$w1fT leads me up a small hill behind the house. My shiny nude patent heels leave little puncture marks in the soft ground – a city-girl version of Hansel & Gretel’s crumb trail. Mental note to self: more appropriate footwear for future 923 visits.
Over the past two hours, as I was getting to know Thomas, the resident of 923 Oak in Arizona, his buddy $w1fT was sitting silently on the sofa, looking distracted but clearly listening to every word. As I’m packing up to leave, he stands up, stretches his long leather-chapped legs and looks me in the eye for the first time since the interrogation outside the house. “Come up to this cool spot and let me show you the view.”
$w1fT, the name he requested I use for him, was intent on ruling out the possibility that The 923 Oak Project was an elaborate front for a covert drug-bust operation before allowing me inside.
Kinda love that I was considered a possible undercover agent.
He stands at the edge of the clearing where the ground drops to mobile homes below, his back to me, staring out at the foothills in the late afternoon light. He starts talking and doesn’t stop.
I feel a tinge of guilt. I am blessed. I’ve led a “charmed life,” in the words of my mother. I remember her telling me years ago that shortly after I was born, I won $500 in a church raffle. (My dad bought an entry for himself, mom and me.) I think about that from time to time. I feel pretty lucky: Good health, great family & friends. Got a great education at a private university, for which my parents footed the bill. Decided to move to the west coast a few years later, and scored two job offers in San Francisco. Just a few weeks ago, I found out that my tax refund was double last year’s – fantastic news in my current unemployed state. There are a thousand examples. I’m pretty driven and I’ve worked hard, but in the grand scheme of things, life has come pretty easy to me.
Knock on wood.
“I was born into a life of crime. My father, my grandfather, my uncle ….” $w1fT trails off and turns around to look at me. “I’ve seen some CRAZY shit.”
$w1fT is a high-ranking official of a prominent local motorcycle gang, which apparently runs in the family. He was recently released from prison. Apparently that runs in the family, too.
He tells me a story about his first day in “the yard,” and how he’d planned to wear contacts instead of his usual glasses once he got to prison. Less fuss, I guess. But on his first day there, the contacts irritated his eyes and made them red, which made it look like he’d been crying. (Not the image one would want to project on his first day – or any day – in prison.) Because of his professional standing, another inmate approached him and offered him his sunglasses to hide his eyes. $w1fT was a celebrity of sorts – at least a respected entity, among those in the know.
I can’t begin to fathom how different our backgrounds must have been. I wonder how someone would react, happening upon this odd couple in the clearing: the leather-and-metal-clad biker dude and the blonde yuppie trying to balance her weight on her toes so her heels won’t sink into the ground.
Thomas was an interesting character – as was Ian– but $w1fT has some stories.
And he’s game to share them with me.
I’m certain this is not the last I’ll see of $w1fT.