PARENTAL ADVISORY: the language that follows is unvarnished, harsh and some readers may be offended. This alert is not just for people with young kids, but for my parents, their friends, and anyone else who expressed concern with this storyline.
$w1ft is staring calmly in his side mirror, surveying the oversized pick-up truck that just skidded to an abrupt stop right behind my car, gravel flying in its wake. We’re in the parking lot of “Lookout,” a local overlook that $w1fT wanted me to see. Unfortunately there’s not much to see in the dark of night.
“It’s just my buddy, checking up on us.”
Within seconds, the truck roars off.
“This is an unknown vehicle to my crew,” he reasons, addressing my pointed gaze and nonverbal question of ‘what the hell?’. “They’re not sure who the hell you are, because of the rumors of the ‘Oak Project chick.’”
“Are there rumors?”
“Well, yeah, of course.”
I stare into the blackness. “I was crazy to go up here with you, huh?”
“If you really truly knew who I was – AM,” he laughs. “Yeah. INSANE. Fuckin’ like, get her a bouncy room.”
“Why did I?” I wonder out loud.
“Because you’re a good person. You don’t look at life like I see it, from a darker perspective. You wouldn’t even consider that. It’s not that you’re stupid or anything; it’s just not your natural mindset. Myself – I watch my back wherever I go.”
$w1fT takes off his big black gloves and messes with a silver button on his leather jacket. “Any of those sharks in that tank, in that town, if they were in my shoes, coming up here with you …” he chuckles, shaking his head. “I don’t even want to fuckin’ think about the ride back down. Some people – it’s disgusting – but they treat everything the same. Like trash. They’d be like ‘Oh! Look at this opportunity to roll up to fuckin’ Lookout, with a naïve chick, in an unfamiliar-in-our-circle vehicle that we could ride back down, and no one’s even gonna look. And if they were to do something to you, you wouldn’t be able to really do anything about it – it would just be like, you know, you better fuckin’ keep your mouth shut, kinda shit. And it’s real shit. They get off on fuckin’ making other people’s lives bad because their lives are worse. It’s a harsh reality.”
I am quiet, recognizing how differently this innocuous car chat could have gone. Could still go.
$w1fT continues. “I mean, I myself have been in situations that just started out like, oh I’m just gonna hang out with ‘Nancy’ and ‘Jim’ like I always do because they’re my friends. And then the only difference is their friends are there this time. And their friends got them high. And you are the payment. Just like that.”
I learn a lot about $w1fT over the next few hours.
He was one of those dudes you saw smoking cigarettes behind school before class.
In fifth grade.
He always sleeps with his boots on. “I feel safer in my boots knowing that I’m prepared.” The last time he slept barefoot was six months ago. (Apparently wearing boots to bed is discouraged in jail).
He tried meth for the first time at age 11.
His uncle gave it to him.
He does meth “pretty much” every day. But doing dope regularly for so many years means he only gets “buzzed” now – never truly high, like in the beginning.
A couple of his buddies got arrested last week for having 6-10 ounces of dope in their car.
“Is that a lot?” I am way out of my depth. I know what 6-10 ounces of liquid looks like; not so much with meth.
$w1fT gives me a quick Meth 101 tutorial. There are 10 points in a gram. Each point is around $20. There are about 28 grams in an ounce.
So, yes: 6-10 ounces is a lot … about $44,000 on the street.
I look down at my phone and see a text from my mom. She shows up on my phone as Nancy Mom, Apple’s combination of her two contact entries: one simply as “Mom” and one as her real name.
Thu, Jan 9, 9:34pm
Kristin, PLEASE let us know when you’re done with the interview. Hope it’s soon. XO
I text her back.
Having good talk. About to get something to eat. All is well. xoxoK
An almost-immediate response.
Going to eat by yourself?
Sigh. I feel like I’m back in high school.
No mom. It’s fine.
We peer up at the blanket of stars, the only light aside from my dashboard. “Red House” begins playing on my iPod.
“Hendrix.” $w1fT nods appreciatively.
“How’d you meet Thomas?” I ask.
“I heard he had a hundred bucks, so I ripped him off. It was like, seven years ago. And then I felt bad about it. And I started comin’ back, and I apologized. And I slowly started just like, here, whatever, whatever, you know. We started playing guitar together.”
“You didn’t give him his hundred dollars back?”
“No. I gave him other stuff back. And that’s what I love about Tom. He’s the type of man that’s easy to take advantage of. As I started hanging out more and more, became more of a friend, I was like, “I can’t let you take advantage of Tom. Tom’s my fuckin’ buddy, man. Through all the chaos and pandemonium, when the dust and the storm settles you can still sit on the damn couch and look at each other like, ‘Well, that does it, don’t it?’”
If I were going to rip someone off, I don’t think I’d hang around afterwards and kick it with the person I just stole from. But $w1fT does. We talk about “lurping,” $w1fT’s term for looting in the dead of night. Urban Dictionary defines it a bit more explicitly: the act of meth addicts looking for anything to sell or trade for meth. Yikes. He’s nabbed Rolex watches, boxes of original Marvel comic books, coin collections. His favorite find was a Doors sticker, autographed by Jim Morrison.
My stomach growls, and I realize we’ve been talking for two hours. “Do you want to grab something to eat?” I ask. $w1fT quickly concurs. Maybe now we’ll visit the scene of the glamourized biker bar and grill of my mind.
“Let’s go to Jack,” $w1fT says.
I see another text from Nancy Mom.
Again, let us know when you are all done.
$w1fT directs me to the restaurant named for the ping-pong-ball-headed character, not the eponymous kitchen of a jovial biker-dude-turned-cook. Sigh.
“I don’t know what I feel comfortable with …” $w1fT confesses, apparently struggling with how much information to share with me. “It’s like if you had a Powerpuff Girl and you brought ‘em to an Ozzy Osbourne concert. You’d be like, ‘Uh, there might be a lot of profanity, and I don’t like that. Because Powerpuff Girls don’t need to be around profanity.’”
I am the Powerpuff Girl. I am equal parts charmed and annoyed.
“Do you have a gun on you?” I ask, glancing at the messenger bag in the backseat.
He contemplates his response for a while, making me think that there is a firearm in my backseat for sure. “Guns are for one thing and anything that you carry, the way it turns out is you’ll end up in a situation where you have to use it. And I would rather not have it and need it, because who knows, maybe if I did have it, I’d think it was my time and my right to take somebody’s life. I’d rather my life be taken than put my life in the place of God’s, you know?”
He messes with the buttons on his jacket. “I got homies. I don’t need to have no guns on me. I feel like it’s more proper. You’re going out and spending some time with a lady from out of town – you can’t be weighing yourself down with an instrument in your pocket.”
I smile. “That’s so kind of you. Thank you.”
$w1fT has two young children, a boy and girl. I ask him what he wants for them.
“I want them to grow up and make their own choices. And to see and understand and live and learn – make their own ‘this is what I think about that,’ rather than how I was [brought up, which was]: ‘this is how you’re supposed to feel.’ I want them to have the most they can, with the least time without. I just want them to be happy being themselves.
“Maybe if they cured cancer, that might be kind of cool. Although it’d be like after cancer is too far along with me, so it’d be ironic. That’s like my life right there. It’s like, ‘Did you hear they totally legalized marijuana?’ Really? After I have emphysema and a hole in my throat so I can never smoke again?”
The dining room at Jack in the Box is closed as of 9pm, so we hit the drive-through. We head back to Thomas’s and park next door, eating our cheeseburgers in the car. It turns out that $w1fT was not crashing on Thomas’s couch. He actually lives next door to 923 Oak. It’s past ten o’clock at night, and we’re having a lengthy discussion about whether or not I should go inside. He’s enthusiastic; I am hesitant. I’m not sure that I will be back, and I’d really like to see what a biker gang/drug dealer’s abode looks like. But’s it’s late.
The more we discuss it, the more comfortable I feel. I’ll pop in and leave. But $w1fT starts to have second thoughts. Apparently it would be unwise for a blonde to be walking into his house late at night. The hills have eyes.
We say our goodbyes and promise to keep in touch. He closes the car door and disappears into the darkness of another neighborhood with no streetlights.
There is a sweetness about $w1fT, hiding deep under his leather and metal armor. He refers to his wife as “Tink,” short for Tinkerbell. (Actually, he uses the charming term “old lady” instead of wife, biker slang I recognized from No Angel, the true story of an undercover FBI agent who infiltrated a Hell’s Angel chapter, also in Arizona). He carries around a stuffed cat, dressed in miniature biker gear that he made himself. $w1fT is intelligent, well spoken and funny.
He had a simple answer to my question of what he wanted his legacy to be.
“To leave more smiles than frowns.”
I text my mom.
Heading home now. See you in the morning.
A few weeks later, I got this email from $w1fT. Which is apparently what he calls his bike as well.
Date: 1.28.14 2:48 pm
Hey thought you might like this. I took it about an our before i wrecked my bike the other day. Was up there on swift with my cat and couldnt help but think of you. Hope all is well.