After this inauspicious start to adulthood, I graduated high school with a 1.9 GPA, and spent the summer scrapping on a downtown high-rise construction site. Then I enrolled in community college for the fall and rented a room in a ratty old house off Highway 1. The other housemates were a female Asian grad student who was never there and a big, ruddy PG&E lineman from podunk inland named Brad, who had a blue heeler and a van, and spent all his free time up the coast, surfing. I was selling pot and had a pretty good book of business.
One of my customers was my dad’s paralegal. Her husband was a cop, but they’d been married too young and she was clearly checking out of the relationship. She’d recently had ginormous fake tits installed, and was not discriminating when it came to getting attention. One afternoon she dropped by for an eighth. We smoked and one thing led to another, but I came the moment she wrapped her fingers around my dick. With a disdainful flap of her hand she flung my load onto the carpet, gave me a look like, are you fucking serious?, and after that it was just business. She referred me a lot of customers though, and her best friend became a regular.
Dana was an ER nurse in her early thirties. She bought an eighth every few days, and would always hang around after and smoke me out. One day we were passing her little glass pipe back and forth and she goes, “Lacy says you have a big dick.” Well, that was that, and for a few months it was a pretty good deal. I knew she was fucking other guys, but I had no particular feelings for her and I always wore a condom. She even started referring me business from the hospital, and pretty soon I had a couple of doctors dropping by regularly. One of these guys, a squirrelly little Arab anesthesiologist, was also fucking Dana, and I used to invite him in to smoke with me, just to be cheeky and shame him with his bad habits.
This whole arrangement went south real fast. For one thing, I broke my right hand in a fight downtown and had to have surgery. After that I got a rather large prescription for Vicodin and my grades started dropping. Winter was coming, and finals week with it. Also Brad, the lineman whom I was subleasing from, was starting to get wise to my weed business and although he didn’t say anything at first, I could tell he didn’t like the customer traffic, which was considerable.
Meanwhile Max, my high school bestie, was getting further and deeper into hard drugs, living on the streets and hanging on the periphery of a local latchkey whiteboy gang that used to run heroin for bikers. Occasionally, one of the lower ranking members of this cohort would show up at my place trying to fence a stolen fixie or a laptop for a small amount of pot, and when I told them cash only they were not happy with me.
One night, Max showed up drunk with one of these colleagues, a vicious skinhead named Neal. It was late, and it was cold, and to refuse them a place to crash would’ve meant a definitive break from Max and this whole cohort. I let them into the front living room and put on a movie, but I was wary, and they started roasting me for it, passing a fifth of Ancient Age back and forth and cracking wise about what an uptight cunt I was. This recompense of my hospitality displeased me, and I decided I would prove them right. “Hey guys,” I said. “Come out on the front porch with me and have a smoke.” I handed them each a Camel and they followed me to the front. Then I locked the door behind us. They eyed each other.
It was drizzling. There was a big moist nasty old sofa on the front balcony, and we all sat down. As I lit their cigarettes I said, “Listen, guys. You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.” Max slouched where he sat, supremely entitled, took a long drag and exhaled it.
“You’re a miserable, arrogant little prick Sam. You need to relax,” he deadpanned. He wasn’t even trying to make it seem like teasing anymore.
“I don’t need to do shit. I said get the fuck out.”
“And what if I don’t?” he snarled. He thought I was bluffing.
I rose with a start, my eyes boring down into his, and said “Get the fuck up.” He stood straight up into my face and blew smoke. “What if I fucking don’t?” He was still calm, but this time he was louder. It was potentially now two against one, and I was intimidated and resentful of being regarded as a pushover. The moon glowed near full behind storm clouds to the west. The house was set into a steep hillside, with big eucalyptus trees towering up behind it almost touching the sky, and it had an abnormally long staircase running from the front balcony down to the sidewalk. Max and I were face to face, nostrils flaring. He grabbed me by the front of my shirt. That was when I shoved him backwards down the staircase. Then I shot an icy glare over at Neal, unmitigatedly, zoologically prepared to immediately and severely injure him by any means necessary. Neal was too drunk and stunned by this whole turn of events to react. It was just he and I there on the balcony now, and he froze in place, avoiding my eyes and regarding the situation with a calm if mildly disturbed kind of moron’s perplexity.
Max tumbled backwards; flew, really, in an arc. His heels reconnected with the stairs about a third of the way from the bottom, his backside at a 45 degree angle to the street, at which point he fell straight back over the sidewalk, his head crashing into the mailbox, which flew off into the street in one direction as Max rolled to the other, veritably splattering onto his side with an eerie, semi-liquid thud against the pavement. The impact to his right shoulder had saved his head, possibly his life, and amazingly he was still conscious. As he got up he clutched the shoulder like something there might be broken. Then he started off ploddingly down the street with the slow caution of a newly walking toddler, muttering incoherently, clutching himself like a mental patient. Neal took a drag, stood up, and scampering down the stairs followed Max off into the night.
Around that time Dana had gotten exclusive with a neighbor of hers in the condo complex where she lived. I wasn’t particularly hurt by this, but the motivation to be available to her as a buddy and a sounding board was gone. One day while I was waiting to re-up and struggling through some homework I’d put off until I couldn’t really finish it, she blew up my little old school Nokia about a thousand times, leaving voicemails, trying to get a quarter ounce. I was irritated about my homework, irritated to not have weed, and it bothered me to be treated like a recalcitrant waiter, so finally I picked up and got very testy. In response to this, she drove up to my place an hour later with this guy, who followed her as she stormed up the balcony. Easy girls never want to accept that their opposite-sex friendships are all predicated on pussy, and as I opened the door to be confronted I noticed that the guy she was with was quite large. I guessed she’d finally found somebody with a bigger dick, and I did not appreciate the attempt at intimidation by security retinue. “Dana, what the fuck are you doing?” She glared at me, intensely hurt, and stormed back down to the car. Her other half just shrugged and followed her down the stairs.
The next afternoon, Brad came back from surfing up the coast and told me there’d been firetrucks and helicopters everywhere at Wilder Ranch because some girl had killed herself out there by jumping off a cliff. High school classmates I hadn’t heard from all year started calling, and it turned out the girl was a friend of mine. Kelly was this depressive and painfully shy poetess with big saucer-blue anime eyes. She was rail thin and small-chested with a cute overbite and wore her dark red hair in a bob. As freshmen and sophomores we’d hung out in the same cohort of AP-lit nerds and thespians, and all the guys had a crush on her. Apparently she’d gone off to some liberal arts college in Vermont and started hearing voices. Maybe it was the onset of schizophrenia, maybe something happened to her out in the north woods, or maybe both, but she’d decided on Christmas break to kill herself in Santa Carla. That was her assessment of adulthood, and it was valid.
After the funeral, Dana called me, apologizing for our spat and asking if I could sell her an ounce. This surprised me because I didn’t often sell that much at a time. We met at my place. She was a mess. Sweatpants, no makeup, pale, her eyes watery. She collapsed into me at the front door and started sobbing into my shoulder. I carried her to the couch. She started to tell how this guy, her neighbor, had gotten her pregnant, how she really loved him and thought he was the one, but when she told him she wanted to keep the baby, he disappeared. It was her day off; she’d spent the morning at Planned Parenthood. I didn’t know what to say. We smoked, I fed her, and she passed out on the couch. Sometime in the middle of the night she woke up and drove off. Someone told me later that she’d left town, but I never heard from her again.
Forward: Part III
Back: Part I