“Four and a half months? Shit.”
“Yeah,” Angie said, “and then she started teething not long after that. You think you know what screaming sounds like now. But you don’t. You don’t have a clue. And don’t even get me started on ear infections.”
I said, ” ’Member when she got infections in both ears and a tooth coming in?”
“Now you’re just fucking with me,” Dre said.
Angie and I looked over at him and shook our heads slowly.
“How come they’re never like this in TV shows and movies?” he said.
“Right? They always conveniently go away when the main characters don’t need them around.”
“I was watching this one show the other night, right? The father’s an FBI agent, mother’s a surgeon, and they got, like, a six-year-old? One episode opens, they’re on vacation together, no kid. I figure, okay, the kid’s with the nanny, but the next scene they show the nanny moonlighting at the mother’s hospital. The kid? Driving stick-shift to get groceries, I guess. Playing hopscotch on the interstate.”
“It’s that Hollywood logic,” Angie said, “the same way in the movies there’s always a parking space right outside hospitals and city halls.”
“But what do you care?” I asked him. “She’s not yours.”
“Yeah, but . . .”
“But what? Let me ask you now that we’ve gotten past the kid-is-yours bullshit—you sleeping with Amanda?”
He leaned back, propped his right ankle up on his left knee. “If I was?”
“We already went down that road. I’m asking if you’re not.”
“Why would you—?”
“You don’t seem her type, man.”
“She’s seventeen years ol—”
“She turns seventeen next week.”
“Then next week I’ll say she’s seventeen.”
“My point is, what type could she possibly have at this age?”
“And my point is, not you.” I spread my hands. “Sorry, man, but I just don’t see it. I see the way you look at her and, yeah, I see a guy waiting for that seventeenth birthday so his conscience can let him off the hook. But I don’t see anything like that when she looks at you.”
“Sure,” Angie said, “but attraction doesn’t.”
“Oh, man,” he said, and he suddenly looked forlorn and cast-off. “Man, I dunno, I dunno.”
“What don’t you know?” Angie asked.
When he looked at her, his hair was damper, his eyes had picked up a milky film. “I don’t know why I keep fucking myself up. I do something like this every few years just to make absolutely positive I’ll never have a normal life. And my shrink would say, sure, I engage in compulsive behaviors and I’m trying to replay patterns that go all the way back to my parents’ divorce and somehow get a different result. And I understand that, I do, but I just want someone to tell me how to stop fucking doing dumb fucking things. I mean, you know how I ended up losing my medical license and owing the Russians?”
We shook our heads. “Drugs?” I offered.
“Well, sort of. I wasn’t addicted to them or anything. It wasn’t that. I met a girl. Russian girl. Well, Georgian. Svetlana. She was, whew, she was everything. Crazy in bed, crazy out of it, too. So beautiful you wanted to eat your hand just looking at her. She . . .” He dropped his right foot back on the floor, sat there looking down at it. “One day she asks me to write her a scrip for Dilaudid. I say, Of course not. I quote the Hippocratic oath, the Massachusetts statutes prohibiting doctors from writing scrips for anything but diagnosed medical conditions, blah, blah, blah. Cut to the chase, she wears me down in less than a week. Why? I don’t know. Because I’ve got no center. Whatever. But she wears me down. Three weeks after that, I’m writing her OxyCon scrips and scrips for fucking fentanyl, for Christ’s sake, and pretty much anything else she wants. When that starts leaving too much of a paper trail, I start clipping the shit outright from the hospital pharmacy. I even took a moonlighting job at the Faulkner so I could do it there, too. I didn’t know it, but they were already investigating me by that point. Svetlana, God love her, she’d noticed how much I liked playing blackjack at Foxwoods the couple times we went, so she hooked me into this game over in Allston. They played it out of the back of a Ukrainian bakery. First time I played, I cleaned up. Good, fun guys, great-looking women hanging around, all of them probably stoned on my shit. Next time I go, I win again. A lot less, but I win. By the time I start losing, they’re all nice about it—they’ll accept more OxyCon in lieu of actual money, which is good, because Svetlana’s pretty much cleaned me out of money. They give me a grocery list—Vicodin HP, Palladone, Fentora, Actiq, boring old Percodan, you name it. By the time the state medical board has me arrested and files charges, I’m already in the hole twenty-six grand to Kirill’s sharks. But twenty-six grand is like tip-jar money at a coffee shop compared to what’s on the horizon. Because unless I want to do three-to-six at Cedar Junction, I got to come up with money for good lawyers. Another two hundred fifty grand in the hole to pay Dewey, Screwum and Howe, but at least I only get my license revoked, no jail time, no criminal finding. Kirill slides up to me at one of his restaurants a couple weeks later, tells me that the ‘no criminal finding’? That was his doing. And that costs another quarter-million. I can’t prove he didn’t influence the judge, and even if I could, if Kirill Borzakov says you owe him five hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars, guess what you owe Kirill Borzakov?”
“Five hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars,” I said.
My cell phone vibrated and I took it out, looked at the screen, saw a number I didn’t recognize. I put it back in my pocket.
“Pretty soon, one of Kirill’s guys—Pavel; I think you two met—he comes to me and says I should apply for a job opening at the Department of Children and Families. Turns out they got a guy in HR working off his own debt. So I apply and he waives the CORI check, and I get the job that I’m eminently overqualified for. A few weeks later, after a particularly attractive fourteen-year-old pregnant girl leaves my office, my phone rings and they tell me I have to present her with an offer.”