Annie isn’t responding to my requests for more marijuana.
She says she’s busy with her other job.
Some sort of self-help, shaman-yoga-instructor gig.
But I have my suspicions.
A few weeks before the ghosting began I’d shown up at her door uninvited and intoxicated.
Apparently, I was struggling to sit effectively on her bean-bag chair, then I threw up in her bong and demanded she sell me more cocaine.
I don’t remember this visit.
She sent me a message — emotionless, declarative sentences — explaining what had happened, and hinting that maybe I should try out sobriety.
And then that was that.
The drug-dealer equivalent to a break-up.
I have to find a new dealer.
♦ ♦ ♦
I’m out walking the boardwalk.
I don’t like walking the boardwalk but that’s where I was told I could find weed so I’m out walking the boardwalk.
It’s noon on a Saturday.
There are people everywhere.
Men holding CD players keep coming up to me asking if I want to make a donation to their music.
Which means buy their CDs.
Which means I cannot say no.
Which means I don’t have the strength to ignore them.
By the time I find a guy that can help me out, I’m carrying three CDs that I paid a total of three dollars for because I didn’t want to talk anymore with the aggressive musicians peddling them.
“You broke under the pressure, huh?” the guy says after telling me he can hook me up.
“Broke hard,” I say.
His name is Fresh.
He has these small face tattoos on his forehead and cheeks and he keeps calling me “bruh bruh”.
Fresh is also a musician, a rapper, but he doesn’t have any more of his CD’s left.
“They’re selling like crazy bruh bruh,” he tells me.
“Hell yeah, straight fire.”
I tell him I’d love to hear his music one day. As long as he doesn’t pressure me into listening to it in front of him. Then I ask how the transaction will work.
“Oh yeah,” he says. “You want that loud? Follow me.”
After walking for a few blocks we get to a dispensary. Fresh goes in without saying a word to me and I just keep moving past the dispensary and into the alleyway next to it.
Nothing to do.
Nothing to distract me.
I start worrying about cops for some reason, like I’m a wanted man, then I try to act like I have something going on in my life other than waiting in alleyways for drugs.
You can do it.
I pull out my phone, start having a conversation with myself.
Saying things I imagine young men say to other young men on the phone.
“Yeah dude that party was nuts!”
“You banged her?!”
“No dude, Chad won’t be pissed, he’s so fuckin’ solid.”
After a while I start to worry that Fresh isn’t coming back.
I’d gotten too deep into my character.
How much time had passed?
Should I take this as a sign?
Should I be more like Chad?
After another fifteen minutes I give up and walk back to the boardwalk. I talk to a few more people but they look at me like I’m speaking a language not of Earth, like I’m an It.
Makes sense, It says to itself.
Finally, a man who says he’d been watching and laughing at me as I asked around offers to help. He’s got a good look. Shaved head, wearing sweatpants and matching sweatshirt, and big fake diamond earrings.
I trust him.
“I got my card,” he says. “How much you want?”
I tell him I want an eighth and he makes a motion with his hand like, “No problem.”
He says, “But I will need a service fee though, that cool?”
I nod my head and hand him the money. As he counts it he keeps looking up at me and smiling, either reassuring me he’s not going to leave, or testing me in some way.
“You’re not from here huh?” he says. “You got that look.”
“Arizona,” I say.
“Oh shit, for real? I’m from Downtown Phoenix. But I moved here a few months back. I sure as shit don’t miss it. Fuckin, had to get outta there, ya know?!”
“Fuck Arizona,” I say. “Yeah.”
He tells me to stay put and points to where he is going. It’s not too far but he is adamant that I stay put.
Five minutes go by.
Ten minutes go by.
Fifteen minutes go by.
And then I start to panic.
Without a plan or even a second thought I start walking toward where he pointed. Moving through the crowd. I pass a storefront with a man dressed like a doctor and holding a sign advertising quick and easy weed cards, and then I pass a shirtless man in a speedo, cruising on rollerblades and offering high fives to people.
It forces a thought like– Venice Beach, baby.
A song for my city.
This is Venice, yeah. This is my new home, yeah yeah.
I already recognize some of the people.
The bodybuilders, the dog-walkers, the joggers, the homeless woman that threw a half-eaten yogurt at my feet on my first day here and hey hey hey, the largest gentleman I’ve ever seen in my life.
You can’t miss him.
I’d noticed him a few days ago, harassing anyone that looked too weak to say “get away,” while talking on the phone at a volume that could be classified as abuse. The kind of guy that you can’t imagine being alone or not speaking, his huge body like a cancer consuming everything around him to survive.
I cut through the crowd trying to avoid him. But we make eye contact and it’s awful. He walks right up to me, no hesitation. I’m one of the weak ones.
He says, “Hey, young man,” over and over, and I know he’s talking to me but I try to ignore him.
“Young man! You, walking away from me.”
But I can’t ignore him. He steps right in front of me and asks if he can help me. I tell him no. I tell him I just moved here and I’m taking in the sights.
“You sure I can’t help ya?” he says. “Are you abso-fuckin-lutely sure?”
And that one does it. Without thinking, I break. I tell him what’s going on and he starts laughing.
“I knew it!” he says. “I know everything goin’ on in this bitch. So you want my help or what?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “Maybe I should wait. Maybe he’s just—”
“Nah nah nah. That’s what I’m saying, you can’t trust people these days. And I ain’t motherfucking people. I can get you anything,” he says, “Eh-nee-thang.”
As soon as the very large gentleman says this, I see the man I’d given my money to. He’s walking directly towards me until he sees the large gentleman talking to me. He stops, changes direction, heading for an alley behind a tattoo parlor and gesturing for me to follow.
So I follow.
And the large gentleman follows too.
“Thanks,” I say, “But I see the guy.”
“Thanks for your help man. Have a good one.”
“No no no young man,” he says. “Where this man at?!”
I walk down the same alley the man from Phoenix went down. I see him smiling. He looks like an old pal, my fellow Arizonan. I never should’ve doubted him.
He raises his arm out to do the exchange and we slap hands. Then I tuck the weed in my pocket as I walk away. Finesse.
“Hey, young man!”
I turn around.
The large gentleman is standing in front of the man that just made the exchange with me.
My fellow Arizonan looks terrified.
And the largest gentleman in the world suddenly looks like he’s also the angriest man in the world.
“You know this punk-ass could get jumped for what he just did right!?” He points at the ground aggressively. “This my shit right here! You come to me!”
The man from Phoenix tries to walk away but the large gentleman towers over him, standing in his way. A shoving match ensues. And I can still hear, “You come to me!” as I walk back home.
My new home.