"I don't think I'm gettin' out. I don't know who the fuck that is." D-'s eyes were starting to dart.
"I don't really like this."
"Whaddya mean 'I don't like this'? I thought you said you'd done this before. Are we about to get busted or something?"
"I dunno, I dunno."
"Well fucking answer the question", I practically hollered. "I thought you said you'd done this before."
"Well... not like this."
I rubbed the side of my head. I should have expected this, goddammit. D- didn't know Damien any better than I did, even though he'd spent at least the last couple of months talking like he did. We both met Damien a couple of months previous through J-, a guy we attended school with who was rapidly leaving the world of adolescent academics behind in favor of the company of a local set of small time Mexican bangers. Several things were immediately noticeable about Damien at that first meeting; he was very short, very stoned, very prone to thieving*, and had a Cruz Bustamante mustache that didn't quite suit him. He seemed like a decent enough guy, and word was he had hookups for just about anything one might want. D- said Damien had hooked him up a couple of times and according to the latest word, it was solid. Having only recently discovered the wonders of the demon weed, my pressing concern was securing an avenue to get a hold of more.
* Truthfully, the reality was closer to outright kleptomania. During that brief first meeting I saw him stealing/hoarding all manner of unnecessary shit, like every lighter he laid eyes on, for example, or refrigerator magnets. What other kind of person but a true klepto would steal magnets? The compulsion was apparent as I watched him casually slither around pocketing useless trinkets. I made it a point then and there to be sure and check my pockets more often. Okay, constantly.
D- said that he had called Damien who told him to go to a Subway in the southeast part of town. We were supposed to talk to Angel and have her get a hold of Diego. I know. My first attempt at scoring was already the textbook definition of sketchy.
D- had been told that if he didn't make it before 9PM he would be assed out (read: the Subway would be closed). We made sure to arrive with plenty of time to spare, and as we rolled into the parking lot a little before 8:30 the bad omens began stacking. This particular Subway happened to be located in what was an otherwise largely abandoned strip mall with a massive parking lot in various stages of breakdown, with tall weeds sprouting through the cracked asphalt everywhere you look. Very horror movie-esque. Pulling in, you could see one person working at the counter while the restaurant shone like an orb from some kind of science-fiction movie blazing in the midst of near total darkness. George HW's 'thousand points of light' line randomly made its way through my head. Don't ask me why. I couldn't tell you.
"There's only one person there. I though you were supposed to talk to Angel. I don't see any girls in there," I said.
"I think so. I'm not sure. Angel could be a guy."
"Yeah, but a white guy? Please. Someone got the time wrong. I don't know if it was you or Damien, but this ain't cool. Go see if they're open. It might just be dead since it's almost closing time."
"Fine," D- sighed. You could tell he didn't want to, but this was his hookup and he had done this 'a million times', which meant he was obligated.
D- strolled up to the door and gave it a halfhearted pull, and sure enough it was locked. You didn't have to see his face to see the relief in his body language. He had 'tried" and was now beating it back to the truck.
"Nah. they're closed. Looks like we're fucked"
"Whaddya mean? The guy at the counter looked up at you! You couldn't see if at least they were actually closed or if Angel even works there to make sure we got the right place?"
"Let's just forget it, man. I'll try to get a hold of Damien next week and we'll try again next weekend."
"Fuck that," I said. I was suddenly in a mild frenzy. "I'll be damned if I'm gonna waste all this time and energy and not smoke. If this fizzles we're trackin' down Damien tonight."
With that I jumped from the cab of the truck and jogged up to the Subway door. The guy behind the counter was busily intent on some manifestation of sandwich artistry and I had to bang on the window to get his attention.
"You guys closed?" I yelled
"What time did you close?"
He said 8 o'clock, but I acted like I couldn't make out what he was saying, so he came closer. I just wanted him close enough so I could stop yelling. I despise having to yell, and I doubly despise having to yell in the dark.
What time did you say?
"8 o'clock, man, you're way late."
"Damn, too bad for me I guess. Hey, is Angel still here?" I was trying to make it sound like a casual afterthought.
He just gave me a weird look.
"Angel works here, right? Did she leave yet? Can I talk to her?"
The weird look stayed, and the guy didn't say anything. He just turned around and walked into the back office. I was actively contemplating the fact that he might be calling the cops and trying to decide whether or not to bail when a late twenty-something girl walked out. One look at the eyeliner, eyebrows, gold hoops and herringbone chains, and I knew this was the Angel we were supposed to see. As she drew closer to the door, the tattoo's left little doubt. She didn't say anything. She just looked at me.
"Hey there, you know Damien?"
"Who are you?"
Okay, so she knows Damien.
"Look, Damien told us to come see you and ask you to get a hold of Diego."
An eyebrow was raised as she gave me the slow up/down scan. Then again. Then once more. A white boy in this neighborhood with his fat white friend deserved nothing less, I suppose. I tried to maintain and act like it was no big deal.
"Okay, just go wait," she said. Finally.
"Are we just supposed to sit here? What comes next?" D- looked like a trapped rat, nervous as all hell.
"I have no idea, man. She just said to wait."
"Well, what if she called the cops? What if she's just gonna let us sit here?"
"Listen, dude. Who cares if she called the cops? Neither of us have been drinking, and neither of us are holding. What's the worst that'll happen? A loitering ticket? Or they'll think we're fags, which isn't really a ticket-able offense as long as we're not sans pants."
"Sans pants. It means without pants."
"Why didn't you just say that instead of with all the fancy words? Jackass."
"Because I assumed you weren't a complete dumbass, dumbass. Now if we can finish with the vocab lesson I'll finish what I was sayin'. If she is just letting us sit here, well, it's not like we have to sit and wait forever, right?"
"But it's been almost an hour. It's after 9:30."
"Fine. Let's give it till 10, and if we got nothin' we'll say fuckit and go get drunk. The liquor store stays open till 11."
Five minutes later we saw the headlights. As the car drew closer, we could see it was a rusted-out El Camino. So much for worrying about cops. Even the most hard-core undercover wouldn't be caught dead driving this thing.
"It's all urine, pee pee," I said to D-. "Showtime."
I was still rubbing my head. A full two minutes had passed since the El Camino behind us had killed the lights and engine, and while D- was frantically trying to back his way out of the situation the weight of the seconds ticking by was growing heavy. Too much indecisiveness was going to make us both look suspect, further exacerbating an already strange and shaky scene.
"Dude, this is your deal. I got us this far already. Go to it."
"I can't, man. I think we should just go."
"You gotta be fuckin' kiddin' me. What do you think is gonna happen when this gets back? At the very least we lose any hookup we may have had, and at worst...I don't even know. I don't really want to. Fuck this, gimme some money."
"What? You're gonna do it?" D- looked slightly incredulous. "I thought you had money."
You have to understand. At the time, this was extremely out of character for me. If we got popped, the worst D- would have to deal with would be paying his parents back for fines and whatnot when he got around to it. In my case it had been made abundantly clear that not only would I not be bailed out if I ever went to jail, but as soon as I got out I wouldn't have a place to live. Thus, having more to lose I was generally more timid where these things were concerned. But tonight I had purpose, and being driven by it brought out a side of me that D- hadn't witnessed before. Frankly, it was one I hadn't witnessed before either.
"Well, you're obviously not going to. And since I'm doing this part for you...shit, since I've done pretty much this entire deal for you, I ain't puttin' a damn thing on it. I aint' even puttin' 5 on it, so don't even fuckin' ask. This is some punk bitch shit you're pullin' right now."
D- didn't say anything. He just handed over $20.
No time to think, just go. Jump out of the cab, feet hit the pavement. Hope nothing happens. Man that's a shitty car. This is some sketchy-ass shit. Guy glances at me but doesn't give any indication of well, anything, really. Grab the El Camino door handle and pull. Just like an old junky door, it's creaky and loud. Look inside. This can't be a cop--it's too shitty, there's too many old fast-food wrappers. And there's a fuckin' pullout stereo. No way is this officialdom.
"You Diego?" I tried sounding nonchalant, but it came out hesitant and kind of squeaky.
"Christ, this guy is gonna think I just hit puberty," I thought.
"Yo, man. Hop in."
The door is even louder as it creaks and clangs shut. The echoes reverberate in the giant lot, which wouldn't have been a big deal 30 minutes ago, but now the Subway is truly closed. No more thousand points of light. Only one remains, and it's coming from a crappy street lamp several spaces away. The interior of the El Camino smells like an armpit that just smoked a carton of cigarettes. If I get killed I'm not even gonna be a little bit surprised.
"How's it goin'?"
"I'm not sure yet," I said. [Long pause] "Well, um, I guess you need some money, huh."
"Can't do much without it."
Well, at least the guy seemed to have a sense of humor. I held out the $20 that I'd been palming since I exited the truck. I didn't want to have to dig through my pockets in a confined space. These were seriously dodgy circumstances for my level of experience and I was doing my best to keep any potential fuck-ups to a minimum.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a sack of that danky green stuff, oh dear.
Which is to say I have no idea where it actually came from. I lost a few seconds somewhere, like a bad edit job on my conscious perception. I figure it was one of two things. As I officially stepped for the first time into the world of 'the criminal', either my brain clenched shut like a flinch just before getting hit in the face, or, the guy was a Jedi and did some of that mind trickery they're known to engage in. Regardless, there it was in front of me, shining with the special majesty that can only come from plastic packaging surrounding an illicit substance.
As I plucked the bag from his hand, I was sure I'd just caught a glimpse into what Eve might have felt like.
D- handed me the pipe. "Alright, let's load this thing up!"
I loaded the bowl and took the first hit. It was harsh smoke, but it did the trick. I began coughing.
"Nice!" D-said. Now that we had drugs in hand he was back to his animated and talkative self. "I can't believe we scored. That is so fuckin' awesome." he said, reaching for the pipe.
I jerked the pipe back.
"Whaddya mean 'we'? You may have been there, but I'm the one who scored. And why can't you believe it? You're the one that was supposed to know all the ropes, and you almost fucked us up actin' like a scared little bitch. So here's what's gonna happen. I'm gonna sit here and smoke this whole bowl, and you're gonna sit there and watch."
"You heard me. I said I'm gonna smoke this whole bowl by myself, and you're going to sit there while I do it."
D- didn't respond. He just blinked a few times, incredulous once again. Finally he sat back in the chair and turned his attention to the television, mumbling something about how I'd better hurry up.
I took my time.
Human Head is a general purpose human resource and drug enthusiast living in the US.