After work I met a friend at a bar and we caught up until, in the middle of a story, this guy came over and asked if he could buy us drinks and talk to us while he waited to go meet his cousin.
I’m not sure why we said yes, but for me at least, I was curious. He had said the whole thing in such a funny way, staring off into the middle distance, talking in this flat tone. Like he was reporting for duty.
He got us drinks and then started showing us pictures on his iPhone. He was from Australia, he said, but had been in Atlanta recording some hip hop tracks at Stankonia Studios (sure, we thought). He’d come up to New York for his cousin’s book party. And he was in “business,” by which he meant drugs. “Molly,” he’d pointed out after I told him my name. “Like MDMA.” Which was the first time someone has pointed that out since about 1997.
The first few pictures were of people milling around at the book party but then, abruptly, came a long string of photos of topless women. His cousin’s book, it turned out, was a 3D book about breasts, meaning that it came with 3D glasses so that “that girl’s humongous tittles actually look like they’re sticking out into the room!” I focused on nodding and not looking at my friend, because otherwise I would have laughed too hard, the whole situation so ridiculous. Who pulls out their phone at a bar and shows girls pictures of other girls’ breasts, pointing them out like they’re family pets? And besides, “titties”?
Then, even more abruptly, there was a bunch of pictures of him and a man screwing around in a recording studio. Wait, my friend said, is that Big Boi? It was. He even played us the track he said he’d put down at Stankonia, which was hard to hear over the U2 blasting in the bar, but we tried.
Was it possible that this guy was not entirely full of shit? That he actually had just gotten out of drug dealing because he knew if he stayed in he would have ended up with broken legs? Numerous people’s legs had been broken because of him, he said, but he never did the breaking himself, and also he never had the Colombians who did his leg breaking cut people. “I always get my money,” he said. “And I always say, no cutting, just break their legs.” Now he had a supply company, a legit one, transporting goods from China—he slid his new business card across the table.
I didn’t really believe him. If it was true, wouldn’t he keep it to himself? But when I asked about this he just leaned back and looked at us with this blank stare. “You’re never going to see me again,” he said, “cause I’m not from around here.” And then he coolly reached for the card he’d left sitting on the table and slipped it back in his pocket.
For some reason, maybe it was his still coldness, or that he really did have photos of Big Boi on his phone, or just the time of night, but all of a sudden I believed all of it. That he kept his extra money in gold and diamonds buried in his backyard. That after his sister had committed suicide he’d melted down the ring she’d been wearing into the one he had on his finger. That he’d gotten into a terrible car wreck and slid across the highway on his face. That the worst thing he’d ever done (I asked) was burn a guy’s feet. “They made me do it,” he said, “when I was 14. And after that I didn’t have to do stuff like that anymore.”
We did not go back to the room he was renting to “sex him down,” as he suggested. But I did Google the shit out of him. Sure enough, I found videos of him online rapping with Big Boi. I found the book of the 3D breasts. I even found his twitter account. As he was walking out he had turned back to us. “I really appreciated talking to you guys,” he said. “Just, you know, getting all that shit off my chest.”