My Summer As A Drug Dealer

“What are you doing?” asked my grandmother, wandering over to my seat by the pool. The sun was baking hot, and I was drying off from an earlier swim, only a few remnants of water clinging to my skin after just a few minutes of lying still. Ants crawled beneath me as the cicadas chirped merrily away (as they did all day and for most of the night). I looked up at her through my sunglasses, smiled.

“Oh, just selling a ton of cocaine that I bought off some guy,” I replied. “He was selling it dirt cheap. It turned out to be a sting, so I had to smash up a few cop cars to get away, but it was worth it in the end.”

“Oh,” she said, slightly shocked. “How nice for you.”

I had only started playing GTA: Chinatown Wars a few days prior, but like the people I’d been peddling drugs to during that time, I was hooked. There was a story within the game somewhere; something to do with gangs and killing and being the best and richest gangster in the world. There were probably collectibles, and minigames to play involving the DS’s touch screen. I seem to recall there being a side mission where a porn star got a handjob in the back of the limo you had to drive rapidly around the city. But I’d been ignoring all that for days. Instead I was setting myself up to be the Walter White of Liberty City, buying and selling uppers, downers, crack, meth, Ritalin, Xanex, weed, and whatever the hell else I could get my hands on at a low price to sell on for much more.

The system in the game is fairly deep, but not so convoluted that it takes more than five minutes to get your head around it. There are six drugs to buy: weed, downers, acid, ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. The harder the drug, the more money it makes, but it also depends on to whom you sell it. Different gangs buy and sell drugs at different prices, so it’s important to remember whose turf you’re in and where to go to offload your many bags of weed. You also receive tip-offs by email about dealers either buying at a high price or trying to offload for next to nothing. This is great for making a quick bit of green, so long as you don’t mind having to run away from the police almost every time someone’s selling cheap heroin.

Now, I’ve never been particularly business-minded, but I am a capitalist whore, so the opportunity to make mad stacks of cash was very appetising indeed. With a simple (virtual) money-making tool and a simple mission statement of “buy low, sell high”, I dove into the world of dealing drugs like a burning man into a swimming pool filled with ice-cold water. I would spend hours driving from island to island, waiting for the next tip-off, occasionally diving into a bodega to buy a cheeky scratchcard to pass the time. I took on a few story missions, which, after getting far enough, gave me the option to jack vans filled with drugs for maximum profit. I got arrested a few times, sure, and those bastard pigs confiscated my gear, but that only held me back for a few minutes. I was a walking pharmacy for the addicted, an entrepreneur in the land of the free.

My parents, of course, weren’t hugely excited with my new venture. We were supposed to be enjoying a nice time in Italy with my grandparents, relaxing by the pool, visiting cultural sites, all that nonsense. I, however, was far too invested in my trade to care about these things. My customers needed me! And what if they were to find someone else to feed their need? My whole supply chain could dry up if I didn’t keep the acid flowing. None of these were real concerns relating to the game, of course, but the claws were in so deep that a narrative had built up in my head. I wasn’t playing a character anymore. I was that little bunch of pixels. I had finally found a job I was actually pretty good at, even if it did entail me getting killing people, dealing in narcotics and regularly getting arrested. Sure, it wasn’t the life that had been envisioned for me, but it was one I had finally warmed to.

But, as with all good highs, the comedown was horrific. I was dragged away from my DS and kept distracted with churches and beaches, drives to the beautiful countryside and meals out in distant restaurants where the owner sat and watched TV across us while we ate. The withdrawal was almost too much to handle. My fingers itched to be wrapped around the console once again. Twitches in my legs set in as I craved my next fix. I tried to fill the gap with some gateway games, playing old arcade machines that barely worked in shacks by the sea. But nothing could satisfy my craving to peddle more dope through the streets. In my head, my customers had moved on and found new thrills. Some of them had even cleaned up and were getting their sobriety chips. My pushing days were over, and I’d barely even had a chance to grow my empire.

I tried to go back into the game, but it just didn’t do anything for me. Being forced to go cold turkey was horrible, but now the whole experience felt empty. What was the point, anyway? It’s not like my stacks of virtual green could be spent on anything, and all I had used it for was to buy even more coke to sell on. I wasn’t using my ill-gotten gains to do anything more than acquire more ill-gotten gains. It was a self-perpetuating capitalist nightmare, the kind of thing Donald Trump pulls up from the wank bank to help him sleep at night. So I laid it to rest. I moved away from Chinatown Wars and went back to reading my book, the third entry in the Twilight series, like a fourteen-year-old girl.

Yet, no matter how many times I read about Edward’s sparkly body and Bella’s incredulity, there was always a little voice in the back of my head begging me to return, to take back by throne as Best Drug Dealer of Liberty City. I have managed to resist the urge for years now, but with the game now even more widely available on PSP, PS Vita and mobile devices, it gets harder to avoid every day. But I know that with persistence and dedication to my sobriety, I can move away. I will not let my addiction define me.

Group hug?

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