Author: Indra Sena
Publisher: Indra Sena
Format: Paperback & eBook
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Narrated by the teenage girl who lived it, Closet Full of Coke tells the true story of how a New York suburban fifteen-year-old girl's savvy and wit helps turn the small-time drug business of Armando, a Colombian drug dealer, into a multi-million-dollar cocaine operation that puts them on the DEA's Wanted List.
This intimate diary gives readers a fast-paced glimpse of the couple’s speedy rise to riches, and their inevitable descent.
These wannabe drug lords of the 1980s New York-to-Florida drug scene end their story only three years later with an untimely death, betrayal, and revenge.
Here is a true account of drug dealers whose obsession with money, power, sex, and glamour drives them to a lifestyle of deceit and recklessness, ending in tragedies that destroy lives forever.
About the Author:
You can visit Indra Sena’s website at www.closetfullofcoke.com. Indra is currently working on her second memoir. It covers two years in her twenties, where she joined the Rainbow Family and traveled the US and abroad.
Her latest book is the memoir, Closet Full of Coke.
Connect & Socialize with Indra
Mesc: A misnomer for tiny, hallucinogenic, purple pills. Mesc is short for the word mescaline, a reference to peyote cactus. The pills do not contain peyote. They are made from low-potency LSD and fillers.
Buy: A wholesale purchase of drugs by a drug dealer.
“You looking for someone?”
I was standing on the porch of my dealer’s house, anxiously ringing the doorbell. I turned around to see a thirtysomething Latino man standing behind me. I hadn’t heard him come up the porch steps. He was sleek, and his dark eyes were captivating. His remarkably handsome face was framed by glossy black hair brushed neatly back. He appeared regal in a full-length gray wool coat topped with a flowing black scarf, and shiny black leather shoes.
“I’m here to see Jamal.” I pushed my hands deep into the pockets of my black leather jacket.
“No one is home.” He spoke slowly in heavily accented English. “You are looking for something, sí? I can help you.” The cadence of his voice had a slight hypnotic effect on me.
He kept his dark eyes locked on me. I turned and walked across the decaying porch planks of the sprawling Victorian house to peer into the kitchen window. It did seem unusually quiet.
I was there to make a buy. I’d been hitchhiking to this house for two years, since I was thirteen, buying mesc to sell to my suburban classmates. The Lincoln brothers—all six of them—lived, turned tricks, and dealt drugs here. I often sat in the shadows of the living room silently watching the freak show; businessmen in smart suits arriving to pay for sex with black men wearing full drag, teenage girl streetwalkers in miniskirts buying pills, and hollow-eyed junkies sweating and panting for heroin.
When I came to make a buy, I would sit on the red velvet couch smoking Marlboros while the oldest, Jamal, counted out dozens of tiny purple pills on the coffee table.
“Here you go, girlfriend,” he’d say while tossing me a miniature plastic bag containing the pills, “now you gots to pay your daddy.” Then he’d flash a wide, disarming grin while flipping the blue feather boa he often wore over his shoulder.
I’d take wads of bills out of my purse that were mostly singles (the lunch money my classmates paid me with) and hand them to him.
When I’d stand and announce that I was leaving, he’d jump up and give me a juicy kiss goodbye. He always flirted with me, but not in a serious way. It was more like he was teasing me.
He’d say something like, “Girl, you so fine. We should hang out together some night.”
I knew he was joking, but I still had a crush on him. He was tall and stately, and he looked like an athlete with his muscular physique. I thought he was gorgeous.
Living as an unsupervised teenager, I stumbled into drug dealing. At first, I bought my drugs from high school seniors I partied with, and then re-sold them to my peers in middle school for a profit. But then I met Jamal at a liquor store near his house where I went to buy cheap wine with fake ID. He was charming. We formed an instant bond, and when he took me to his house full of lava lamps, colored beaded curtains, and velvet furniture, I thought it was the coolest place I’d ever seen. I began hitchhiking there regularly to buy all of my drugs from him.
The Lincoln brothers’ house was always full of people, mostly hookers and junkies. I found them intriguing, especially the girl hookers who were my age. I became friends with two of them. They called themselves Spicy and BJ, and they were always forking their hard-earned cash over to their boyfriends—wanna be pimps with needle bruises covering their scrawny arms.
Spicy and BJ told me countless stories of sex for profit. Sex with toothless old men, or with men so fat they had to climb on top of them by stepping on a folding chair. And sex with shoe-fetishists who masturbated while the girls pranced around rank hotel rooms in high heels. They were always bumming cigarettes off me, and asking men for spare change as we walked down the street together.
I couldn’t quite understand their choice to hook. As a dealer, there was no sex with sleazy men for a twenty-dollar bill, and no pimp to take that bill away. I lived like royalty. Everyone wanted to be my friend. I was phoned constantly, sought out between classes by kids camping in front of my locker, saved the best seat on the school bus, and stalked by the Jonesers; those ghosts who think of nothing but getting high.
When I focused on something, I tended to excel. I thought about being a lawyer, or a teacher, but I was afraid I would never fit into the normal world. When I spoke of college, my mother, Joan, sarcastically called me a dreamer. She suggested I clean houses instead.
The stranger extended a gloved hand towards me. “Come with me,” he said, and flashed a movie star smile. “I’m Armando.”
I took his hand and walked down the porch steps holding it, teetering slightly on the stiletto heels of my black suede boots. When we reached the pavement, I jerked my hand away.
“Where are you taking me?”
“For a ride.”
Taking a deep breath, I stared expressionless at him. “No, I’m sorry, I can’t. I don’t know you.”
“Ah, but I know you. I saw you leaving here once, and I asked Jamal about you. You are the gringa who comes from the country to buy mesc.” He placed his hand on my arm, and I knew I was going with him.
“Come with me to pick some up and I will give you the best deal,” he said.
I followed him along the sidewalk. I thought he was the most charming man I’d ever met. I flirted with him, smiling and twisting a long dark curl with my finger while we walked.
I suspected Armando was Jamal’s supplier. Going over your dealer’s head to his dealer is considered a loathsome crime of loyalty. I loved Jamal, but my ambition had long outweighed my loyalty; I had gone over my dealer’s head before. Besides, I didn’t go looking for Jamal’s supplier. I just got lucky.
Armando stopped walking. He stepped off the curb and opened the driver side door of a brown El Camino, and then pulled the beige front seat forward. He motioned for me to get in. A typical Hispanic car, I thought. The Virgin Mary statue glued to the dashboard completed the stereotype.
Sliding into the backseat, I noticed a girl up front holding a baby. Her shiny black hair, pulled tightly back with an elastic band, fell to her waist. She looked about my age.
“This is Lourdes, she does not speak too much English.”
“Hola, mucho gusto.” I fumbled to speak the tiny bit of Spanish I knew.
She replied in rapid-fire Spanish.
I interrupted her. “Un poquito.”
“The little you speak is good,” Armando said. “I’ll teach you. Do not learn from her, she is Puerto Rican. She butchers my language.”
“Is that your baby?”
“Yes. José. He is one year.”
Armando started the car, and then jerked it quickly away from the curb forcing us all to lurch. The unexpected slide across the seat sent me slamming into the door. As we drove, Lourdes clutched her baby to her chest. I held onto the headrest in front of me.
He soon careened onto the interstate and floored the gas, weaving in and out of narrow lanes, passing cars on both sides without signaling, and honking his horn in frustration. He yelled and cursed in Spanish while angrily tailgating every car in his path.
I had never seen anyone drive like this before. A man I once talked to in a bar told me people in other countries drive really crazy. He was from Egypt, and he said there were no traffic lights there. Maybe Armando had only just come to America?
“Where are we going?” I hoped talking to him would distract him, maybe slow him down. It only made things worse as he looked over his shoulder to talk to me without braking.
“You mean the city?”
“That is the city, and it’s over two hours away! Why are we going there?”
“To get mesc. That’s what you want, sí?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t plan on being away for hours.”
I had hitchhiked to Jamal’s straight from school. My sister Seely, who was only thirteen, was home alone with no one to watch her. Our mother had been sleeping at her new boyfriend’s house almost every night. We had friends who came over to drink and drug with us daily, so she probably had company, but I didn’t want to disappear on her for hours.
“I’m gonna give it to you cheap, muchacha
Half the price you pay the Lincoln brothers. I’m getting you a hundred hits for seventy dollars.”
I was thrilled. I immediately began calculating the increased profits in my head. But dealers, like poker players, must always hide their true feelings. I remained stoic. He glanced at my expressionless face in the rearview mirror. I glared at him. “If you don’t fucking kill us, cabrón. You drive like a crazy man, slow down.” I looked over his shoulder at the speedometer. It was punched to eighty-five. “Slow the fuck down or let me outta this car!”
Armando laughed. “Okay, chica, I’ll try, but you are mine now.”
His gentle bullying annoyed me. I would never be his—or anyone’s, especially not for a crummy handful of drugs, not even for a million dollars.
I sat back and rummaged through my purse. It contained a small notebook where I kept my drug books and wrote poems, and a small silk bag with pearl-colored rosaries my grandmother had given me. I also carried two makeup cases. One was a black case housing cherry red lipstick, black eyeliner, powder, and a battery powered lighted mirror, and the other was a pink case that functioned as a stash bag with marijuana, rolling papers, and small glass cigarette holder inside.
“Can I smoke pot?” I asked.
“Sure, it is okay. Just relax.” Armando switched on a Spanish pop station and blasted the tinny music.
I rolled a perfect joint. I placed it in the cigarette holder and lit it, deeply inhaling the thick smoke. No one wanted any so I smoked alone, occasionally leaning forward to survey the speedometer.
When we reached the city, it was night.
“Armando, where are we?”
He parallel parked along the curb, and then jumped out of the car telling us to lock the doors. I felt nervous as I watched him walk to the corner, turn, and vanish.
I had heard of Harlem, as in the Harlem Globetrotters. Other than that, it meant nothing to me. At home, I hung out in what was called “Spanish Town.” Spanish Harlem looked a lot like it with its painted brick townhouses, and tiny stores lining the streets with signs advertising Lotería and Licor de malta along with flashing red and yellow lights circling the windows.
Lourdes and I struggled to converse, then politely gave up. I wished I spoke Spanish so I could ask her about Puerto Rico. Instead, I passed the time by watching the people walking by. There were girls swathed in rabbit fur with high, tight ponytails and huge gold hoop earrings, and young men in parkas walking in small groups talking animatedly. Occasionally I’d see a solitary figure walking briskly, seemingly coaxed by the cold wind.
I was drawn to Latin culture: the exotic sounding Spanish words spoken so rapidly, the spicy food, the garish décor, and the candles with the Saints on them. When I was twelve, I liked a boy named Jimmy Martinez. I gave him my number and he called me while I was out. My mother answered the phone and while taking a message, she asked his name.
“Don’t you know you can’t date spicks?” She began yelling as soon as I came through the front door.
“Why not?” I asked.
“’Cause, you go wich your own kind. You can’t date any boys unless they’re the same as you.”
I went out with Jimmy anyway. I liked brown skin, melodic accents, and jet-black hair.
Armando finally returned with small bags full of steaming hot food. “These are empanadas, we eat them in Colombia all the time. You have never tasted anything so good.” We ate the hot yellow pastries filled with spiced beef out of grease-stained paper bags.
I said that I needed to call my sister. Armando nodded and then drove slowly down the street, pulling over when he spotted a phone booth. He offered me some change. I jumped out of the car clutching a handful of dimes and was soon pushing dirty buttons with my black leather gloves.
“Seely? Were you asleep?” She sounded groggy.
“Nah, I’m just fucked up.” She then burst into laughter. “Where the fuck are you, you never came home after school?”
“I had to leave town, I’ll be back around eleven. Are you okay? Did ma call?”
“I’m alright, just hangin’ out with Jack. Ma never called tonight.”
“Cool.” I was relieved she was with Jack, her boyfriend for almost a year.
“Where are you, sissy?” Seely always called me by the same nickname our father called his sister.
“I’m doing business ... working, ya know. I’ll tell you later.”
Seely was my biggest fan. She often bragged at school about being my sister. I felt responsible for her and even though I was often mean to her, she was the only person I trusted with my secrets.
When I got back into the car, Armando asked me where I lived.
“About ten miles from Southbridge.”
“Oh, sí. No hay problema, I will drive you home. Aquí.” He tossed me a tiny packet containing more mesc than I had ever seen. I pulled the money out of my wallet and gave it to him.
“You gotta pen, muchacha?”
I pulled out a pen along with my trusty notebook.
“Here is my number. From now on you call me, sí?”
The ride home was quiet. Lourdes rarely spoke, though occasionally she murmured to Armando in Spanish, and he answered almost as softly. I understood nothing they said, but it sounded like music.
Armando looked at me often in the rearview mirror. Sometimes, I met his gaze and held it for a moment. His raven eyes made my heart race. Maybe I saw my future in them, a future more glamorous than I’d ever dreamed, and more horrible than I’d ever feared.
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