I am sitting in my ex-roommate's living room. The television casts the only light in the room. It dances on the coffee table and upon our faces; a dull placid light from some meaningless rerun on Nick at Nite. Sharon gets up from the sofa, murmuring something about popcorn and her 'stupid' boyfriend, Tony. They've been together for 4 weeks now, that's why she's my ex-roommate, and in a nutshell: I don't like him. Not because he took my roommate away -she still pays for her room there- and not because he greases back his hair with half a jar of Brylcreem everyday I don't like Tony because he's scum. He's the kind of scum you tend to pull up your coat to avoid their stares penetrating the back of your neck as you walk past them on the street. The kind of scum who has a girlfriend in every corner of the city. The kind of scum you wouldn't dream of taking home to mother -even as a joke.
The smell of popcorn fills the air. Sharon returns to the sofa with a bowl of popcorn, a 2 liter bottle of Coke and a bag of Cheetos. Sharon has the munchies. That's another reason I don't like Tony. Sharon claims it helps her relax and concentrate, and I've warned Sharon about doing anything else but weed. As a friend, I can do nothing else. Who am I to tell her what to do?
It's 3 A.M. I awake stretched out on Sharon's sofa, Nick at Nite casting a soft glow upon me. I notice Tony's keys on the coffee table. The thought of triggering off his car alarm spreads a grin upon my face for a few seconds before I decide I should just go home. I have no interest in being awoken by Tony's presence in the morning.
A gather up my knapsack, keys, and turn off the television before I leave Sharon's apartment. The drive home is quiet. It's amazing how many people are on the road at this time of the morning, but then for some, I guess it's so peaceful compared to rush hour traffic, they have to get up to make it to work on time.
Los Angeles is such a drag sometimes. It's nothing like Minnesota, but if I wanted Minnesota I would have stayed there. If I had wanted small town rural life, I would never have applied to CalState LA. As it is, I'm in community college just to be able to get in. Just have to keep it together and I can transfer, with partial scholarship into their Criminal Justice program - yeah, I know everyone's into it now, but CSI is a great program and it just seems like something I would be good at. Besides, it's better than what Tony's doing.
Back in my apartment, I realize I have 6 hours before class so I ignore the blinking answering machine; pay little attention to the cat and crawl into bed. Eight hours later, I realize I had forgotten to set the alarm.
A manage to make it in time for my Sociology class - 101 and highly basic stuff. Still, attendance counts towards the grade, and I need a good record of attendance to transfer. Brian, a 'second year freshman' is also in my English Lit. class and I manage to get the scope of what I missed in between his conversation to his girlfriend on his mobile phone and his throwing paper-balls at another guy a few rows away. He suddenly realizes (and reminds me) that we have to give a brief speech today on a member of the community. Brian slips out of class before Mr. Bernstein steps in.
I take out my notebook from my knapsack. It takes a moment to register that it's not my notebook: names, phone numbers, dates and weights are listed where my speech on the Librarian's volunteer work should otherwise be looking up at me. I scramble through the rest of my knapsack looking for anything that belongs to me.
Ah, here's something... no... it's a... what is it?
It's a cigar box.
A look inside. I'm confused. They're little bundles. Foil bundles
Suddenly I realize. This is Tony's knapsack! I have no choice. I have to get out of here. Lord knows what I've got in my possession, and Lord knows I don't want to be arrested for it. Bernstein isn't watching, so I manage to slip out the same way Brian did.
There is no answer for at least ten minutes from my repeated banging on Sharon's door. Then, Tony opens it. His eyes are wide as if he was expecting someone else, then he sees his knapsack in my hands and he grabs my arm, pulling me into the apartment sharply. He grabs at the knapsack, but I pull it out of his reach. "I've been trying to reach you for hours!" "Yeah, well I've had class! What the hell is this, Tony? You better not have Sharon messed up on whatever this stuff is!"
Tony stares at me. Have I mentioned, I think he is scum? "So you nosed into my stuff, the?" "I thought it was mine! You better not have Sharon involved, Tony!"
For your information, she doesn't know." He grabs the bag, pulling out the cigar box and examining its contents.
It's all there. I want nothing to do with whatever you're involved in." I inch my way backwards towards the door. Tony notices and blocks my path. "Oh no you don't" he says, "you've got me in a ***** load of trouble. You'll have to fix it."
You can't make me do anything. You got into trouble by yourself. You're nothing but trouble."
Oh no," he smirks aggressively, "you see this?" He holds up a foil bundle "This is black tar heroin. Its purity range from 20 to 80% (Narconon, 2003) making it a highly valuable commodity. This is A-grade Mexican, baby. Los Angeles is the hub (Narconon, 2003) and people pay big money for this *****." knew this already. They joys of my 'Introduction to Criminal Justice' class. I also knew Mexican heroin distribution networks in the United States are managed almost entirely by criminal organizations operating from Mexico and by Mexican-American criminal gangs that are in charge of the street-level distribution of heroin (Narconon, 2003). I was afraid of what Tony was involved in - not for his safety, but Sharon's. And now mine.
Now, I was supposed to have this stuff ready for this guy to pick up this morning. But you had it. So now you have to deliver it." stared at Tony. "Are you nuts? If you think I'll do anything for you, ever, let alone deliver drugs, you're..."
Tony glares, interrupting me, "I'm in charge! You're gonna deliver this, or I'll fix up a nice little cocktail for Sharon. Yeah - a little of this stuff would do her right..."
In 2000, approximately 1.2% of the population reported heroin use at least once in their lifetime (Survey, 2000) and I knew a lot of people who had already tried in it in High School. There's not much to do in rural Minnesota. I knew it was addictive. In 2001, drug arrests had fallen from 4,339 in 2000 to 3,651 (DEA, 2003) at least there was that chance I wouldn't get caught. I couldn't believe I was considering what Tony was proposing. Proposing? More like threatening.
Where do you want me to take it?"
Tony smiles. Pauses. Then says, "Chinatown."
Chinatown? No way!" But I know I have no alternative. I know one thing's for sure: Sharon is dumping this creep the minute I get back.
Ethnic Chinese and Thai groups, such as the United Bamboo Triad and the Four Seas Triad, two large Taiwanese groups based in California, reportedly control a large segment of the wholesale distribution of heroin from the Golden Triangle (Cooper, 2000). They also don't like anyone stepping in on their turf, and as I enter the main street, and smell all the wonderful smells of Chinese cooking and spices, I begin to feel very sick to my stomach. What have I got myself into?
I remember images of the recent drug bust of a heroin ring that had based itself out of Mexico. People in handcuffs. Large quantities of drugs stacked on desks. Surely someone was filling in the void, and although Chinese gangs have long been involved in street sales of heroin in the United State, they tend to buy the drug from Mafia wholesalers (Cooper, 2000).
A made my way slowly through the crowd, trying not to look suspicious. Something I suppose isn't as easy as it looks when you stand out like a sore thumb. I have to look for a red banner near a green door. Red banners fly everywhere. I make a point to learn more about Chinese customs as I…