Cocaine and Me: A Memoir

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We hauled it over there and nearly ended up in a brawl with the assholes who were too stoned to walk and had placed us in jeopardy of losing our jobs. They had been eating the ludes, tooting up, and banging the dancers silly. Apparently Chumley had been blowing coke pellets up one of the strippers' butts, using a straw like some deranged Amazon headhunter. The poor girl had been on the verge of passing out after swallowing a bunch of the quacks, then began bleeding from her ass from the pummeling. It appeared she might need stitches.

My steady partner Frank, a 31-year-old seasoned veteran who smoked weed but stayed off the "hard stuff," was furious. I was ashamed. We hustled the stripper into our ambulance and took her to Jackson, where the triage nurse, Ed, a Bellevue retread who kept the peace with a Louisville Slugger hidden behind the counter, gave us a shit-storm of grief when he heard the story. After recognizing that the stripper was the same girl who had checked her father into the ER earlier, he lost it laughing. I had been supplying coke to Ed, one of my regulars, so he cut me some slack but took me aside and warned me that some of the drivers were "bringing the heat down, stumbling around here like zombies."

Eventually I had to cut off some of the less discreet idiots when the cops began sniffing around. The good thing was that when they did show up, you could see them coming a mile away. One of these goofy narcs we ended up baptizing "Inspector Sea Monkey." He was a bottom feeder whose idea of working undercover was sporting a mullet, a leather biker's vest, jeans, white socks, and shiny new Topsiders. "Do you know where I can score some doob?" he'd ask. Sure, campión! Still, the cops were getting wise and I didn't want to get pinched, so we chilled, especially after a driver who was wasted out of his gourd plowed through a red light with his sirens blaring and killed an old lady a few blocks from North Shore Hospital.

Near the end of my EMT career, a dispatcher sent me out on a call he promised would be "sweet." He flagged me to pick up a patient in a body cast who'd arrived on a private jet at Miami International Airport. We were supposed to take the patient to Cedars Medical Center, next to the criminal courts building, and there would be a big tip in it for us, according to the dispatcher.

On the way to the hospital I was diverted to a warehouse on the Miami River, where two brutes wearing 9mm pieces in Bianchi shoulder holsters met us at the door. "Adentro," one of them ordered, pointing toward a dimly lit interior, where I saw another guy standing near a large table. Reckoning that the dispatcher had communicated with these people, I didn't foul myself right there, but I did want to finish this quickly.

After we laid the "patient" on the table, the guy who had been waiting inside began cutting open the cast with a Stryker saw and removing bags of coke from the cavity. An extractor sucked up the plaster dust the saw kicked up, but bits still flew into my eyes. I was shaking. A fourth guy gave us an envelope for the dispatcher, promising more business. Later I told the dispatcher to stuff it — his kind of action was just too dangerous.

I didn't have the stones to continue risking jail time or worse, and I had a newborn at home. So I called it quits in the summer of 1982 and went back to school.

Carlos Suarez De Jesus went on to study journalism in college and then worked in local government as a writer for Dade County Mayor Steve Clark, commission chairman Art Teele, and Mayor Alex Penelas.


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Carlos Suarez De Jesus