A little before midnight.
On the Friday before Christmas I stopped by the diamond exchange on 47th Street. There are no customers before the booths. Only the rich have money and the vast majority had fled south for Florida or St. Bart's. Richie Boy was working with a wealthy friend. He was asking $260,000 for a magnificent sapphire in an exquisite platinum and diamond mounting.
"Burma no heat." The best stones came from that country.
"I'll give you $150,000." The banker had squirreled away a fortune during the 2008 financial collapse. He had escaped the face-saving investigations into the multi-trillion dollar scandal and well understood that having money at a time of capital scarcity bestowed a wicked power of leverage, however Richie Boy stood firm at 260K.
The banker stood up and left the store, saying, "If you change your mind, give me a call."
"You'll be calling me before I call you."
The man's wife loved the ring.
I watched the door close.
"Bastard," Richie Boy muttered, putting the ring in the safe. "I'm making 6% on this sale. 6% and he wants to steal it."
"How do you think he got his money? From Santa Claus. No, he stole it like every banker in America stole money."
"I don't need to hear your bullshit about only three ways to be wealthy."
"Be born into it, marry it, or steal it."
His octogenarian father was snoozing in the corner. A smile was on his face. He had to be reaming of better times.
"Your father worked sixty-five years. Is he rich? No, you've worked almost thirty five and while you have a nice life, you ain't rich."
"What about you?"
"For the last two years I slaved in the steel factory cutting beams for a salary of $800/week and I was glad to have it, but now I'm working with Jeri on 3rd Avenue." Our store was close to Bloomingdales.
"How's business up there?"
"About the same as here." There wasn't a single customer in the vast exchange. "I sold a fancy yellow diamond for $40,000 and the profit was $4000."
"A luxury, although the other day i sold an emerald for 14K and made 7K on it."
Sounds like the good old days. I'll see you later."
I picked up some diamond eternity bands for a customer. I returned to the store. Jeri was sitting with her pugs, while going over her bills.
"Anything happen?" It was a stupid question.
"The dogs slept for an hour."
"Lucky them." Samson and Delilah were old pets. I liked them, but they weren't buying any jewelry this or any year and neither were the disappearing middle class. Only the rich had money for gems and they were bargaining like Gypsies with a Minnesota roll of $1 bills.
Jeri's client arrived on time and picked out the best ring. The Palm Beach blonde was in her 70s. Her husband wasn't healthy. I wished that Simon passed over the New Year, so I could marry Elaine. It was a dream too good to come true.
At 5pm we shut the store. It was already abysmally dark on 3rd Avenue. Thieves targeted stores daring to stay open in the shortest days of the year.
"I don't need another theft."
"Sorry about that."
A thief had hit me for an expensive bracelet in my first month.
I didn't trust anyone anymore.
"What's done is done."
Jeri magnetically locked the front door. The pugs work from their sleep. We gave them thin slices of apples. Their happiness had nothing to do with money.
"You close safely." Jeri put on her coat. It was fur. Warm too, but like Richie Boy and me she wasn't rich. No one who has to work is rich no matter how much money they have. The real rich don't have to work at all.
After closing the safe and locking the door I took the Q train back to Fort Greene. I bought a very good bottle of wine for $41. The staff of Green Grape applauded my escape from single-digit priced wine.
After arriving home I drank the bottle with my landlord and his wife. They had given me gave me a bottle of Jamison's for the winter's solstice. I toasted them and my staying them. It's been over five years. I babysit their kids. I don't make a mess. My bedroom has a view. My bathroom too.
After we finished the wine, AP and I retreated to my floor to listen to music. I opened the bottle of whiskey. We drank a few glasses and AP descended into domestic 'for better or worse' bliss. I readied for sleep, listening to Jefferson Airplane's SURREALISTIC PILLOW.
COMING BACK TO ME.
It was time for bed.
Because tomorrow I have to be to work at 10AM.
Jeri asked me to come early.
She had a customer for an emerald.
The store needed money.
Jeri needed money.
I needed money to send my kids in Thailand.
Only a minute remained in the day.
Within sixty seconds the clock would tick into Saturday.
Tomorrow was filled with twenty-hours.
One of them had to be lucky.