Have I ever really told you about my father?
I've glossed over him before, but I don't think I've sufficiently trolled his depths here.
I adore him, but he is crazy. He's crazy in the way of people who live in worlds the rest of us don't see or occupy at all. My father's attitudes and positions are way out there, and we all know this, but he's intelligent too, and sometimes it takes work not to fall for the wacky things he says.
On top of this, he's completely inappropriate. Once you're, say, twelve, you're old enough to be privy to all kinds of stories that you'd much rather never be subjected to.
It took a long time for me to make peace with this. I've had to find a way to stay true to myself, while honoring him as my father. Plus, when I was in college, and it was evident that I was not going to go into the field of prostitution or drug addiction, he'd every now and then refer to me as a square. I am a very brown person, but this burned my ears bright red. Nobody wants to be a square. My father didn't mean it as a put-down; it was how he summed up how I saw the world versus how he saw it. Still, it irked me. I sure as hell wasn't going to shoot up to avoid the moniker, but I did develop the habit of not acting shocked when he talked to me about things that were, well, shocking.
I'll drop you into the middle of our conversation over lunch at The Olive Garden, where Toledoans go for fancy food, yesterday. Just the two of us, surrounded by polite company (read, white folks):
Dear old dad (DOD): But see, you can't cut cocaine like you can cut heroin.
Me (The Square): Well, I saw on TV that heroin is really cheap now. How'd it get to be so cheap?
DOD: Check this out. A kilo of cocaine will cost you around 20 thousand dollars. A kilo of pure heroin -- I'm talking about real good heroin -- could cost you 180 thousand dollars.
The Square: Wow. Then how can it be sold for so little?
DOD: Wait a minute. Let me finish. You can only cut that key of cocaine three or four times. That's it. You can cut it three or four times before it ain't no good no more. Now look at heroin. Heroin you can cut a hundred times. A hundred times! I've seen dudes cut heroin twenty-eight, twenty-nine times, and those dudes was third or fourth down the line. Three four other dudes had cut that same key before they did.
The Square: Wow. Whoa.
DOD: So you do the math. Look at your uncle. He used to pay 24 thousand for a key of cocaine. His gross profit off that key would be 42 thousand. After he paid everybody, he would end up with 18 thousand net.
The Square: Whoa. Wow.
DOD: Now heroin. You can make more than a million dollars off one kilo. That's how potent that shit is. You cut it so many times. And you have a guaranteed customer too. He won't come back often. But he will come back.
The Square: What do you mean he won't come back often?
DOD: If you sell a man a rock of coke at 8:30 in the morning, by 9:45 he'll be knocking on your door again.
The Square: thinking it over, then -- I wouldn't like a high like that.
DOD: Who does?
The Square: It's too short.
DOD: Right. But that's the way it is. Now. If you sell him some heroin at 8:30 in the morning, you won't see him again until 9 o'clock that night.
The Square: It's the same day! That's not often?
DOD: Not compared to coke! In cocaine the money is made off that repetition, that turnover. In heroin, it's made off that guarantee. You're guaranteed that the dude is gonna come back and buy more, because physically, he'll have to.
The Square: Wow. Whoa. Okay. Um. So that means heroin can cost more than cocaine but it's still cheap, because you don't buy it as often.
DOD: You got it.
The Square: But you will keep buying it.
DOD: Damn right you will.
The Square: Whoa.
This was a gentle exchange. I won't even transcribe our conversation about crack, women, and sex. In fact, I won't even go over it in my own head again.
Today, a family barbecue, in my father's honor. Last night the guest of honor casually, and while reminiscing over how much he loved the man, told his baby sister and me that the favorite son of our family, his brother and best friend who was tragically murdered many years ago at 24, was not only a con man (which we figured), but also a bisexual prostitute (I am putting this in nice terms. My father's words went more like, That n---a would f--k anybody! I shall quote no more). He told us this like, Boy, that boy just tickled me! And then he left, leaving us to stare at each other.
That, my friends, is my father.