When Lenny thinks a customer truly is going too far, he will refuse to make the delivery. But even this is a subversive form of business management: “The client that buys a little bit consistently is way better than the client that, like, OD’s and then never wants to do it again.” This Lenny learned from a customer who lived near Union Square. First it was one delivery a week, then two, then three. On each visit, his customer seemed ten pounds lighter. Lenny noticed that the same miserable pizza would sit on his kitchen table for a week straight, clearly the guy’s sole source of nourishment. At one point, he owed Lenny $500 and disappeared completely. “Then he comes back, like, ‘Hi, I went to rehab!’ ” Lenny recalls. “I’m like, ‘That’s cool, man, pay my ass and stay away from this shit.’ I was happy for him. He looked better, was going to the gym. But sure enough, he starts smoking weed again, then doing coke again. And—boom—this time he left the country. Haven’t heard from him since.”
Lenny is not immune to guilt. “Sometimes I feel like a vulture, like if it wasn’t me selling it, half my customers wouldn’t be comfortable doing it,” he says, before reverting back to the entrepreneur’s selective, capitalistic logic: “At the same time, I don’t create the demand, right? The product sells itself. My job is to get the word around, let people know it’s available, and be responsible about making my appointments.” In the end, what’s most difficult for Lenny is admitting that the rush he gets from selling—the instant gratification, the bolstered confidence, the feeling that he’s the nucleus around which everything orbits—is in many ways identical to what his customers call him to experience. As much as he says he is working to sell his business, it’s hard to know if and when he’ll make the move.
'In September,” says Lenny. “I’m out in September.” It’s after three in the morning now, and he is walking along East Houston, past dingy bars serving last call and drowsy-eyed girls in heels and pre-torn jeans. The coke-to-cash ratio in his pockets has shifted, from about 30 tickets and $20, to three tickets and $2,500. A busy night, as predicted. “Or maybe October,” he goes on. “I don’t fucking know. November at the absolute latest. Or I might wait for the holiday season, that’s the hottest time of the year. Probably January ’07.”
Looking for after-work drinking partners, Lenny calls a few friends from high school and a girl “I’m, like, basically in love with.” But no one picks up. “I’m telling you, man, I’m sick of this,” he says. “I hardly go out with anyone, right? And when I do, guess who always picks up the bar tab? Everyone eats off me. Always. They don’t like what I do, but they like what it gets them. Girls act all worried, then ask to borrow my credit card. It’s fucked up, but there it is.”
It’s not that Lenny doesn’t realize how lucky he is. He has no police record, has never had a gun pulled on him, and hasn’t had to threaten violence since he switched to selling coke. But he also knows that everyone’s luck eventually runs out. Some nights, thinking about this, he can barely sleep. “I have nightmares all the time,” he says. “I’m getting shot in the head, or I’m awaiting bail. I shoot people in my dreams no problem, I go on all these murderous rampages. Someone steals $50K from me and keeps saying, ‘I didn’t steal it, I didn’t steal it!’ I have mad issues about trust. I’m sure that if I went to a doctor, I could get all sorts of drugs. Like anti-anxiety or whatever.”
Not long ago, Lenny was on one of his law-school kicks again. He bought a book of LSAT practice tests, turned off his phone, and sat down to see how he would do. They proved more challenging than he expected. So accustomed to being on the move, he hasn’t mastered the skill of sitting still for two and a half hours. He tapped his foot. His eyes darted around. His mind got snagged on more immediate business concerns.
“Thing is,” he says, “every six months I stay in it, I can throw another $25K onto my price. More people talk about me, more people call me, my number becomes more valuable. But then I get there, and I want more. That’s always been my problem. It’s a risk, but obviously there is appeal in that, you know? It’s not like I don’t want to get out. I do. It’s just . . . ”