“buying cocaine for **** *******” by Scott Laudati

i was just about to quit for good.

it was another day carrying bags

up and down stairs

while guests stood

in front of the elevators

and complained that they

were taking too long.

guests who had just gotten done

bitching about the lobby,

that the air conditioning

“was too cold,”

that new york had

“too many rats.”


usually i skipped the elevators

and hoofed it up the stairs

with their luggage strapped

to each shoulder.

it gave me five minutes without them.

and if they’d already pissed me off

i might accidentally

drop their bags a few times.


i wouldn’t even wait for them

at their rooms.

it was the same story every day.

they had no cash

or they only had euros

or they would pretend

to forget my tip altogether.

but that night i didn’t

punish the bags,

i just left them on the floor

and decided

“i’d rather be homeless.”


there were always windows

you could open

and step out onto fire escapes

for a quick leap,

or empty rooms

with fresh sheets and

high rafters.

but that night was the first time

i realized you could just walk out.

it wasn’t against the law yet.


i thought about it on the way

down the stairs,

and i probably would’ve done it

but then i saw her in the lobby –

a famous actress i’d had a crush on

since the days

we bought tickets for

singing animal movies

and then slipped into

the r-rated theater

when no one was looking.


i grabbed her bags but i didn’t

take the stairs,

i stood right next to her

the whole way.

“how’s your day going?”

she asked.

“terrible,” i said. “i was just about to quit

and then you walked in.”

she smiled.

i had said the right thing.

i couldn’t believe it.

i looked back at my coworkers.

they couldn’t believe it.


when we got to her room

i asked her if she’d ever been

to new york before.

of course she’d been to new york.

hell, she was the girl i thought of

when i thought of new york.

but she laughed.

everything that came out

of my mouth was stupid,

but it was coming out right.


“what else do you do?” she asked.

i told her i was a writer.

“what are you working on?”

“i just had a book published,” i said. “would

you read it?”

“a real book?” she asked. “sure.”


i kept about 30 copies of my book

in a locker

downstairs for just this reason.

i went to get one

and there was some crisis

in the lobby.

my manager asked me for help

but i shook my head.

there was more at stake

than keeping my job.


when i handed my book to her i said,

“they’re poems, but they don’t, like, rhyme.”

she gave me a $10 tip

(the most i’d ever been paid for my writing)

and i left,

wondering about this world i had entered,

always surrounded by

fame and money

and none of it ever crossing over.


we never had a lunch break

at that hotel,

you just left

whenever you wanted

and when you got bored

you went back.

this was down on ludlow street

so i walked to the cake shop

and ordered a budweiser.

it was happy hour and the bartender

slid two in front of me.


i was pretty drunk after

an hour of that.


my phone was buzzing the entire time

but i ignored it.

when i got back the girl

at the front desk jumped up.

“where have you been?”

“working.” i frowned.

she called down!” the girl said. “she wants you

up in her room.”


i rode the elevator looking at myself

in the reflection

of the brass doors.

this was my moment.

she’s read my book, i thought.

she’s going to take me away from

all of this.


her door was open when i got there.

a guy was sitting on the floor

strumming a guitar.

he wasn’t good.

she introduced us and i could tell

by his indifference he was some

la kid,

born rich,

and all he had to do

was be at that right club

on the right night

and now she was his.


“you’re a great writer,” she said. “that’s why

i need your help.”

i was a bellman,

i would get fired

if i didn’t do what she wanted,

and usually, this meant

i would get arrested

if i got caught.


“i need to finish a script,”

she said. “can you get me a bag?”

i swore i’d never do it again,

but what the hell?


“how much

do you want?” i asked.

the guy with the guitar was

finally interested.

“get two,” he said.


she handed me $300.


it was a new hotel and

i’d never bought coke

in that neighborhood before.

janis was my favorite cocktail waitress

and she was running

the lobby bar by herself.

but janis was a soldier.

i told her what i needed

and she left her customers and

took me to another bar.

“i know a guy

with the best coke,” she said.


i looked at her nose.

i watched her inhale a cigarette.

janis had a beauty that ran so deep

all her hard work

couldn’t betray it.


she took me to max fish and

her guy charged $100 a gram.

that was a crazy price

and the bag looked really light

but janis had done me a solid

so i gave her $50

as a thank you.


when i got back into the lobby

ben stopped me.

“we’ve got to try it out,”

he said. “you can’t give

her a bag of shitty blow.”

we went up to the manager’s office

and did a bump.

then another.

“never forget,” ben said, “they’re paying us

to snort this right now.”


i went up to her room and

she opened the door, drunk.

“do you have a dog?” she asked.

i knew she was one of the

adopt or die types

so i said “yeah” but

i didn’t elaborate.

she told me a whole story

about white people

and how they’re the first

ones to get rid of their dogs

when times get tough.

“i hate everyone,” i said. “people

don’t deserve dogs.”

she liked that.

she took the coke and kissed me

on the cheek.


the next day she told me

she was getting an apartment

around the corner.

it sounded like an invitation.

“i’m leaving new york,” i said. “why do you

only get the girl

after you buy the plane ticket?”

the la guy parked a convertible

against the curb.

“that’s too bad,” she said. “it

could’ve been fun.”

then she walked past me

and threw her suitcase

into the backseat.

she blew me a kiss as she sat

in the passenger side

and put her feet up on the dashboard.

“it could’ve been fun,” she yelled.


the staff looked at me,

waiting for an explanation,

so i gave it to them.

“all the poems in the world won’t buy you

a convertible,” i said. “i don’t know

how many times

i have to learn that lesson

before i stop




Scott Laudati lives in NYC with boxer, Satine. His writing has appeared in The Stockholm Review, The Columbia Journal, and many others. Visit him on Twitter or Instagram @Scott Laudati