Saturday, June 12, 2021

The Wilderness Years - ...and then one day it was over.

 At the end of the first week of December i snuck all the presents into my car and headed to Veronica's. Of course i couldn't wrap anything which was just another reminder of the situation but true to form i didn't let that bother me. I was excited just to give her the gifts. I drove over and with arms full i walked up the three flights to her place. She smiled as she let me in and i set the stuff down and gave her a kiss. If anything was off i didn't see it and so i began chattering away that i couldn't wait for her to open her (unwrapped) stuff. We sat down on the couch and i played Kris Kringle. 

There were Oxblood Doc Martens, there were pajamas and a gift card, there were skirts and dresses and even a cooking pan that she needed for her place, something i remembered from the night she had made me dinner. On that night she had made an excellent meal and watched nervously while i ate. I have a history of women wanting to feed me. It's as if i need looking after, as if my diet of booze and drugs might need a bit of steak and some broccoli to supplement it. She was happy and pleased with her gifts and thanked me. She kissed me... and for the first time since i arrived i realized there was something off. Again i pretended not to notice and acted as if all was well and that things were great and in my mind they were. Denial, deliberate ignorance, be oblivious, whatever i wanted to call it wasn't going to work forever. And it seemed the end of forever had arrived. 

She stood up to get something and i followed her towards her bedroom. She turned and stopped me. I began kissing her as she spoke, she told me she needed to talk to me, to tell me something. I said sure go ahead. I was kissing her and slowly undressing her. She said she had met a boy. That's cool, i said. She said she really liked him, i continued undressing her, she didn't protest and was now leaning up against the wall, but i could sense it. She wasn't relaxed but rigid. My silly fucking head pretended not to notice but i knew what was coming. I finally stopped. Who? i said. She was naked and looked towards the floor, Franco. Okay, i mumbled, that's great, so what are you saying? 

I stepped back and she began getting dressed. I was a bit numb. She took a deep breath and began. Well, she said, he stayed over on Thanksgiving. Nothing happened, we kissed a bit, but i like him, i mean i don't know what to do, there are times i feel horrible about this situation, i think how'd i'd feel if i was the person you lived with, i also know that you're not going to leave. She paused for a second and looked at me, i stared back silently. I mean Franco's nice, he's sweet, but he's not you and i don't feel about him like i feel about you, i'm in love with you but i know i can't have you and i can't keep doing this, i feel like i'm in limbo and there are times when i just wish you could be here and i understand you can't but i just think i have to make this decision, to move on, you're the one i want to be with but... she trailed off. I stood there looking at the hardwood floor. I understand, i whispered. She looked at me, her eyes shining with tears. She stepped toward me and wrapped her arms around me. Thank you, she said, for everything, you don't even know the impact you've had on me, she paused for minute her arms still wrapped around me,
that girlfriend of yours must be one helluva woman. I shrugged. It was all i could do. I was now totally numb. It was as if someone had sucked the air right out of my lungs, like i couldn't breath. I stood there like a statue and nodded meaninglessly, a bobblehead not sure what to do. 

You do understand don't you? she asked with imploring eyes... Yes, i mumbled... I do. I walked over to the couch and put on my coat. I began to mumble but the only words that fell out were, I'm sorry. She walked over to me and hugged me again. I asked if i could kiss her one last time and she looked up at me as i gave her one last kiss, slowly, tenderly. When it was over i took a deep breath and in a hushed voice i said, goodbye Veronica. Then i turned and walked out the door. 

I was crawling low as i went down the steps, i felt sick, my legs were shaky, hitting the cold December air i shivered. I got in my car and sat there numb and dumbfounded, as if all feeling had been drained out of me. It was over and there was not a fucking thing i could do about it. And she was right. I wasn't going to change a god-damn thing because i thought i was the fucking king, the King of North Oakland, and right now that amounted to fuck-all. At the moment i was nothing more than a wounded boy, hurt by love, hurt because in reality i was more worried about the business than anything else. because i felt any shake up would jeopardize what? being a hot shit weed dealer in the East End? what the fuck did it mean? what did any of it mean... i sat there not knowing what to do, knowing i had to go back to my place and face the Waitress with a smile on my face as if all was well when the reality of it was that i was gutted. What a fucking cad! a shitheel, as usual it was all coming back to me, feeling sorry for me, when i was the one causing all the damage, i was the one acting like a privileged and spoiled child, as if i should get everything i want... for what? why? because i was some ranking hood? It was a better thought than facing the fact that i had fucked it up... and i deserved what i got and i didn't deserve a girl as brilliant as Veronica. 

But the drug business doesn't stop... my phone was piling up messages and being Thursday it would be a busy night. I drove home to start weighing and bagging the weed for the masses. What else was there for me to do. There was a light that had gone out. 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Wilderness Years - The Day of Dead Birds

 Time will crawl and the holidays approached... The Day of Dead Birds, Thanksgiving, the first domino in the yuletide season. This Thanksgiving would be the first time that Veronica would be away from her family. The melancholy that settled over her was visible when she thought or spoke about it. She was doing her best to pretend as if it didn't bother her but i could tell it did. She wanted to know if i was going to be around, if somehow i could stop over and see her that day. Unfortunately i told her i'd be out of town with the Waitress and spending it with her family. I explained it was the last place i wanted to be but that i had to keep up appearances. To bail on it now would be a red flag even though the Waitress knew i wasn't all that keen on going, how the traffic was a nightmare and added an hour or more to the trip, how i longed for running the streets into the wee hours on the biggest party night of the year. I was a fucking barbarian forced into a role of domesticity that i wore like a cheap and ill-fitting suit. 

In order to make the holiday more bearable she had begun to organize a Thanksgiving dinner and party at her place. There was a group of after-hours kids, a veritable island of misfit toys, young adults from broken homes who had no place to go and no one to see. I understood it well as i had been in the same situation for a few years yet somehow i relished those times. Of course they involved what could only be described as some historic hangovers where i couldn't function until late into Thanksgiving Day, including one where i spent a good hour calling pizza places cuz i had no food and the only thing my hangover wanted was a fucking pizza. Note to self, there are no pizza joints open on Thanksgiving. Her party would consist of roughly half a dozen lost puppies who would drink and smoke and do various drugs all while trying to capture the semblance of belonging. I would have loved to be there. 

In the meantime i had begun to shop for Xmas gifts for her. She didn't expect it or ask i just wanted to do it. I kept the cards close to the vest as i asked searching questions about things she might need or want and of course i had a few of my own ideas. A lovely pair of oxblood colored Doc Martens, clothes, pajamas, the obligatory Victoria's Secret gift card. I stealthily went about procuring the correct info for the proper sizes and the like as our routine stayed the same. Though the clouds were now more than creeping closer as Veronica grappled with the situation and her role in it and what would happen between us. It became apparent, no matter how much shit i shoveled, that i probably wasn't moving out of my place any time soon and she was smart enough to discern that fact. 

A rival for her affections had began to appear. A kid named Franco, one of the after-hours crew, who had taken a shine to her and who she seemed to be hanging about the fringes more and more. I'd see him at the strip club or hanging about in the bars, always smart enough to keep his distance from me less the King of the North Oakland jungle take offense and lash out. It wasn't really in my plans, i knew i had no right to keep her from doing or seeing who she wanted to see especially considering where i slept every night. That said he understood the rules and was cautious when i was around. Franco wasn't a bad kid and who could blame him for taking a liking to a beautiful young woman like Veronica. He was about 5'10 with dark hair and thick glasses that ended up being a point of ridicule among some of those in my crew. I told them to leave the kid alone but some still felt the need to prove their loyalty by making fun of the kid. One of my less enlightened members of my crew dubbed him Ping Pong due to the way his glasses made his eyes look. Franco wasn't Asian he was Italian but that didn't stop my personal pit bull and even when i told him to cool the fuck out he'd still manage to slip a jab in. 

And so the night before The Day of Dead Birds i packed and overnight bag and slipped into my own cloak of melancholy. The drive as usual was a nightmare and by the time i got there i wished i had somehow found and excuse to stay home. I spent The Day of Dead Birds sneaking off to rooms where i could be alone, where i could call and leave messages. I hid in the bathroom and finally go a hold of her, my hushed tones a reminder of where i was, she said she understood and she never once pressed me to change it. By the fourth time i had called i could hear the strains of annoyance creeping into her voice. It was something i had never heard before and it hurt but i realized that she was having fun with her island of misfit toys and that the dinner she had made was a smashing success. I mentioned that i'd be leaving soon and that when i got back i'd try and get out. She said not to worry about it and that one of the after-hours places they hung out was opening at 10PM and a few of them were going there. I muttered a feeble "okay" and hung up. 

The King of North Oakland was in trouble. It was a pathetic display on my part, the endless calling, the wanting her to say something that would reassure me of my place while i could hear all the fun and laughter in the background. I knew Franco was there. I knew i was being a annoying shithead. I knew the reason why i wasn't there as well as she did. The next day was Black Friday. For the Waitress it would be a long and busy day. I had the day off and planned on heading over the Veronica's to see her. I spent most of the day calling and lying about the apartment. I did a fair amount of business and had more piling up but at this point that was secondary. My main focus was Veronica. I needed to see her. When she finally answered well into the afternoon i could tell she had just woken up. I asked if i could stop by. She said no. There was a long pause and then she said she meant not right now and that she needed to clean her place up but that later would be okay. Great i said. I explained i had a bunch of business to do and even mentioned that she could come down to the Little Corner Bar is she felt like it. She said she'd been out super late the night before and was just catching up but that i could stop by when i finished up. 

Black Friday was just as good for the local hood as it was for the retail merchants of the area. Business was booming and the cash was fairly spilling out of my pockets. Between some of my Weight Crew and the nickel dimers i had flipped over ten pounds. The business was a drug in itself. There is a rush to moving mad amounts of weed. Roughly three
pounds of the ten was in smaller quantities. A half pound, a few quarter pounds, a bunch of ounces and what not. Needless to say i was not running any Black Friday specials, there were no sales or discounts other than the usual. Didn't seem to matter as the product flew off the shelves. 

It was roughly 11PM when i hopped in my car and sped few blocks to her place, bounded up the steps and walked into her apartment. She smiled and threw her arms around me, said she missed me yesterday, took my hand and walked me back to her bedroom. If there was anything amiss she had done a great job of hiding it. I relaxed as we pawed at each other and fell into bed.  

Sunday, May 30, 2021

The Wilderness Years - Mr. November

 To steal a line from the great John Peel, the life of a weed dealer is a bit like a Fall album, always different, always the same. And so it was that i settled into a new routine, a routine that involved seeing Veronica as much as i possibly could. On the nights she worked i'd finish up business and head down to the strip club to hang out. The nights she was bartending i'd sit at the bar and we'd talk between her serving drinks, she'd spend most of her time down near my corner seat and the Sad Sack Crew would grumble that i seemed to occupy all her time. There was also the fact that i wasn't sitting at the stage tossing money around though i'd still amble over and tip the dancers once or twice while they were onstage... and not just a dollar like most of the guys in this joint. As mentioned before Anthony's was like your uncle's basement. It wasn't a flashy or posh club just a door on a main thoroughfare in the east end of the city. It was basically one big room, the bar to the right when you walked in and the stage to the left, some tables at the far end near the men's pisser where every now and then you'd walk in and find that some rookie had taken a shit in the urinal because they didn't realize that down the one hallway that was straight back which led to the dancer's dressing (or undressing) room were two other bathrooms, one of which was the ladies room and one of which had an actual toilet and the word men on it. This was the one the Sad Sack Crew usually used, i think it made them feel special. 

If i thought my schedule before Veronica was hectic now it was damn near inhuman. Good thing i believed i was uber-mensch. The business kept ramping up and now the standard order that i picked up from Stiv was approaching forty pounds of weed every week. I was a one man industry. When Stiv first broached the subject of upping the weight each week i was cautious. I knew how uptight we was about getting the cash back to his boy and i told him i can't force people to buy it and didn't want to be sitting on it for to long so that he would be giving me shit about getting the money. Stiv suggested that i could just pay out of my "savings" if need be to which i roundly told him to fuck off, if that was the case why couldn't he pay out of his "savings"? As i pointed out i wasn't the one making four bills on a pound and besides i stated, i didn't have as much money as he thought. In poker one would call this a bluff, the money was piling up for both of us we just didn't want to have to pay up front and understood that one moment of bad luck and we were back to being broke, be it cops or enterprising hoods tossing the monkey wrench into the works. The relationship between Stiv and i was becoming more contentious as we struggled with the power dynamic. We both needed each other but the fact was i could always get by as a nickel-dimer at this point, back to my roots selling eigths and quarters and ounces. Without me Stiv had a great connection and no way to move it and no one he actually trusted to do so. Yet i needed Stiv in the sense that his connection gave me the means to be neighborhood kingpin, make serious bank and eliminate the supply problem faced by most mid-level dealers. Not many people in the game would have put up with his high-strung anxiety bullshit but unknowingly i had honed my people skills to Zen master levels. Do the math and project out the numbers and Stiv and i both had six figure incomes. 

And yet it seemed as if i could sling weed in my sleep. I was now five years into my latest stint and  when added to my previous three forays into the game i was now going on almost eight years of experience in the weed game, a fucking lifetime in this business. The business was rolling right along and expanding at rates some might consider as exponential, other than a few collection problems, see the Billy Goat (more on that later), it was running smoothly on all cylinders. Supply keeping up with demand and demand getting higher all the time, no pun intended. 

The real issue our hero had to deal with was Veronica and what to do about her. Things between them had become comfortable, a pattern of meetings at her place that almost always involved sex, nights spent gazing starry-eyed at each other while she worked the club, but in the comfort there was an unsettling feeling that came over our protagonist, meaning me. There was the age gap. That decade gave me sweaty palms and for all my cocksure posturing as the ranking hood of North Oakland i was worried. How did i hold onto her? I knew quite well that at twenty i would not want to be settling down with some older woman who hid me from the world because it threatened the foundation to her business. The fact was i'd want to be out partying and having a grand old time which is what a normal person that age would do. It's not like at thirty i was a grand-dad and the truth was i could party most young bucks right into bed and keep going for another day or two but i knew the routine we had fallen into could be a threat to my fragile kingdom. One could say i was vulnerable... and it scared me, vulnerability being a serious threat in my current occupation.  

And so i continued to ignore any signs of cracks in the foundation. At this point Veronica seemed more than happy to spend a night in with me where we regularly took Ecstasy and rolled around in her bed. She seemed pleased when i showed up for an afternoon or early morning session but the fact was i could see how this could see how this looked. I didn't consider her some kind of sex toy but it very much be construed that way. I was addicted to her. To the way she looked when her body was racked by orgasm, the dilating pupils and faraway expression that washed over her, i was addicted to her touch, to her lips, to her being and yet somehow i wouldn't throw it all away in the name of, for lack of a better word, love. Power will darken the soul and each passing week the power seemed to grow and that soul of mine got a little darker. Maybe the only thing i really loved was the business. Maybe i was no better than a fucking robber baron interested only in lining my pockets and ruling my little corner of the world. Hood famous. If Veronica walked there would be another woman to sleep with other than the one i lived with, i knew it, she knew it. I was viewed as a bit of a prize down at Chez Anthony's, info that would come to light later on, of course that didn't matter at the time, all i wanted was her. 

Amazingly i was never worried when Veronica would tell me about her nights out at the after-hours clubs. She had a moral compass and a sense of ethics that she brought with her from that small town. How does an ex-stripper turned bartender who is involved with a weed dealer who lives with his girlfriend have ethics? Easy. It was apparent in my pursuit of her when she had her hoodrat beau, she wouldn't return my advances though she enjoyed them and she explained that she was not one to play around. If there was any corruption of her lovely soul it was due to the company she kept, me. One could dub me a bad influence or just another asshole male wielding power in his world, taking what he wanted and leaving a path of destruction in his wake. At the time it made no difference as long as i was satisfied. 

But things were beginning to bubble up... there was more talk about how she wished i could stay over, to sleep at her place, about the guilt that she sometimes felt knowing she was the so-called "other woman", how we had to be careful when we were out other than when she was at work... i, of course, did my best to placate her and turned on the charm offensive, would tell her i understood and that i was trying to work things out, never saying i had some sort of exit strategy from my current relationship but vaguely hinting at it. A fucking lie as my main concern was always the gig. I wanted everything and felt i was entitled to it. I wasn't but i didn't fucking care. My casual way to end these talks was to kiss her while moving her towards the bed or couch or whatever flat surface i could find, fulfill my carnal needs, get dressed and slip out the door before the conversation started back up. And for awhile it worked. 

November in the Rust Belt is a grey and dreary time, the days getting shorter and colder, the leaves all dead and brown. This whole affair had started at the end of summer, my favorite time of year, the gorgeous and warm days of September that gave way to cool and pleasant nights. It continued into October and the vivid and vibrant turning of the leaves, the deep greens turning to fiery oranges and passionate reds. The seasons were driving us, which direction i didn't know but i knew that change was always coming, for better or worse i didn't know... but i knew that somehow it would encompass both, better and worse. The November clouds had gotten lower and were moving closer, turning my gaze towards them the stinging wind made my eyes water. 


Friday, May 21, 2021

The Wilderness Years - Lovesick

 There is nothing quite like the autumn sun in the Rust Belt, those last days before the endless drizzle and cold turns to snow and ice for a few months. As if the autumn rays weren't enough there was the warm glow of Veronica that was with me all the time. We had worked out a way to see each other regularly, planned nights as well as stolen moments that would spring up, a quick call to see if we could meet for a few minutes or half an hour or just to steal a kiss. There is an apex in most human relations and we rarely recognize it when we're there, looking down over the world that we feel we are on top of, pretending as if the world won't keep on turning and bring us back around. The King of North Oakland quite enjoyed this view. For most of the last five years i'd been working my way up towards the top and now that the business was there Veronica was the crown jewel of my little mini-empire that i lorded over in the East End. 

Veronica was back on her feet now, monetarily speaking, as she had gotten more shifts bartending at the strip club as well as other nights waiting tables. She was still on the lookout for other bartending gigs but three nights behind the bar and one or two shifts waiting were earning her enough cash to get by on. Of course it didn't hurt that i would take care of anything i could for her, not because she asked but because i wanted to. Maybe it was some sort of subconscious guilt on my part for the position i'd put her in. She was a fine and decent human being and i knew that she harbored some guilt as well for the situation we had created. She'd only ever seen the Waitress once, the pilled-up episode at the bar that she barely remembered, but knew that i didn't go home to an empty apartment and was the reason i could never stay over at her place, why we usually stayed in and why we had to play coy when we were down at the Little Corner Bar. Not to mention that her ex-hoodrat beau and his friends hung out there as well and there was more than passing curiosity as to the relationship between us.

Being a ranking hood meant that i wasn't all that worried about the hoodrat crew. They knew what i did and what i did came with a certain amount of respect. There was also an element of fear that i cultivated among the locals. They knew the bar protected me, they knew i had some friends who'd back me up, they saw high ranking gang members and drug kingpins buy me drinks at the bar. These kids may not have been all that book smart but they knew street cred and knew that some guys were not to be fucked with or fucked with at their peril. If i stole someone's girl there wasn't much they could do about it. Of course i didn't steal anyone's girl, in this case Veronica was single when this whole thing kicked off so there wasn't much any of them could say. 

It was a Thursday morning when i awoke to the message on my phone. I was getting ready for work and turned on my phone to check if there was any business already lining up for the day. There was one message, it was from Veronica, she wanted to know if i could stop by on my way to work. she needed to see me, it wasn't an emergency or anything and she said she understood if i couldn't but that she was up and if i could to call her and let her know. I kicked my ass into high gear so i could get out of the apartment sooner than usual and hopped into the Geo, cranking the engine and working the clutch, the little Geo was temperamental in damp weather and the cool fall air was playing games with her engine. I sat talking to the car and urging her on, telling her i needed her to turn over. On the bright side there is no way the neighbors would believe the guy in the second floor apartment was moving mad amounts of weed cuz if he was you'd think he could afford a decent car, right?

Lil Geo finally turned over and i made my way the few blocks to Veronica's place knowing i didn't have much time if i didn't want to be late for work. There it was again, work. What was i doing at this shit job i gave fuck all about? Why was i rushing to a job that before taxes would pay me $75 a day? It was non-sense. I made that much in fifteen minutes at the bar. Some days i made that every fifteen minutes at the bar for two hours straight, all while drinking and fucking about. Yet here i was somewhat worried about being on time. For a guy with a so-called shitty work ethic i sure made an effort to appear as if i cared about this gig. I was a walking conundrum. 

As i pulled up to her place she was sitting on the wooden swing that adorned the apartment's front porch. There were six units, all of which were dark, except for the upper left third floor apartment, hers, which i could hear the voices and music faintly drifting down from the cracked front window, cracked to relieve the heat of a third floor apartment as well as the cumulus clouds of cigarette smoke from a bunch of pilled up and drunk cool kids with nothing much to do. She was wearing a long, dark skirt and an oversized sweater. 

She smiled at me as i walked up the sidewalk and up the three steps but there was a melancholy tint to her dark eyes. She stood up and wrapped her arms tightly around me, we kissed for a minute, the whole time her holding on to me as if i might slip away. I just needed to see you, she said. Havin' a party, i joked. She didn't lift her head from my shoulder. No, just a few people came back after the after-hours, i'd wish they'd leave but i feel bad kicking them out. I stroked her head, want me to do it? Without raising her head she whispered, not if you can't stay, i don't want to be alone. There was a weight to her statement, she said she didn't want to be a problem but that she was in love with me and wished i could come upstairs and put her to bed but that she understood i couldn't, that i had to go to work. She apologized for being so emotional and i told her there was nothing to apologize for, there was a brief flicker of a giggle as she claimed it was probably just the pill wearing off. Are you sure you can't stay? she asked. I shook my head. I want to, i told her, but i'm already on thin ice at work with the trip and all, i'm out of days until January and not showing up and getting fired would have me answering questions at home. It wasn't intended but i could tell this last part stung. 

We stood on the porch in the cold and dark morning, bathed in bright yellow glow from the porch light. I was looking at her, i held her face in my hands and kissed her forehead, i could see the tears welling up. She may have been young and beautiful but there was a toughness about her. It stemmed from growing up relatively poor in a large family, she wasn't the type who was prone to crying and seeing her standing there that vulnerable while the laughs and voices of her friends drifted down from her place hurt. We were both lovesick. There was nothing easy about this mess that i had orchestrated. Walking towards my car i glanced back to see her watching me, eyes glistening with a look about her that buckled my knees. I wanted to call off, i wanted to kick out all the people in her apartment, carry her to her bed, slip in beside her and go back to sleep. What the fuck was i doing? Why didn't i tell her that i was just as deep into this as she was? As i put the car in gear i could see her watching me. She had sat back down on the swing and as i drove away i could see her gazing at nothing in particular, the cherry of a cigarette burning, a far away look in her shining eyes. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Wilderness Years - The Kenny Situation

 From the outside, one could sit back and surmise that our hero here had the world by the fucking balls. The real gig pouring money into his pockets, a mistress (for lack of a better word), a girlfriend, massive street cred, hood famous, the world of the East End at his fingertips, wanting for nothing really. The legit job was about the only thing that wasn't perfect in the warped and wonderful world of El Kono. Of course things are not always as they seem. It wasn't something i actually wanted to consciously dwell on but i knew i had worry. First and foremost being Veronica. There was the fact i had fallen pretty hard for her yet still didn't want to shake the foundation i had laid down. The reality was the weed business was still my main squeeze and in the end it seemed everything else was subservient to the needs of that. While the warehouse kept me honest so to speak by giving me some structure it wasn't exactly necessary for my survival at this point. There were rumors among those who needed this job about a possible merger with some other company and the warehouse moving or being shut down, i began thinking about plotting my exit. As for now though it kept up appearances. 

Warehouses are funny places. There are always drugs to be had, any number, from multiple employees. I had walked in and cornered the weed market in this place. Three of my co-workers now firmly on my payroll. One moved quarter pounds, one half pounds or pounds, and one had graduated from elbows to a member of the Weight Crew, picking up five or more every time he showed up which was sometimes twice a week. I'm fairly certain the management, or some of them at least, had an idea i'm just not sure they knew the level at which i was slinging. 

This particular place was divided up into counter salesmen, the pickers who picked the orders, the three guys in receiving (my departement), the shippers, and the GM who everyone claimed loved his blow. The pickers and shippers were given top billing by the GM, followed by the salesmen and then the receiving department. Seems in the legit world i was always at the bottom looking up but i didn't give a fuck cuz once i walked out the door i was the honcho. One could say it helped keep the ego in check but i can assure you it most certainly did not. The pickers, or some of them, were always rushing around due to the bonus they could receive each check for accuracy and number of orders completed. The one who took it the most seriously was Kenny and Kenny was a right pain in the ass. 

Kenny looked like the valet from Ferris Bueller with his long greasy looking hair slicked back and pulled into a ponytail and his neatly trimmed goatee. He drove an old Lincoln which he felt the need to drive at top speed at all times, squealing out of the parking lot and tearing down the street. He lived in a trailer with his "old lady" who apparently was quite a bit older than he was and of course Kenny was a weird one, he looked older than he was and not in a good way. He was rail thin with teeth to big for his mouth, one would guess him as a meth-head if not for the fact he was way too uptight. He was a raging asshole most of the time and never made a mistake... at least one he would actually cop to. He would endlessly remind his co-workers that he was the "top picker" in the place, an accolade worth it's weight in dog shit. He loved to suck up to the GM and the GM in return would pull him to pick the "important" orders when he needed one pulled, partly to stroke Kenny's ego and partly cuz he knew Kenny would run around at top speed being a raging shithead to get it done. It goes without saying Kenny didn't have any friends among the lumpen-proles. 

On this day i was aimlessly wandering around the warehouse stocking shelves as slowly as possible and daydreaming about Veronica. I knew at some point i'd have to make some hard decisions but the current strategy was to try not to worry about it and deal with it when it came up. Kenny was racing around the warehouse on a cherry picker. We used the cherry picker to get things from the high shelves, sometimes 30 odd feet up. It was a piece of heay machinery with a goofy steering wheel that we'd maneuver through the aisles. There were two of them and usually the receiving department commandeered one to put up the stock. At peak height they'd sway as you tossed shit onto the shelves and i'm amazed at how dangerous they could be and how little we were paid. 

Kenny was in his usual rush to suck ass and get his order done when he came flying around the corner and clipped a stack of wooden pallets that proceeded to creak and groan and then topple over. He looked at me, got pissed, and began shouting that i fucked up and needed to pick those up because i put them there and he didn't have time to clean up my mess. I didn't put them there or fuck-up and stood there stone-faced looking at Kenny. I was known around the warehouse as a pretty easy going guy, mellow and calm, a bit aloof, in short a guy who didn't give a shit. As i stood there listening to this skinny fucking greasy shitball berate me for his being a fucking idiot the switch suddenly flipped to on. 

As Kenny sped away on the cherry picker it started. I stood for second before turning and following him. He had jumped off the cherry picker and saw me coming as i started shouting, "you know what asshole, i'm gonna do what everyone wants to do and kick the fucking shit out of you you fucking prick!", by now Kenny was moving swiftly towards the one locking bathroom as i
began running full speed at him. He hit the shitter and locked the door a mere second or two before i slammed into it shaking the whole structure. The whole warehouse had stopped as i stood and pounded on the door. "I'm gonna kick your scrawny ass you fucking pansy! the only way i pick up the shit YOU knocked down is cuz your hands and fucking broken and you're in an ambulance you cunt!" This bit brought some whoa's and snickers from the warehouse crew. "You better stay in there all day you fucking asshole or you'll be eating through a fucking straw!" 

By this time the GM had appeared and a couple of the guys had began to move me away from the locked bathroom door. Someone had explained to the GM that Kenny had knocked over the stack of pallets and then mouthed off at me and told me to re-stack them. The warehouse boys were laughing and joking about how fast Kenny had run and the look of unmitigated fear on his face. Kenny was roughly 5'9 and 130lbs. while i was seven inches taller and 60-70lbs heavier. It was not going to be a fair fight, in fact it was not going to be fight at all. The last thing i shouted as they pulled me away was, "you still gotta get to your car shithead!" and went back over the the receiving area. The GM told my supervisor to keep me checking stuff in and not putting stock away in order to keep me out of the aisles and away from Kenny. The GM then began talking Kenny out of his locked safe space and they went and re-stacked the skids, the guys joking that the GM was going to shadow his boy all day to make sure i didn't kick his ass. At quitting time the GM let Kenny go five minutes early and as he ran to his car someone yelled "run Forrest run!" to which we all had a good laugh. Kenny pealed out as usual and sped away. 

As i stood on the loading dock in the grey afternoon one of my co-workers on my payroll came over to bullshit with me. Damn, he said, you scared the shit outta everyone man, we knew you were a bit crazy but now your officially a fucking psycho. He grinned and i laughed. He had it coming i said, then added may still have it coming, i added slyly, but i know how to be patient. He then asked if he could swing by and pick up another pound tonight and i said sure. I don't know why i bother with this shit i said. Muzz, my co-worker replied, those of us who know wonder why too. As i walked to my car i turned on the cell phone. Soon it would be lighting up. I wondered when i'd see Veronica next. I wondered if tomorrow i might beat the shit out of Kenny. 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

The Wilderness Years - I Took a Pill on a Friday Night

 The creak of her apartment steps was becoming familiar... and it was a sound i liked. The old apartments of Steel Town back when the industry drove the economy and turned the sky black and grey, these old neighborhoods filled with the architecture of Europe, built by immigrants who slipped little reminders of the old country into the things they built and the streets they named. She opened the door with a radiant smile and immediately slipped a pill into my hand. I just took mine when i heard you on the stairs she smiled and i tossed the pill into my mouth and washed it down with the Gatorade i had brought to mix with the bottle of Grey Goose i had grabbed on my way over. We put the vodka in the freezer and the mixer in the fridge and flopped down on the couch. We talked and kissed while we waited for the E to kick in. I got up and mixed some drinks and wandered over to the window and watched the traffic roll by on a Friday night. She came over and stood with me and i put my arms around her as i began talking, about nothing in general, my fucked up and half-assed philosophy on existence, the pills began to kick in. 

For Veronica this was something different, taking Ecstasy and spending the night in was not the usual itinerary. Taking it at half past seven in the evening was not normal for her either. Usually it was downed as her shift wound down so that it would be in full swing at the after-hours clubs that were inundated with strippers and bartenders and would-be players. On a good night when the clubs closed between 4AM and 6AM they moved to someone's apartment and continued to party until daylight came and the gear wore off and they all made their way home or passed out on a couch as the squares all shuffled off to work. It was much the same as i had done ten years earlier except my drug of choice was acid. I told her stories about my summer of love, aka my first season as a migrant beach worker, where i took acid constantly, how my favorite thing to do was walk out to the beach as the sun came up over the eastern shore and stand on the rocks that acted as breakers, the waves smashing into them and covering me in a cool mist, the roar of the wind and the ocean drowning out the cesspool of humanity known as Ocean City which lay directly behind me. Inevitably the cops would roll down the beach and yell through their bullhorn for me to get off the rocks. I'd turn and walk down the rocks and back into the sand and never acknowledge them. 

Back on the couch we discussed what we could do. With the gear kicking in i wasn't so keen of driving anywhere. I also knew i had to be careful about getting caught out, a fact that was somewhat danced around as we talked. I could tell she wanted to do something other than sit in her apartment but as the gear kicked harder she turned on a movie, True Romance (she'd never seen it) and turned off the lights, the autumn darkness enveloping the front room and the telly flickering light. We sat and watched for a while. Of course we knew where this story ended and soon enough i cracked the cover of the book and began rubbing her shoulders as she lay across me. The Ecstasy proved a catalyst for a relaxed and lovely evening. Soon enough the drinks were just pure Gatorade and i watched as Veronica's face twitched a bit from the E. She had a habit of gurning a bit with Ecstasy, an involuntary grinding and twitching of her jaw. My favorite way to stop it was to lean in and kiss her. She'd smile and ask if she was doing it again and i'd grin and nod. 

The rubbing of her shoulders soon gave way to the losing of our clothes and we spent the rest of the night much like we did the previous. There is no secret to new or young love and lust, it's an old story played and replayed among the folly of humanity. There is no obstacle that can't be overcome, no problem or quarrel that can't quickly be resolved. We humans are smitten with everything about the object of our affection. The problem is the objects of our affection are not objects at all but human beings who come with an array of emotions and thoughts and feelings and sooner or later those things rise to the surface and can't be ignored. But for a time there is nothing but sweet and dirty bliss and those times are as addicting as anything a sentient human can experience. 

For now things were perfect. We subjugated the rest of the world for each other, so that we could spend whatever time we could together due to the circumstances. Of course those circumstances were always there, the dark and ominous clouds sitting far off on the horizon from the gorgeous and sunny space that we occupied now. My current plan was to ignore them, maybe a passing glance now and then but no real concern. Of course i knew that sooner or later i'd have to make a choice and that choice would cause pain and heartache... or maybe i wouldn't... and the choice would be made for me. One cannot catch water, you could scoop it up and take a drink but the rest slipped through the cracks and the crevices of cupped hands. At the moment i was doing my best to quench my thirst, scrambling as nonchalantly as i could to hold the water in my hands. These cool autumn nights spent in her bed, watching her walk naked to the bathroom or to get a drink, these things are woven into the tapestry of a history that writes the story of a life, it's an education, a personal religion, and with any luck we learn from it. There are some altars we never forget.

Being a Friday night i didn't leave until almost 3AM, i had a habit of staying out late on Fridays so there would be no need for a cover story. I knew the places that would do the lock-in and let me stay well past closing so it wasn't uncommon for me to come rolling in late. I left Veronica laying in her bed. She had mentioned she might call Little Blonde to see what she was up to and maybe head out to the after-hours. It was the first time she saw a flicker of worry and hurt pass across my face. She paused and pulled me back down into bed. She said on second thought she'd probably just stay in and enjoy the rest of the night. Even in perfection we must spackle over the cracks. This night was about as perfect as it could be... for me at least. But i understood. I made my way home and crept up the steps an into my apartment. It was quiet and the cats strolled by to rub my legs and say hello, a contented smile on my face as those clouds crept slowly closer. 

Monday, May 3, 2021

The Wilderness Years - The Halcyon Days

In the Book of Veronica the next month and change would be the halcyon days, when the bliss and chemical imbalance of infatuation, of lust, of the giddy stages of love, can spackle over the cracks and challenges that this particular situation imposed. Four days was going to be a lifetime to wait to see her again and when the mobile rang and i saw her number i caught myself smiling. She needed to ask me something, something she didn't want to ask but she was in a bind and didn't know who else to turn to. She could have asked for my fucking left arm and i'd have given it to her but what she really needed was a loan. She wanted to know if she could borrow some money because the trip really had tapped her. The rent was due and she had picked up a few shifts waitressing at the club but that didn't cut it like dancing or tending bar. No problem i said. How much do you need? i asked. $400 for rent she said, and maybe a hundred more for food and incidentals until she could get things sorted. She then told me it was a loan and that she promised to pay me back as soon as she could. I chuckled and said not to worry about it but she was adamant. When do you need it? i asked. She told me to bring it Friday, i was grinning slyly when i told her i'd run it by Thursday after i got down dealing and if she wasn't around i'd bring it Friday. Then i added, because i can't wait that long to see you. I could hear her smile on the other end. 

Having landed on a Thursday, picked up more gear shortly after and then dealt with a deluge that had me requesting more product in the span of a few days, my return was quite profitable for the new King of North Oakland. I had cleared somewhere north of four grand profit in the four or five days i'd been back. Shit was flying off the shelves as they say and Stiv was damn near gleeful when i told him i needed more. He was always happiest when i showed up at his house with stacks of money and i knew that a good portion of that was going into his pocket. Now of course i had to give the business report which was the break down of how many pounds went out the door in the five pack deal and how many were regular price. Stiv had made the rookie mistake of the budding kingpin of letting me know exactly what his cut was from this operation and let's just say i was a bit pissed. Stiv's job was driving to his buddy's place and hanging out for a night before returning with the load. After that he handed it off to me and then sat back and waited for his cash while i moved the gear. Rudimentary knowledge in this game means that the smaller it's broken up and sold the more one can make and of course the more people you deal with and the more risk involved... sort of. Getting caught with an ounce broken up to sell is still less trouble then getting caught with a pound... or five... or twenty. The math states that if i sold a pound all in ounces or smaller the average i could make per pound was between $600-$1000. Selling it by the pound i made $200 to $250. The former had me dealing with 20-30 people while the latter had me dealing with three or four for the same amount of profit. Stiv made the mistake of letting slip he cleared four bills a pound. Stiv and i had it fucking good. Normally selling weight in the ganja game might net you a hundred bucks a pound if that. Fact was the gear was pretty good and i had practically cornered the East End market. If one wanted good to excellent weed at a fair price, i was the guy you needed to know. 

Thursday night was always a fine night in my world. I could suffer through a hangover on my way to the weekend and it was always amazing that by Friday night i was ready to go at it again. That said i was the Michael Jordan of the Friday call-off. In my party store warehouse days i had once called off seven out of eight Fridays, a record that still stands and one still retaining their job. That warehouse gig was a bit different, locally owned and as my manager told the owner, he didn't have to worry about things when i showed up as i got shit done and didn't need babysat, something rare for this particular place. The new gig though was a corporate place with people who took themselves way too seriously. They had quotas and bean-counters and bonuses to earn while the lumpen prole tossed boxes and loaded trucks and barely scraped by so i had to rein my absenteeism in a bit. This particular Thursday i was in an excellent mood and was slinging like a motherfucker. The cargo pants pockets bursting as the seams and more stashed in the car. A pound sold out of the trunk on the side street and another half pound sold broken down in the bar. Matt the Bartender grinning as his tip jar filled up as my clientele made their way in and out. Shortly after 11 i slid Matt another $20, smiled, and headed out the door as he yelled "My Man!". 

I bounded up the steps two at a time drunk on booze and lust. Veronica had spent a rare quiet night in, being broke being a major drag for the young lady. When she opened the door she smiled and it wasn't long before we were tumbling into her bed, the last words i heard being, "i can't help myself." We lay there naked with a fine layer of sweat listening to the traffic drift in through a cracked window, the cool autumn night slipping in, the shades of blue muted and changing as the curtains danced with the streetlights from the back alley. We didn't talk, just lay there, just being. It was almost 1AM when i started to get dressed and mentioned i needed to get home cuz i had to work. She said she wished i could stay but knew and her voiced trailed off. I asked her about her rent and what she needed. She reiterated that it was just a loan and i smiled and said sure no problem. Four hundred for rent and another hundred for food and things and she would get it back to me as soon as she could. I smiled and pulled a wad of cash from my pocket. Is that just from tonight? she asked. I grinned and nodded. I handed her the weed i had brought her and then gave her $800 and told her if she needed any more to let me know. I don't need that much she replied. You can always use money i smiled back. She asked if i was still coming over tomorrow and i said of course i am. She said she could score some E if i'd like and i said that'd be swell. I kissed her forehead and made for the door. 

I quietly closed her apartment door and made my way down the steps and into the street, put the Geo into gear and flipped a U-turn on a normally busy street now deserted at this time of night. Work would come calling in roughly five hours and the temptation to call off was great but seeing as i had just gotten back from nine days off i figured that would be the last straw and i'd get canned. Did i care? not really but still that warped sense of discipline kept me going in. Sleep was becoming a precious commodity between the warehouse job, my real gig slinging, and Veronica. On this night i was hoping to scrape by with five hours before i had to get up and head in, toss boxes and unload trucks all day, come home and take care of the real business, then finally make my way over to Veronica's, take a pill of Ecstasy and get back to my favorite pastime, her...