersection of Broad Street and Martin Luther King. A man, apparently sleeping against some filthy garage door on the sidewalk, would have awoken to see the two men up front, breaking vials of cocaine into small lines, if not for their headlights pointed directly into his eyes. I remarked how the air was warm and smelled like rain. It was not a bad time for cocaine.
“This shit’s better in Jacksonville,” the passenger slurred. Using a manila folder, he stuck his head as deep into the v-shaped space over the dashboard as he could, and did his quickly. The driver did two lines off the wide center console. A breeze cut through the convertible, scattering some of the drug across the fine, exposed stitching in the leather. Neither seemed to notice they’d nearly run over a sleeping vagrant.
The waking man sat up with bleary eyes in the headlights. Squinting to see into the car, he smiled in solidarity with our apparent joyride. The driver started the car again, backed up so as not to hit a parking sign, and we drove deeper into the city. When we arrived, an argument ensued at the door.
“What do you mean he’s too drunk?” asked my subject. “Why, he isn’t drunk. This man is high on cocaine.”
I watched from the backseat of the car as a long-haired bouncer shook his head no, and pointed to me in the car. I read his lips. He assumed I was sober and told them to make me drive, so I got into the driver’s seat of the Eldorado. On their walk back to the car, the messy one put his arm around my subject, throwing the man’s arm over his own shoulder, which he then grabbed and twisted to flip my man into the backseat. On the way down his head hit the briefcase.
“Just move those slave papers out of your way,” I said. He laughed, and fell asleep.
I stole the papers.