The Kid, 2017 California Farm
The human mind is a wonderful and occasionally terrible thing. It is the spice that adds kick to memories, joy to moments and pain to loss. And The Kid, as we will anonymously call him, was perhaps the fieriest of us all. His year revolved around the use of psychotropics and meeting his future cheetah wife at any number of the dozens of festivals he attends. Yes, you read that right - cheetah wife - so dubbed by the lurid amount of cheetah print clothing (if it can be described as such) he and his one true love donned at shambalah. The Kid could be depended on for a relentless barrage of inane sound bites and music festival stories that inevitably contained the line “It was like, so wild, like, you don’t even know, we got fuckin’ squirrelly mate.”
Gifted with a blissful and nearly total lack of empathy, The Kid never could seem to understand how any other person couldn’t be ecstatic at the opportunity to bask in glorious weed shrapnel all day, everyday. He had a wonderful ability to zone so far out of all reality that trimming itty bitty buds for 16 hours a pop was no longer hellish. He was the little brother of the farm and we loved him for it.
It’s a shame I’ve had to keep these identities under wraps. The very names of my co-farmers tell certain stories on their own. I knew Hawaiians who have done time on the streets and in the prisons of the deep south, a quick tongued Idahoan who left her heroine needles behind in New Mexico, Canadians who traveled south for the quick cash. One lanky Van City ex dealer blew in and out of the farm, rolling down the hill in a range rover and red dust, bringing garbled stories from LA and better times in Vancouver City. Erik had a frayed look to him, a well cut suit that had simply been worn a few too many times, now tired and limp. I remember the first time I met Erik, he sized me up from across the buzzing trim pro machine. People in the area respected him. They forgave his tendency for disappearing when there were plants to be harvested but none to be trimmed, his severe lack of patience that inevitably resulted in fits of rage and threats of violence. He was dangerously delicate in a way that wasn’t immediately obvious.
He knew of me, as most people did by then. I’d left my dog and jeep with John and disappeared to Alaska. There was some talk on who I was. To Erik, I became the perfect girl, the gift from an unholy universe that would end his terrible LA suffering. Of course, this was complete trash - sure, I’d take the compliments and attention and even saw how before the drugs, before his brain stopped firing quite right not so long ago, Erik would have been a wildly interesting object. On that first day Erik arrived at the farm I was set on the highest of relative pedestals. I was not LA. LA was meth and dead dreams and a girl Will loved who was a star in a horror film 15 years ago. I was Alaska and the quiet air of the farm in the foothills.
People began to notice the one sided infatuation. I tried to play it down, play it cool. His mind was beyond repair, broken by months spent snorting and cooking crockpot crack in a trailer, dealing up and down the west coast and a pathetically unrelenting desire to prove himself. He’d get drunk on weed somehow, slurring his thoughts and words into a confused soup that only he knew. I’m painting a picture of someone to be pitied, a helpless soul, but it was not the case. He demanded respect from the Canadians he’d brought to the farm over the years, from the Hawaiians he’d helped out on the Big Island. I found that if you scraped back a layer or five of the vapid bullshit you found a powerful manipulator, a young man who ran the drugs and humans of Campbell River in his harder, faster days. In this 31 year old boy I’m reminded of an elderly man who hasn’t forgotten his younger prowess but no longer quite knows how to wield it.
On a tired morning that wasn’t so unlike the others, we had all just shaken out our first handfuls of bud to be trimmed. It was late in the season and we had been clipping invisible crows feet from green rocks for nearly a month. Sixteen hours a day of tiresome brain-melt. In true fashion, Erik had appeared unannounced over night, driving the seven hours straight from LA following a traffic stop with police who missed the ten grand he had stuffed in his wheel wells. Just another cold morning, just a few of us remained now. It was quiet and we were spent. The Kid was in his chair, next to him a horribly good natured Canadian, Garrett. The slow voiced farm hand Rick had his head in the door, discussing pounds and prices with Garrett, planning for a run to LA the following week. It’s important to note that these pounds were from Rick’s personal grow, his to choose the broker and dealer. Equally crucial points are that Garrett was new to the farm, brought by Erik's word and in his lackadaisical way had not fully respected the painful opportunity to trim. And of course, LA was Erik's territory. Anything to be sold under twenty pounds or so down south was irrefutably Erik's game.
Emerging from his kip on the kitchen floor Erik propped his thinning frame up in the half broken office chair, listening to Garrett and Rick talk. He looked up across the fresh tote of weed at me, shaking his head and started in, refreshing some earlier heated conversation we had had about my life. I’ve forgotten the details now, but it might have had something to do with my tattoos, a bit of me he found astonishing and repulsive; how could I have made something part of me that was so untrue to the preformed image he had created at our first meeting?
Quips like this really shouldn’t have bothered me, but it was that he truly believed I could be tricked into wanting his approval that irked me. He’d shower me in relentless praise before quietly striking me down, be it for the tiny tattoos, the men I had previously dated, my lack of what he deemed “life-experience.” It was an endless, predictable and tiresome cycle.
On that morning, I had finally reached the tattered end of a patience I thought long spent weeks before. I whipped my words back at him, highlighting his ignorance. I believe that he was so caught by surprise he didn’t fully comprehend my entire message. This is perhaps for the best. And then the wholly unhelpful Garrett plunged in to my aid, shoving his two cents down both of our throats. I slapped away whatever good intentioned reason he’d offered.
“You don’t need to get involved,” I had snarled, “This is our conversation. The two of us.”
This moment is caught in clear memory far more than whatever bullshit Erik had been spouting. I had surprised myself with the quick anger Garrett had drawn out. This dusty farm was no place for gentle kids like him, those that meant too well and naively assumed we all did. He’d retreated back to his corner and trim tray and Erik to the kitchen.
Every verbal explosion of Erik's was prefaced with a serene exhale. We all moved past the tense moment, shaving the leaves from larfy buds, stuffing turkey bags, while Erik simmered and pondered, crawling through whatever angry maze his mind had sprouted until he erupted in certain defense of an argument he hadn’t yet had but expected us to follow nonetheless. Though I know my shock was nothing to Garrett’s, I was taken so aback by Erik's flailing anger at his fellow Canadian as he hammered back into the light of the trim room that my silent confusion was quickly replaced by a rage I couldn’t bare to contain.
Threats of abuse and death and ejection from the farm spilled in cacophonous succession from Erik, his words mechanical, punching lines that had been played on repeat in earlier storms. Garrett, being Garrett, didn’t know well enough to avert his eyes to his tray and scissors as Erik revoked any possibility of him driving pounds to LA. The Kid had been the target of many similar explosions and kept silent, ears and mouth closed and eyes full of weed, making himself smaller than he already was. Garrett ignorantly tried a reasonable defense, a rational tact that had no place there, only serving to prolong, elevate the abuse.
“You don’t even know Rick, you fuck - he could be anyone, he could be anyone and you’re talking this shit like you know him. You don’t even have a place here without me and you think you’re gonna run pounds?! You don’t even have a place here. You think you know me? You don’t know the people I could bring down here, you don’t know what I could make happen.”
And on and on. And on. Of course it wasn’t really about the safety of the farm, it wasn’t entirely about Erik losing out on a deal. It was about the power, the way he felt it oozing between his fingers. The way Garrett had forced himself between Erik and I, jumped to my aid, involved himself such that Erik was attacked, shamed. It was the way I had returned the belittling at long last, shocked him into a confused silence.
A disgust at the people before me, at my role in the promises of violent ends boiled with the endless fatigue, the persistent paranoia that had me constantly at the very edge of civility. I threw screams that bounced off the unhearing brick that was Erik in these moments.
“Are you fucking kidding me? It’s not even 8AM and you do this shit?!”
Erik had grown up the son of a drunk that he loved and a mother he couldn’t quite keep track of. He’d made something of himself the best way that he knew how, crafted alliances with the right people in Van City and Hawaii, sold enough and trimmed enough to buy his Range Rover off the lot with one fat wad of banded cash. It must have been a transaction that meant something at the time, a milestone on the scrabble to a higher class. There was an air of “not quite” about him; he’d found the Holly Wood star, but she was spent and tired from a fall from fame and pumping narcotics. The car, once infinitely new, now was showing the wear of driving north to south and back far too often. A brain and tongue that once commanded a certain respect now failed him on occasion and though he was never average his innocently simple intention of ultimately writing a winning screen play was just the same as so many other LA dreamers. It is when I think of all of this that I pity him and that I understand. I’ve pulled myself up and out but from shallower depths and on a trail fraught with less pain and peril. It is an impossible tragedy to clearly see the failing of a once powerful mind, to see the sheer bewilderment behind the boisterous rage.
Eventually it all ebbed, but the day was spent. Trimming well was at this point in the harvest a mental feat. Our hands knew what to do, but our brains were so abhorrently cooked that consistent snipping at buds took constant prodding and silent encouragement. Any hope at trimming well that day was shot, hours would be wasted in anger. The three or four pounds I’d been pushing in the first few weeks had been diminished to one or two, no matter my earnest determination. A broken knuckle and nearly shattered will to remain in California had me quietly sobbing into my trim tray at uncontrollable times. An uplifting song (specifically, if you must know, Indigo by Trevor Hall) that reminded me that this manic mush of time would end and I would soon be driving away under different skies, would throw me into such a release of unvented emotion that I’d feel unwilled tears track through the kief and dust on my cheeks.
I don’t believe that my experience was completely parallel to the others’. Most had experienced a trim camp before and weren’t plagued by pounding highs that plunged me so far into inescapable paranoia I forgot what it felt like to speak without hesitation, to walk across a room without physically feeling the prod of a dozen pairs of eyes watching my footsteps. I hate to lean on the side of melodrama and I am trying my utmost to parse my words and condense thoughts that might read as overly operatic. At the same time, I’ve been frustrated at my inability to verbalize these feelings and memories. I’ll begin to describe a character or the smell of a stale tote of weed or the way the farm had a terrible way of tearing down any mental barricade I’d ever built myself and then simply be unable to continue, inevitably feeling witless and theatrical. Now, without an audience to entertain, the moments come back to me in quick succession. From the vantage point of text I am beginning to understand why the months following my time at the farm were so unbearable, each day an infuriating struggle to feel anything. I haven’t talked much to the people I trimmed with, but a friend I met with who had spent six months growing for John described it as the worst time of his life.
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