Longform

Cocaine and Me: A Memoir

Page 3 of 6

Officially they were hired to infuse the club with a cosmopolitan, jet-set vibe while serving cocktails and mingling with patrons. Many seemed innocent enough and didn't linger around the hotel after work, but I soon discovered that some of the hostesses were depraved.

After a couple of months at the hotel, I met Bernie, a balding, middle-age Cuban guy who twirled up what was left of his hair like a Dairy Queen soft cone. Bernie loved the red, white, and black "Hollywood" room on the hotel's fourth floor, where one night he was partying with hostesses Tania and Maria. The girls called me to bring them some double coladas.

They turned out to be quintessential Miami sucias (dirty girls), who were douching with the cafecito because it drove Bernie wild. The guy insisted I stay and watch. One of the girls promised me a "nasty blowjob" if I would. "Kid, things are gonna heat up now," Bernie murmured. I bolted when he leaned toward me as if he were going to kiss me.

Tania and Maria later kept me dizzy bringing them coffee, tubes of lubricant, sundry toiletries, and tawdry gossip about hotel customers. They occasionally rewarded me with a clinic on how blowjobs should be properly administered. One of the wildest things they taught me: Take a common rubber glove, fill it with water, tie the end closed, and freeze it overnight. "When rock solid, break off the fingers and insert the ice in your girlfriend's pussy after sex," they urged me. "Ay que rico," they cooed, swearing it kept them tingling on the sultriest nights.

On another evening, I was called to a room where I'd already delivered Vita Bath to the occupants three times. The hotel guest was a pickled Latin porker in his autumn of self-destruction. He wore a gold coke spoon on a choker and had been splashing around in the Jacuzzi with two scrawny girls who looked like they might still be in high school. He was trying to "get the bubbles right."

When I knocked on the door with more bubble bath and towels, I was fuming because the guy had been giving me attitude and hadn't tipped me. One of the girls opened the door, naked and dripping wet, and signaled toward the tub.

"I dropped my gun in the water. Can you get it for me?" the man pleaded.

"Climb out of the tub and I'll use a wire hanger to try," I responded.

He wouldn't cooperate. "No, the bubbles are good now. We're stayin' inside."

I stripped to my underwear and went bobbing for his Beretta while the guy and his girlfriends leaned back in the sprawling Jacuzzi and jabbered like coked-up parrots. I was expecting a royal tip when I finally came up with his piece, but they waved me off with an offer of some warm Dom Perignon from a nearly empty bottle.

Most of the truly big-time dealers back then struck me as being insanely generous. They commonly doled out hundred-dollar tips to the valets, waitresses, and housekeeping staff. I would sometimes net more in tips on a given week than my entire month's salary. Employees fawned over the popular big spenders, or magnates as they were called.

A childhood friend named Celia was dating one of the city's rising dealers. His name was Manolito and he was a ruthless thug who'd been the leader of a local street gang, the Utes, and had a reputation for being trigger-happy. He once fired a shotgun into a crowd of Hialeah rivals during a quince party in Miami Beach.

Manolito, who was in his early twenties, was working for an uncle in the "shrimping business" and apparently had been involved in major trafficking. Suddenly the guy was driving a new Corvette and picking up tabs all over town. Celia showed off a shiny new Volvo and diamond tennis bracelet he'd given her for her birthday.

One night at his house, while Maritza and Celia cooked dinner, he asked me to take a drive with him. When I climbed into the car, Manolito pulled a 9mm handgun from under the seat and passed it to me. I felt my heart begin to pound and wondered what was about to happen.

We stopped at a Chinese restaurant in Westchester, and as he got out with a taped paper bag the size of a football, which I assumed was a kilo of coke, he said, "Carlos, don't sweat it. Just start firing if I signal you." I nearly soiled the front seat but didn't utter a peep when he came out of the place grinning.

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Carlos Suarez De Jesus