"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' 7 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.
My name is Eddie Wilkins. I’m an Orange County boy. So Cal pride through and through. I live for three things, me myself and I. No seriously, I live for three things, my Harley, heroin and insanity. I am a lost boy and I am on the run. I am on the run from the law, from the past, from myself and from God. This is my story.
I can tell by the whimsical melody of the birds on the fence out back that it’s going to be a beautiful morning. It’s not quite light yet, but the purple of sunrise is starting to creep down the wall across the room. I lay there for a moment putting together what happened last night. Or what didn’t happen last night.
This was one crazy neighborhood full of bikers, dopers, and guys either just getting out or getting ready to go back to the pen. Their old ladies would run for them the whole time they were down and then parole day would finally come. The gate money would go in the arm and the crime would commence, continuing until the cuffs went on again. My kind of people, my kind of life, and a perfect neighborhood for Blue and me to hide out.
Last night was a quiet night on Polk Street. Just getting the bikes ready for the run this morning. I don’t even think I heard Paul and Debbie beating the snot out of each other in the trailer park across the street. He would come back from picking up dope in North Sacramento and she would accuse him of slamming at the connection’s pad. He’d swear he didn’t and it would begin.
Sort of made me glad Blue and I were in Sacramento runnin’ amok and our old ladies were in O.C. wondering where we had been for the past month.
It started with a call we got from a brother needing some help. Pick up a snitch when she came out of the dope man’s house and take her out to the desert so she wouldn’t show up in court. We waited in the Caddie for her to come out. She had gone in at about midnight and it was two. She must really be earning that fix.
Blue and I made good partners and we could wait all night. Rolling Stones playing and we’re tucked down deep in the seats.
“Wanna do a shot?”
“Oh yeah, indeed I do.”
Out comes the little case, precious to behold. We tried to always carry the little case with its dozen prepared rigs all ready to go. Half were just heroin alone and half were heroin and speed. I needed heroin like everyone else needed air. The speed by itself would make me into a tweaking freak, seeing cops in the trees, hearing things and having little people make mischief in the back seat of whatever I’d stolen to drive. However two twenty- five dollar balloons of Mexican heroin added to the speed put me in a perfect place, or so it seemed to me. The heroin kind of defined the insanity, sort of gave
the unreal plausibility. It just put a nice cozy blanket of caramel over all of it. It kept me a little more in reality and it drove off the paranoia.
For twenty-three years heroin was my mother’s milk. Without it I just wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. I felt like I had on socks that were too tight, with one heel creeping down under my foot. She was coming out of the house. I pulled the little hammerless 38 from the small of my back, slipped out of the car and walked down the alley.
“Hey girl what’s up?”
“Oh, hey, I know you.”
“You’re gonna wish you didn’t.”
Blue pulls up in the Cadillac.
“Time for a trip dear. Get in the back.”
She just shrugged and got in. I slipped in behind her.
Dope fiends are a strange lot. We always know that any given midnight might be our last and yet there’s this irresistible recklessness and obsession that drives us out into the darkest places, the darkest behavior, the darkest lives. It’s like when you flush the toilet and the water starts spiraling real slow. It speeds up as it goes down until at the end it’s flying out of the bowl and down the drain. You can grab an accidentally dropped bag of dope out of the toilet if you catch it at the beginning of the spiraling flow.
After that you’re done in.
A smart dope fiend puts the lid down before the dope comes out of his pocket. Plug the sink drain too, especially if it’s the last you have, that stuff
always jumps. Anyway, that’s what our lives are like. At first a slow spiral of comfort and numbness, just cruising along, maybe feeling okay for the first time in your life. It
later becomes that spiraling torrent. It’s a torrent of incredibly grotesque events compounded daily like interest, that seems impossible to get on top of.
We pulled out of the alley and headed towards the 55 freeway. She hadn’t said a word but I could hear wheels turning in her head.
“You messed up girl.”
She didn’t make a peep. I looked at her in the sporadic light of oncoming cars and streetlights. She looked to be a combination of scared, resigned, yet totally still calculating her options.
She had been a pretty little girl. She was somebody’s sweet little bundle once. She had been a kindergartner, then a first grader with banged up knees and cute little grin. She read Charlotte’s Web and later Nancy Drew. She had her little group of elementary school innocents whom she laughed with, marveled with at the irresistible and yet disgusting ways of boys, and had sleepovers with. She was her daddy’s little girl, (maybe his victim, it all starts somewhere). She was her momma’s little helper on cake baking day and then one day something started to go way wrong.
Now she was in the back of a 72 Sedan Deville on the way to the desert to pay for an error in judgment. An error brought on by a few too many hours in a cell without a fix and a promise by some nark to let her go if only she would drop a few dimes and show up in court.
She was loaded on speed and heroin that she had purchased with what was left of her feminine charm. She still looked pretty in an after midnight sick sort of way, but if you
rolled up her sleeves you would see the ruined abscessed arms of the true believer. I thought of the kind of terrible things a woman with as big a habit as hers had to do every day to stay right and it made me angry and sad. My partners accused me of having a “Captain save a Ho” mentality. That’s why I could never afford to slow down long enough to think, it leads to compassion and empathy. Those are two emotions a junky cannot afford. I had my own ape climbing up my back and he demanded at least a few hundred a day. Gotta stay high enough to not see and not feel or the life would plunge you straight into madness. A mammoth paradox iced with the lie that seals your fate. That lie is, “Once a junky, always a junky.”That’s what makes a true believer, a hope to die dope fiend.
The 55 turned into the 91 and then we went north on the 15. We were headed to a spot outside Victorville. Going up the grade that winds up into the high desert the sky had taken on all the eerie and mysterious hues of predawn. It was so beautiful, the reflected light of the moon and stars playing off the towering slabs of granite and huge boulders lining the highway. I could make out the edge of the ridge above with the pines giving it a serrated look. With the windows down the mountain air carried the blended smells of mountains and desert. Evergreens and pines mixed with sage and just a whisper of skunk threading its way into the tapestry.
“Waste your summer prayin’ in vain for a Savior to rise from these streets, well I’m no hero that’s understood, all the redemption I can offer girl is beneath this dirty hood, with a chance to make it good somehow, hey what else can we do now except roll down the window and let the wind blow back your hair, well the night’s bustin’ open these two lanes will take us anywhere.”
The Boss was singing the total contrast to what is happening on that 15 freeway northbound into darkness. I just looked out the window at the moonlight playing off of those mountains and I had to harden my heart to keep from plunging into despair. Keep moving, stay loaded, and stay hard. There were those brief glimpses of God’s creation, His majesty, which set off a kind of alarm in my head. I knew this life was way south of what it was supposed to be. I knew it was a huge departure from what God had intended, for me, for Blue, and for this dirty- legged dope fiend girl next to me.
Finally she asks,
“What are you gonna do man?”
I slapped her hard across the face and her head snapped back. She looked at me and there was a trickle of blood tracing its way from her lip down across her chin. I saw the little girl with her seventh grade yearbook perched on her lap reading the looping scrawl of well wishing pubescent contemporaries with little hearts over the i’s and I died a little.
“Get it together fool.” I told myself, “She was probably a slut and a thief by seventh grade.”
She just looked at me and she had her little jaw set in stone.
“Hey man, could you pull off at the Antelope Highway off ramp and find a spot to slam?”
“You know, the road out to Phelan.”
He was grinning in the rear view and shaking his head. He knew my every thought. He mouthed the words,
“Captain Save a Ho.”,
and we both started cracking up. I slapped her hard three times, grabbed her hair and slammed her head into the back of the front seat. She put her head in her hands and I watched her back heave, she was weeping. At that moment I desperately hated this life I’d made. This is not what the mountains are for. This is not why God created this light, these rocks, and these smells.
“Can’t afford the luxury of caring, gotta pay the freight. Keep telling yourself that crap Eddie.”
Blue pulled into the base of a fire trail behind some scrub and out came the case. I needed to shut my head off. The little committee up there was causing some anxiety. Why does this have to be a girl? Every Louis L’Amour novel I ever read in lock up clearly taught, “Shoot the guys, save the girls.”
Blue went first.
“Straight H for you bro”, he said, “I can see your head is a little crossed up. You need to get a little less poetic and a little more pragmatic.”
We had been running together for 5 years at least and I mean everywhere and every day and we had a good working balance. He knew I was soft in some areas and he needed
that softness to laugh. I needed his ability to overlook emotion and deal with the deal, whatever it took.
I pushed about 2/3 of my load into my arm, pulled it out and handed it to our guest.
“I suppose I could have AIDS but the dope is good and it ain’t gonna matter to you soon anyway.”
She asked if we could turn on the inside light so she could see. I said no but I shined my mini-mag light on her arm. It was heart breaking. I’d seen it all over and over again but sights like that one never failed to dig a huge gouge out of my heart. She pushed that little U100 into what I can best describe as volcanoes of angry abused tissue that went from her wrist to her shoulder. It looked gangrenous.
“Lord what has become of us? We were just little kids once” I thought.
The air in that Caddie got thick with our common plight. I knew the truth. I was nothing but a dead man walking.
We pulled off the highway in Victorville and followed an old wagon trail about 10 miles out in the desert. Blue stopped the car and I told her to get out. I knocked her to the ground and drove her face into the sand and I could see little broken sticks cutting her cheek. It was so strange to me. She was so compliant. She almost seemed relieved. She knew she was going to die. She just lay there almost as if to say,
“Finally, at last, rest.”
We had all embarked on this journey willingly. Not this little trip to the desert on this particular night, but rather this journey into the dark world of drugs and crime. As I looked at this broken creature lying on the ground at my feet I realized she was tired. She was tired of being an outcast, tired of being an enigma. All of us romance the idea that our lives are somehow unique so there’s a sick pride in being a junkie.
Still again, every time you go into a store and you know everyone else is there to buy and you’re there to steal, there’s an outside-looking-in feeling and you know you’re living in the depth of moral depravity. I wanted to lie down next to her and have someone else shoot us both in the back of the head. Give us some kind of sweet release. There wouldn’t be a soul at the funeral. Everybody we knew would be too busy trying to scam a fix.
I’m torn between feeling lost and broken, despising this life, and a resignation that comes from the knowledge that I can’t change a thing. I’m completely insane, living in a capsule of rotting humanity at its worst and the only relief is another shot. It’s like being held under water and struggling to reach the surface--the surface is heroin.
I held the muzzle of that 38 to the back of her head. I thought of that toilet-flushing thing. I knew that in a couple of seconds that slow spiraling was going to become a torrent I could not control. I stood up, ground her face into the dirt with my boot, kicked her half heartedly in the ribs a couple of times and busted two caps into the dirt next to her head. I knew when I said it that it was an exercise in futility.
“Don’t come back to the O.C. And for sure stay out of that courtroom.”
I got back in the Caddie and Blue hit the gas. He was grinning.
“Don’t say it.”
“I won’t Captain.”
We started laughing.
I thought briefly about the events of the last few hours and I said to Blue,
“They shoulda called somebody else.”
“Nah. They called the right guys.”
“Yeah I guess so.”
The sun was coming up in earnest now and it was gonna be one hot stinking day.
“I hope she has a nice walk.”
“Come on bro she’ll be back at the connection’s pad by dark and we both know it.”
We pulled into the driveway of my house in Costa Mesa about 9 am. My daughter April was in the yard. She was 2. She saw us and yelled,
“Daddy, Uncie Boo, wachoo dooink?” “Yoo waan pancakth?”
“You knew I couldn’t shoot her.”
“Yeah, I know. Let’s eat. I’m starving.”
Two weeks later Blue pulls up in the driveway with a trailer behind the Ranchero loaded with his rollaway, a welder and his shovelhead. Everything is loaded on one side of the trailer so I know wherever he’s going, I’m going with. He comes in the house.
“I just got a call. She’s back and got busted yesterday for under the influence, she’s in the county jail. We gotta head up to Stormy’s in Sac until this works out. The club will be cool with anything we do but I am worried about a kidnapping and assault case.”
As Robin leaves the room she says,
“Don’t forget to say goodbye to your kid.”
We loaded my bike and my tools. I grabbed some clothes, my leathers, my hype kit and a few hundred bucks.
I break out of my memories and see that the purple of sunrise creeping down the wall has given way to a pale yellow and I can hear the hood starting to come alive. I hear that punk dirt merchant Jack next door starting his car to go pick up the morning package for all the retail smack buyers on the block. He’ll cut it twice, re-bag it and sell it to people who trade their food stamps for dope. I’ve been on both sides of that deal. Sometimes, and sometimes even for a long time, you get to be the champ but in time you always, always, always get to be the chump.
The birds are singing like we live in paradise but the ape on my back is already kicking my brains in and letting me know it ain’t paradise until he says so. Blue knocks on the door.
“Wake up bro, it’s time to slam, scarf and scram!”
“Come in. The door’s open.”
Waking up with a heroin habit can go two ways: One, you have a wake up, in which case that first shot of the day is the closest you’ll ever get to the first shot you ever did. If you have a good stash for the morning it doesn’t matter where you are or what is happening, it’s all cool. Or two, you’ve got nothing put away and you’re screwed. You wake up with the Johnes on and anything goes. That’s when a dope fiend gets scandalous. If he’s got a hustle great, if not there goes the T.V. or the stereo, or the kid’s piggy bank. This morning was a good morning. They almost always were for Blue and me; we were a crew. There’s strength in numbers.
When you wake up dope sick, and there’s dope there it’s like Christmas morning at dysfunction junction. Your eyes pop open and you know its waiting. You know how a dog looks when you’ve been gone all day and you come home and he’s starving? You put down the food and he’s all shaking and he’s gotta go to the bathroom so bad but he’s too hungry to leave the food alone. He might dump right there on the floor but he’s gonna keep on eating. Very similar.
The dope goes in the cooker, which as soon as you smell it makes you want to take a dump. You’re quivering inside from anticipation and the smell is making you crazy. You peel back a little bit of a cigarette filter for some cotton, or you pick some off your socks, and you wad it up real small like a BB and you drop it in that spoon. The tip of that point goes right in the middle of that cotton and you draw it up. Maybe by now you have lost control of your sphincter but that doesn’t stop you or even slow you down.
You tie off and slip that rig into your best morning vein, pull the plunger back and watch the blood register in the rig. Swirly, swirl, swirl. Maybe right now you might pause to savor the sickness. Your nose is running like a faucet, your legs feel like they’re being stretched on the rack. Your spine is screaming at you, “Push it in, push it in!” You feel like sneezing, gagging, and puking all at the same time. Yeah, I used to wait like that for up to a full minute sometimes. That minute of mini-hell, of a yearning so powerful you’re totally incapable of denying it, an obsession so overpowering that you’ll sell your rotten soul to make this push--and you do. You push.
I would push it firm and fast and within 3 seconds the wave of warmth and relief would cascade over me like hot honey. Sometimes I would wonder if this one was the one that would kill me. Sometimes I would hope so. I knew that I’d sold out my whole life to the king slave driver, this malevolent demon of demoralization that had a death grip on me 24 hours a day. Once I was loaded I didn’t care. It’s all right as rain for the next four hours.