Mission: Ronin


Albion Alley in the Mission District

I looked up from my phone with that scientifically-inexplicable feeling you get when someone is laying their focus on you. There was a lady standing about 5 feet diagonal from me in the direction of Mission Street.

Now, I feel it’s pretty rude to assume someone is a prostitute. So I’m just going to say this person was dressed like a prostitute (early Halloween costume, perhaps?). She was wearing a black vest without a shirt or bra on, booty-shorts, and fishnet stockings. She wasn’t actually looking at me. Her gaze crossed about a foot in front of my face, then zoomed off into the distance. I looked back down to my phone.

The lady shuffled sideways towards me while keeping her head pointed towards the same spot in the distance, so it kinda slowly swiveled as she moved over until she was standing a foot and a half in front of me with her head turned at a 90 degree angle. She stood that way for way too long.

“Gotta smoke?” she asked in a rough tenor, wrinkling her forehead while still looking away. I felt like if I responded with the right code, she would reveal where Edward Snowden was hiding.

“Nah…I mean, this is a spliff.” I raised the smokable.

She raised her fingers to silently accept the non-offer.

I hit it a couple more times until it was a roach and then handed it to her. She started to inhale it like crack.

“Hey, so how ya doin?” I fished.


I was trying to find the nearest grocery store. I decided to go fishing again.

“Is there a grocery store around here?”

She shook her head no. While I was looking away, she had clandestinely turned her head, so now her forehead was wrinkled at something 90 degrees in the other direction.


I had paid 5.87 for the weed in the spliff. The first 87 cents was given as a voluntary donation.

My father once told me that people are more likely to give money to people who seem to need it less. They are more likely to give 5 dollars to the guy in a suit in a train station who has misplaced his credit card than to the emaciated homeless man outside it.

The guy who asked me for a dollar on Mission Street didn’t look like an ancient, emaciated, mentally-ill crackhead, so I gave him the 87 cents in my pocket. He was white, fat, about my age and was dressed kinda like me. As I was handing him the change, I DID see he wasn’t wearing shoes—just street-blackened socks.

I have problems with keys. As these problems were manifesting themselves upon my sister’s security gate I heard a bellow from down the sidewalk.


It was the guy who was dressed kinda like me, screaming at a couple of homeless dudes laid out on towels.


…and he brandished the bike.


The homeless dudes backed off by cowering down farther into their towels, and the guy continued up the sidewalk. He passed behind me as I was continuing to address my key issues, then took a seat about twenty feet up the sidewalk and started packing a bowl out of a large jar of shake.

I hadn’t smoked weed since leaving New York three-and-a-half weeks ago.

“Hey! Hey, could give you like, a dollar for a hit?”

The guy seemed frustrated. He took a can of Four Loko out of his black backpack and measured some into a small bottle.

“Well…well…” He slammed the bottle back.

“It’s totally cool if it’s not cool,” I said, stepping towards him.

“Welll, it’d be cooler if you wanted to buy a five-bag…”

“Um, hm. Yeah…sure.”


16th Street & Mission

“Five bag, or even a ten-bag…”

“I’ll buy a nick. Can I see it first?”

He lugged out the jar.

“It’s good…I mean, it’s not the best stuff in the world or anything,” he admitted

It wasn’t. Beasters. In New York, five dollars should fetch a little less than a half gram, but he pinched more than a gram into his paw before fishing in his backpack for cellophane to package it. I had explained that I hadn’t smoked for a while, and thanked him for the heavy bag.

“Well, you seem like a nice guy, and you said you hadn’t smoked for a while and all,” he responded while measuring out another small bottle of Four Loko. “That’s my tent on my bike over there. Five dollars might not mean a lot to a lot of people, but to me….”

“Hey, why are you pouring the Four Loko into the bottle?”

“Oh. Well,” he turned the bottle around and I saw a pharmaceutical label. “I have to pour something into it to get all the methadoney-goodness out of it.”


“Yeah, I only slept for like an hour last night, so I’m pretty irate.”

“I SAW!”

“Oh yeah.” The guy grinned. “Y’know, those guys are always talkin to me, and I’ve told them over and over again not to, and they just won’t…fuckin listen.”

“I guess certain like, crackheads just don’t take in that much.” It was out of my mouth before I realized this could be interpreted as being insulting to the junkie.

“Nah…I mean, they’re just wet-heads.”


“Just liquor.”

“Well, yeah…that can be the worst of all.”

“But I hadn’t slept practically all night,” he continued, unabated. “I usually go and take my methadone at like 6:30 in the morning,” he laughed. “But I was feeling really irritable at like, nine this morning, and then I realized, ‘whoa…haven’t taken my methadone yet.”

I started to drop the shake into a narrow Bugler paper, fencing it against the wind and roving government eyes with my crossed legs.

“I haven’t shot up for almost five years now…it’s a lot better than when I was doin it every day before I could legally drink.”

I asked him about Methadone vs. Suboxone and the rigors of being a former junkie.

“The problem with Methadone is it really gets into your body…it gets into the cells of your muscles and your organs and your bones.”

“So how long do you hafta go through withdrawal when you’re getting off Methadone?”

“Shit dude, you’d be sick for months, with the amount I’m taking, yeah, months. The heroin on the West Coast is so shitty that goin to my dad’s place up in the woods for three days would let me kick the habit, come down all…bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.”

“Shit,” I responded. “Shit…they really need to come up with a better drug to get people off smack.”

“Yeah, well that’s Zyboxin…I mean, Methadone allows me to do my thing and just live my life.” He quickly glanced up to see if his bike was still there.

The guy was really into Japanese culture.

“Here’s my plan…a guy I know lived in Japan for a while, HE said that the people over there…really good weed, like, really heady stuff, goes for 120 dollars a gram.”

“That’s ridiculous. I mean, East Coast prices are a lot higher than out here, but that’s in-sane.”

“So,” he continued, hurdling over the impediment of my comment, “my plan is to go over there, rent out a warehouse, an’ start a traditional Cali grow operation…make bank. Probably gonna hafta have a li’l meeting with the Yakuza at some point.”

“Yeah…they might get kinda pissed.”

He slowly nodded his head.

“I’ll deal with it when the time comes.”

He delved into Samurai culture then. It was a deep dive, and my joint was finished. I was looking for a way out.

“I gotta go…what’s your name?”


“Oh, like the…like the…”

“The masters of the Samurai, yes.”


I finally extracted myself, resolved my key issues and let myself inside.

I had prepared myself  lunch by a dipping peanut butter granola bar into a Nutella jar when I heard a bellow outside.


I stuck my head to the window.

Ronin was standing outside, looking up. He looked to the left, to the right, then held out five fingers and made the dinero sign I had seen before. I had forgotten to pay.

I made the I’m so sorry I forgot sign back to him and skipped back down.

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