“A young Hispanic guy worked the door [through which he was selling drugs], in a white shirt and black tie, greeting customers like the maitre’d in a restaurant. After filling the van with buyers, we moved in and grabbed him, and though he wasn’t holding drugs, he had several hundred dollars in small bills. The maitre’d was a great explainer, unfailingly polite, maintaining a patient and sympathetic tone as he attempted to correct our benighted conclusion that he was a drug dealer. It was as if he understood that we were limited people presented with ambiguous circumstances, and he could hardly fault us for coming to foolish conclusions. At the precinct, his explanations were endlessly elastic, and we asked more and more questions just to see how far he could stretch; no, he didn’t live in the building, but his aunt did, and he waited in the lobby because he didn’t think she was home, and he let in those people because they knocked, of course, and it was the civil thing to do. Why did they all turn up with heroin in their pockets? He had no idea, but he had some of the cash because he had just been paid, from his job as a stockboy in Manhattan, and yes, it was more than a week’s pay, but the rest was from his wife’s baby shower, and he had to buy a crib . . . .
. . .I didn’t believe him . . . but there were times when I found myself wavering–not because of his technique as a liar, though it was excellent, but from the sincerity that welled up in his voice when he talked about his wife and baby, and how he could never, ever have anything to do with drugs because of them. . . it always amazed me to witness the passion and nerve that addicts brought to their falsehoods, tho they often lacked skill. Once, a huge woman bellowed at me as I took a crack vial from her open hand, ‘You planted that there!’ It reminded me of the Richard Pryor line about the man whose wife catches him in bed with another woman, ‘Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?'”