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He had promised weeks ago, that he would never deal coke, but pot was something he continued to distribute. Marijuana buyers were often mellower, less insistent, less violent, Vicky noted to Daniel. They both recognized the harsh energy of the knock, distinctly different than the average pot-head.
Daniel gestured to the bathroom. After one time in which she’d drunkenly asked a series of embarrassing questions to his customers, including whether the buyer’s mothers’ were proud, he had suggested she either shut her mouth, or wait in the bathroom. Vicky had been sitting in the bathtub during his business transactions ever since.
The tension grew in the stillness that followed. Daniel’s eyes drifted to the crack in the wall and back to Vicky, eventually landing back on the front door. He gestured with the back of his hand to the bathroom, not looking her in the eyes and hoping she would just let him conduct the deal. Last week he’d met his friend Tony at a party and found a new hook up for a solid product. This was gold, Tony assured him. He’d been unable to pass it up after taking one hit of it. Tony set him up the next day and here he was, distributing.
Vicky slinked off her chair with a threatening look that suggested she might just ruin the deal and slam the door on her way in. The guys that were coming by may not appreciate an unexpected third party hiding out. Daniel’s nostrils flared. Don’t you dare, he seemed to say with a bug-eyed look. Her hand grabbed the door knob and he thought he might just do it, but instead she closed it quietly behind her with a soft clink. The knocking struck the door again and again, overwhelming every other noise.
“Hey, I hear you. I’ll be just a minute,” Daniel shouted back.
He rushed to his backpack and began stuffing the tiny bags down the hole, hearing them pat against each other as they fell. Plunk, plunk, plunk. They made an echo inside the drywall. From the bathroom, he could hear the shuffle of Vicky’s feet on the floor. And again the knock clunked against the front door.
“Hey! Open up!”
“Just a minute, I’m on the shitter!”
Daniel yelled back, hoping to dispel their annoyance as well as any rising curiosity. He kept a few grams and stuffed them under the bed, keeping one for his pocket. Good enough for the time being. Hopefully he could get away with the deal without the guys knowing Vicky was in the bathroom and without Vicky learning he was in coke. Finally he opened the doors.
A single file of beat down white guys wandered in, their hair stringy and unwashed. Daniel gestured to the kitchen table and sat down beside them, pulling out a single baggy from his jeans, a white clump of substance at the center. The guys all shifted in their seats, leaning forward.
Afterward, the guys patted him on the back, their eyes roaming the room. Daniel began to feel uneasy. Their eyes were searching for something, he was sure, perhaps the rest of the stash, perhaps Vicky. He began pacing, and in his agitated sate he yelled out.
“Hey, let’s go out!”
For a second they seemed not to hear him, but then their eyes turned to him and smiled. It appeared they agreed. They walked out the door with Daniel following behind. Then he slammed the door closed as he left.
From the bathroom, Vicky could hear very little, but she had abandoned reading her paperback about fifteen minutes ago. She listened at the door for a while, waiting to hear something that might clue her in to the deal happening, but everything was very quiet until she heard Daniel’s yell followed by the bang of the front door slamming. The rumble of its closing shook the badly constructed walls.
Fed up with waiting and intent on finding out just what exactly was going on, Vicky twisted open the bathroom door. She stared out at the empty apartment. The place looked exactly the same from where she stood. The chairs stood at odd angles perhaps, but the bed lay exactly as before. Yet the empty spaces looked abandoned in a new way.
She walked through the apartment, then. In the kitchen sink, a pipe rocked slowly back and forth with left over momentum. The residue of some blackened layer of residue coated the bowl, the insides black and yellow with use. Gripping the edges of the counter, Vicky breathed deep. Weeks ago, he promised her, not this again. But still here it was, laid bare and still slightly warm. She could break the pipe and shatter it against the wall, but there was always another pipe. It would be better to leave it there. To leave everything.
Vicky plunked down onto the bed and let the blankets curl up around her weight. She realized there had to be a stash of it hidden somewhere inside the apartment. She catalogued the room’s hidden spaces in her mind and came back with nothing helpful. All the places she knew about, he would not want to use. Thinking back to earlier as he’d walked in the door, Vicky considered where he’d been, where he could have tucked it away without her seeing. The bed, possibly. She tucked her hand under the mattress and quickly gave up. He was dumb enough, but too experienced to try that.
Again the thought of leaving drifted across her. But there really was nowhere to go. Sitting up, she noticed the large gash in the plaster of the wall opposite her. It looked superficial at first, just a long tear, but at its center the deep black hollow suggested otherwise. Vicky paused. Long ago, in elementary school, a teacher described the building of the Great Wall of China. To protect the nation, the emperor built a wall so large, that enemy forces could not attack. The wall stretched over a thousand miles, the teacher said as she stretched out her arms wide, longer even than the entire United States. But what caught Vicky’s attention, was the teachers description of how they built the wall. Over a million people helped to construct it. Hundreds of thousands of people died, and instead of properly burying the dead, they left the bodies in the wall, continuing construction over the graves. It felt to Vicky as if the wall must be haunted by the disregard shown them.
Staring at the hole, Vicky remembered Daniel’s eyes peering across the room from this same spot. He thought of himself as secretive, but Vicky usually found out whatever it was he tried to hide. This time is no different, she thought. Her feet made hardly any noise as she strolled over to the wall. Tapping lightly with her knuckles, she could hear the hollow sound inside. There was nowhere else he would hide his merchandise, she was sure. And there was no way he’d sold it all.
Vicky turned her back to the wall and leaned against it for a second before she punched the heel of her foot through it. The already failing plaster crumbled, tinkling over the floor like dropped beads. Reaching her hand inside the opening, her hand groped for the feel of thin plastic. The bags crinkled against her fingers as she pulled them out in twos and threes. When she was done, the pouches made a pile of milky white lumps like cheese curds, at her feet. It was a large amount, even for Daniel. The pile calmed her. It was solid, out in the open.
The apartment’s neglected atmosphere had never bothered her much before. Once she found it romantic how they continued to live together, building a life together in the midst of the cramped, run down building. They had been happy. With the broken skin off the wall, the two by fours and dry wall exposed, Vicky began to see the place. The peeling linoleum, the nicked cabinet doors that wouldn’t close, the curtains which covered nothing, yet dimmed the light, the giant hole in the wall where Daniel’s foot had made a frustrated hole after she’d caught him cheating. The hole in wall her heel had just made.
Vicky turned back to the pile in front of her. For a moment she liked the idea of tossing them into the sea, one by one. The idea was nice. But not the price, she thought. She’d have to put some money on her metro card, if she wanted to get to the beach. At the moment she didn’t have the cash. But then, she looked at the pile and thought over the situation again. There were at least forty baggies tumbled together in that pile. She had less than half that many dollars in her bank account. The little tufts of plastic at the top of each little baggie caught a small edge of light that had squeezed through the tear in the curtain. It shone on the pile, making the stash turn golden. Vicky leaned forward.
“Fuck it.” She said aloud.
She grabbed up the baggies in her small hand and stuffed them into the depths of her sagging purse, taking care to zip the top closed. Vicky headed for the door. Many times she wondered if she would ever willingly sell drugs. She’d tossed the idea around, considering what circumstances would lead her to deal. Apparently, not much, she sighed. A brief pause held her there and for a moment she looked around. It seemed almost that she was re-thinking. Then she turned back and dashed into the bathroom to grab up her book from the floor, leaving the door open behind her as she left.