My exodus occurred after years wandering the wilderness of my hometown. For bread to live, for bread to leave, I worked a part-time gig at the Oregonian’s downtown insert facility, stacking pallet after pallet of inky-ass newspapers. The day in question, I got a phone call from someone who, for love (and maybe his liberty), I’ll call Brother A. Brother A rang me to plead a ride to his apartment in the burbs; he had to sweep for dope after his dope-dealing roommate—a dude who’d already done a nickel in the pen on a drug charge (which, by the way, is no judgment, just context)—had got knocked by the feds. Brother A explained he needed the ride because his main squeeze had wrecked his Jeep, and he couldn’t think of anyone more fitting than me—of all people on God’s verdant earth, me—to be the one to shuttle him.
Heeeeeelllll no! That should have been my answer. But that was not my answer. My answer tugged me out of my job at the end of my shift and into the forest-green Lexus I’d bought in the bygone, unblessed days when I sold more than weed. It sent me to swoop Brother A from someplace close and hit Highway 26 with most dubious sense.
Guessing now is as good a time as ever to mention that this was the age during which I may have been selling weed—twenty sacks, eighths, half and whole zips, and, in the most blessed of times, half and whole pounds. Selling chronic, stacking newspapers, and throwing parties, because evermore this brother, a brother, every brother should diversify his hustle. No mights or maybes to that.
Memories from that age, hypothetical and otherwise, seldom feature date stamps, but I can assure you this incident occurred in May 2002 ad, which I know for truth because one of my homeboys and me had just thrown a well-attended Memorial Day shindig, and between my cut of the door and profits from the weed I may or may not have been selling, I had a knot of bills in my inky work jeans—which accounts for why I was feeling at least extra medium about myself. Brother A and I traded lightweight banter en route, and before I knew it, we’d reached his apartment complex, grounds of such expanse that there was plenty of time between the moment I pulled into the lot and when I found a place to park my tree-colored chariot for my pulse to cease. Can’t speak for Brother A, but I had visions of police swarming us from bushes and vans, seizing discomfited me, slamming my cheek against unforgiving asphalt, and kablowing! on cuffs.
We did not—word to Yahweh—get ambushed as I set a wary foot out of my ride. We hustled past a passel of blithe youngsters and mounted a flight and a flight and a flight of stairs and stood at his apartment door (my heart athunder) and asked each other again if we should enter, which, inhale, of course we did.
Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.
No one was inside. Good sense says I should’ve left Brother A to brave his fate alone, but instead I sat on the living room couch while he proceeded to sweep his roommate’s room and the hall closets and every place else he could think to look. He didn’t find any meth, but he did find cooking supplies and utensils, which he took straight to the kitchen to scrub and scour. Meanwhile, I sat on the couch doing my best impression of ecclesiastical calm.
“Man, I can’t believe we was so spooked,” I said.
“Yeah, we silly,” he said. “Like the police worried about us.”
He paused and motioned at me. “Shit, I almost forgot. Come check this out.” This is when Brother A led me to his bedroom, pulled a pound of weed from a stash spot, and flaunted a sample. “This some killer,” he said. “Smell it.” What may or may not have happened next now seems like an act of intercession, bestowed on me by my great-grandmama or some other churchgoing kin. That act, amen, was using my shirt to grab the plastic bag and inspect a few fluffy, sticky, fragrant stems. I put the weed back, mentioned how fast it would sell, and may or may not have asked him if he could cop some for me.