Friday, May 9, 2008


God damn it, it's Friday.
Friday night, to be more exact, and if you are alone, Friday nights are a very special kind of evil...
I spent almost seven years involved with a gorgeous woman and her fatal flaw: she drank. I have no idea how many times she went to the hospital to be detoxed. The police came over often enough to remember the house. She has spent time in jail, in countless rehabs; she has slept in cars and in doorways. The very fact that she is alive today is a miracle. I am afraid she will die soon, that her body will not tolerate the abuse it has taken, that something--liver, kidneys, spleen, heart--will shut down. She is losing her beauty. Her skin is tired, she trembles, her eyes water. She is a college graduate with two gorgeous sons she hardly sees. She is not allowed to drive. She has no car, no career, no money, and lives by performing odd jobs--tutoring, house-sitting, cleaning other people's homes.
She has no friends. Except me, and I lose patience when I hear the intoxication in her voice. Sometimes she can stay sober for three months and seemingly get her life back on track. But then something happens, something catches up and she drinks. She drinks for a week, a month, longer. The end is always the same--a trip to detox, three or four days in the spin-dry facility. She returns pale, shaken, the life sucked out of her.

We lived together for a fractious year amid promises of sobriety that were never honored.

There is nothing I can do. I am powerless over alcohol, no matter who its in. I see her and doubt the existence of a good god.

Here is installment 21 of Wasted Miracles.

He was an educated man whose own father had believed a proper gentleman spoke the King’s English and Moliere’s French, so as a child and adolescent the Zulu had been sent both to London and Paris to polish his language skills. In London, he had fallen in with some gamblers and in two nights lost his year’s allowance. A week later he had discovered the cocaine trade and a month after that was supplying students and gambling friends with the substance.
The money involved astounded him. The violence he dealt with quickly and with finality. He had killed four people to establish himself in London and had not enjoyed it. It was messy, dirty work and it soiled his clothes. But soon, the money he made allowed him to hire others to do the killing and he discovered to his surprise that Nigerians were generally efficient and cheap. Also superstitious, a trait he played upon by making them swear a “holy” oath that involved ritual and minor bloodletting. The ceremony made them brothers, he said, and he was the supreme brother, personally linked to the greatest African who had ever lived.
Once, in order to manifest his superiority, he had gathered his acolytes and, before their very eyes, slit the throat of a street dealer who had argued with him. The impact had been immediate; the Nigerians had fallen to their knees and sworn obedience. But the dying dealer had had the bad grace of showering great gouts of blood upon the Zulu’s shirt, which the Zulu had found disgusting.
He had been in the United States 10 years now, five of them in Washington where the demand was high and the police virtually powerless. He liked the city, enjoyed the museums, took art appreciation courses at Georgetown and George Washington Universities, had made friends who worked at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He had a couple of customers who worked there, too. He still traded in cocaine brought back from Bolivia and Columbia by travelers bearing UN laissez passers, which were better than passports since they entitled the bearers to semi-diplomatic immunity. And he had discovered that heroin was making a comeback. Herbie had been the go-between, the liaison. He had never, in his wildest dreams, imagined being robbed by someone like Herbie, but there it was. It wasn’t even the money that mattered, he could afford a million or two, but the sheer gall of the dealer outraged him.
He turned to face the Nigerians. They both stood a bit straighter and pulled in their stomachs.
“So,” he said, “now I have to think of something else, something the two of you will be able to do without bungling.” He pulled down a short spear from a display on the wall, traced its point with a finger, smiled.
“This is just like the weapon my great great grandfather employed. Isn’t it a pretty thing?” He held up the assegai for the two men to see. The younger one leaned forward to admire it. The Zulu thrust once, wrenched up then sideways. The room was suddenly filled with a noxious smell. The Zulu held the spear at a forty-five degree angle--he was quite strong for his size--and watched as the eyes of the impaled man lost their glow. The older Nigerian reared back, made a moaning sound, the white around his own eyes like dinner plates. The Zulu gently lowered his trophy to the floor, inspected his shoes, noted with satisfaction that this time the slaying had been cleanly done.

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