After my father’s book sold, he suddenly had money. A lot of money. According to him he was a millionaire, and while I suspect that this was likely an exaggeration, the book did make it to #10 on MacLean’s Magazine‘s national bestseller list. He spent money like it was in endless supply. He rented a large office (with a shower!) to work on his next book (a spy novel, which he never finished), and from which to work out various investment deals. He only carried 20s or 50s in his wallet and dished them out liberally. He bought a half-million dollar house to live in with his wife and new baby (my half-sister). And he rented an apartment.
We never discussed why he needed an apartment, but he told me not to tell my step-mother about it.
He also started drinking heavily and using cocaine.
I first found out about the cocaine during a conversation in his car, where I expressed some concern that my brother was smoking (cigarettes). My father started to grill me:
“What about drugs? Is he doing drugs?”
“I – I don’t know. Maybe?”
“What do they look like?”
“Dad, I said I don’t know if –”
“Do they look like this?!!”
And he pulled out a bag of cocaine.
“What? Dad, no.”
“You can tell me. You can come to me. I’d rather you come to me than get it off the street.”
I’m a little fuzzy on the rest of the conversation*. I think I just changed the subject.
During one of my visits to him in Toronto, my father took my best friend and I out to a nightclub. This was clearly designed to impress us: he made a point of telling us that it was a member’s only club. He bought our drinks (we were underage) and we got very, very drunk. Afterwards, he offered us his apartment to sleep at. But on the way there, he wanted to stop by his office to grab the keys.
When we got there, he showed us around. He then proceeded to pour out lines of cocaine on his desk and snort them in front of us. I think he offered us some (again, my mind gets a little fuzzy here*), but we both declined. He then dropped us off and we spent the night sharing the apartment futon, where I don’t think I got much sleep between the room spinning, and my low-level anger and resentment stewing in my mind.
In the summer after my first year of university I needed a place to live. My father invited me to stay at his house in Toronto. There wasn’t technically space for me (It was a two-bedroom), but since my dad was sleeping on the couch, my toddler sister shared the bed with her mother and I slept in my sister’s bed on the floor in her room. This was intended to be a temporary stop-over to my living for the summer at his apartment (which I still wasn’t supposed to mention to my step-mother). But my dad kept putting me off. For one reason or another, I couldn’t move to the apartment yet, until he sorted some things out.
In the meantime, I was looking for temporary work. After a short stint in telemarketing (ugh) I found a fairly well-paid (but gruelling) job at a meat-packing plant, but they wanted me to start on Monday. Something I couldn’t do without a pair of steel-toed rubber boots. They weren’t expensive (about $25) but I was strapped for cash.
In my wallet, I carried with me an American Express card that my father had given me for birthdays and emergencies. For birthdays he would tell me how much I could charge and I’d shop for myself. For emergencies… well, there hadn’t been any emergencies. Except this. This felt like an emergency. I needed the job and it was a small amount. I knew I’d be able to pay it back to him.
I tried to contact him, but he didn’t answer.
So I charged the card.
When I finally got through to my father he exploded. His American Express account was in arrears. He wasn’t supposed to be using it. We screamed back and forth at each other over the phone. I knew I shouldn’t have charged the card, but any feelings of remorse in that moment were superseded by a sense of fury at my father for overreacting and not being straight with me in the first place. He was in dire straits financially, but he had pretended to me and everyone that everything was fine. He just kept screaming and blaming me for the situation as if my $25 credit card charge was solely responsible for his world falling apart.
I told him to go fuck himself and hung up the phone.
We didn’t speak for a long while after that. He declared bankruptcy and had to sell everything.
Needless to say, I didn’t get the apartment.
*I’m not trying to obfuscate here: Under moments of great stress, I sometimes retreat into my head as a safety mechanism. Because of this it’s sometimes easier to remember feelings and thoughts rather than tangible memories of actual events.