The wind feels nice against my outstretched arm. I hang out the passenger side window as we drive through the desert at a comfortable sixty-five miles per hour. My dad doesn’t like to test legal boundaries, at least not anymore.
We are still an hour or so outside of Phoenix but we’ll get there long before sunset. I’m not worried. The air is hot and dry but the AC in this car broke a long time ago so comfort dictates that the windows stay open despite any threat of dust particles clouding our vision and making us choke. But those prospects don’t concern me a ton.
I may have fallen asleep briefly because I can’t remember approaching the fork in the road. Nevertheless, here we are. There is a decision upon us but unfortunately it’s not mine to make. If it were, I’d veer right and take Arizona Avenue straight on into the city. But it’s not my choice; it’s never been my choice. I’m only the passenger.
Out in the distance off to the right are the long decorative pools that stretch elegantly down the length of Arizona Avenue. I follow them with my eyes as far as the horizon allows. These pools are always such a sight to see; so distinctive yet oddly fascinating to me. I’m drawn to them solely by virtue of their mysterious purpose and I rarely deny that. Their significance has always been unknown to me but I’ve always desired some concrete answers.
I watch the palm trees that line Arizona Avenue sway in staggered unison as a response to the light wind coming up from the south. They are so tall and imposing, casting immense shadows onto the road without regard for common decency or tact. The subtle beauty of this scene would undoubtedly be lost on the odd traveler, but from my vantage point here, its sheer magnetism impresses me on a purely aesthetic level.
We continue on left at the fork. I am not surprised by this choice at all; it’s the way we always go. I suppose it’s a little more direct, less scenic, all business. That’s why my dad likes to take it. It’s the shortest, straightest route to Phoenix and after all, gas has gotten quite pricy. Though I understand his motives generally, I do wish one of these times he would decide to take Arizona Avenue. But I’d never ask him to. It’s not a request I find necessary to make.
He slows down to make a right turn, a turn here we’ve never made before. I note that this street is called Milky Way, which makes me think of galaxies and infinite space. What an interesting turn of events. I feel like we are just doubling back the way we came but I can’t imagine why we would turn back now. We’ve gone way too far. There’s an explanation for this I’m sure but I don’t require one spoken out loud. To be honest, I would like to see how all this unfolds without protests or displays of concern hindering the eventual outcome. I want to see where he intends this to lead.
Up ahead I can tell this street will connect with Arizona Avenue. Milky Way is just an intermediary, a bridge between Arizona Avenue and the Interstate. How about that? I may actually get my longtime wish after all. I may get to drive down Arizona Avenue and see the long pools that have always made me wonder. Some answers may finally be forthcoming.
After he makes a left onto Arizona Avenue, my suspicions are all but confirmed. He has finally decided to take the good route, the route I’ve been silently touting for years, or at least ever since my sister moved out here from California and we’ve been making these journeys to visit her. This time our drive is going to be interesting and informative.
I think my dad is only taking this street so he can stop at the avocado stand, but his motives for the choice aren’t important now. I’m finally going to get the chance to cruise down Arizona Avenue and get a closer look at the long rectangular pools that run parallel to it, the very ones that have intrigued me for years on end. According to my sister, these pools, that from all accounts appear to be ornamental in nature without much function or utility, follow Arizona Avenue all the way in to town. I’m extremely skeptical of that statement but I look forward to finding out nonetheless.
We pull off the side of the road at the first Avocado stand we come to. While my dad goes over to inspect avocados and try to negotiate a deal, I walk over to the edge of the road and look across the street, through the palm trees, and to the pools beyond. Why were these built here, what purpose could they possibly serve, and for whose amusement were they meant to satiate? I imagine someone with fame and money ordered these constructed for some lavish and overly hedonistic reason. But no one I’ve talked to seems to really know. Admittedly, I haven’t conducted a ton of surveys or performed much due diligence on the matter. But I do tend to wonder if there’s a Wikipedia page dedicated to them out there. I’ll have to investigate that later.
I kick some dirt as I stare out toward the pools of water with an appropriate amount of intrigue. They are pretty luscious and massive. I find myself wondering if they can be seen from outer space. I make a note to check on Google Earth later. It’s a good idea; it will probably give me a better idea of their magnitude and territory-span as well.
After perusing the avocado stand for fifteen minutes, my dad finally decides to purchase a bundle of ten Haas avocados for $10. He asserts that it is a pretty good deal and I don’t disagree. We head back to the car. I casually ask him what he thinks of the long, rectangular pools on the other side of the street. He thinks I said tools but after I clear up the misconception, he responds that he has no idea why the pools are there or what their purpose could possibly be. I agree that it’s quite a mystery.
Back in the car, I stare out at the pools in between the spaces in the palm trees that line the road. Unarguably these pools are well kept. Someone or something is keeping them in good repair, not allowing them to succumb to mold scum, algae or dead leaves. Whoever owns this land and these pools must have hired a large crew to add chlorine on a regular basis because they look fresh and clean. I can’t imagine any one person on his or her own could handle the massive responsibility that upkeep like this would require.
The pools finally end and a tall grassy field appears in their wake. It’s a field I never knew existed before. It looks like the perfect place for crop circles and other teenage pranks. From here, Arizona Avenue continues on straight into the heart of Phoenix. But my sister lives on the west part of town so it won’t be too much further now.
She has mentioned the pools in the past, living in such proximity to them and all, though she’s never gone into a tremendous amount of detail. I think in a way she knows I’m fascinated by them but at the same time she doesn’t take it too seriously. Likely she believes it’s just a minor obsession that I indulge to humor myself above all else. She may be right.
We finally pull up to my sister’s place. Our dad declines an invitation to come in for a bite to eat. I guess he only intended to drop me off. It seems like a far way to drive for that sole purpose, but I don’t go out of my way to point that out. We bid goodbye to him as he hops back in the car and heads off for home. I wonder if he will take Arizona Avenue back as well. Now that he has his avocados, I don’t think he will see any sort of reason in it.
My sister tells me that our friend Serena is coming over soon. I nod and follow her back into the house. We eat some chips and salsa while we wait for Serena to arrive. She takes her sweet time. Napoleon Dynamite is on television so we sit down and watch a little as we eat our snacks. I’ve always disliked this movie and today I am no more impressed by it than I was when it was first released. But I don’t complain.
As soon as Serena shows up, we all decide to go to Las Ramblas, a town market of sorts that runs the span of two city blocks. Merchants and vendors set up tents every Tuesday and sell everything from knickknacks to candles to tweed and leather bracelets, to herbs and spices to plants, and even clothing. It’s fun to shop there because you can effectively cut out the greedy middleman and thus reduce the price of the overall good you intend to purchase. We head down there almost every time I come for a visit.
When we arrive downtown at Las Ramblas, I announce that I’m going to purchase some sunglasses if I can find aviators that look good. I’ve needed new sunglasses ever since I accidentally stepped on mine somewhere on a trail near Taos. They’re still somewhat functional and I use them fairly frequently but they tend to slip when I bend down and they sit a little crooked on my face.
At a tent selling red, yellow, and green bracelets, I get beckoned by the vendor into the space behind the curtain. I accept the invitation somewhat reluctantly and follow him back. Serena and my sister continue to peruse the front area, largely unconcerned about my general whereabouts. I wonder if this will end up being a mistake on my part.
In the back, the vendor offers to sell me an eighth of marijuana for $50. I laugh softly, as impressed by ingenuity and frankness as anyone else. But I decline politely. It’s not my general practice to buy drugs from strangers. Usually I require some kind of friendly vouching. But he insists, this time rather surreptitiously, making me somewhat anxious. He brings the price down to $40 in the spirit of negotiation. I’ll admit that I’m tempted but I ultimately refuse. This is just way too suspicious.
I walk back out to the front and catch up with Serena and my sister who have moved on to the next tent. I tell them what happened. They are not surprised, in fact they cite multiple occasions where they were approached and offered similar deals here. The woman behind the counter at this tent overhears our conversation and interjects some information that I in particular find very interesting. She tells us that we can acquire free marijuana in the open fields next to Arizona Avenue if we’re really in the market for that sort of thing. I’m shocked, and I relay that shock back to her. But she confirms the truth of her statement, she swears by it actually.
I tell Serena and my sister that I was just by that area earlier today and I didn’t see anything that vaguely resembled marijuana plants. Of course, I wasn’t really looking for that crop but still I feel like I would have noticed something. If not me, then my father would have noticed and pointed it out to me. He has a particular knack for being able to identify specific species of plants.
My sister rolls her eyes and Serena waves off the woman making the wild marijuana assertions. We move on to the next tent but that woman’s words have really gotten me thinking. If I could acquire a good amount of free marijuana, I could make some serious cashola, an item in very short supply for me right now. But could it be true? Is there really a bunch of weed growing out in those fields, free for the plucking? Even if it turns out to be a bust, I think it’s still worth checking out while I’m in town. I’d hate myself if I found out later it was true and I did nothing to profit from it.
I finally convince Serena and my sister to come out with me to the Arizona Avenue fields to see if we can corroborate that woman’s marijuana story. I entice them with promises of edibles and large amounts of money to be made. They agree we’ll stop by on the way home from the market. I can hardly wait.
After we visit all the tents, some of them twice, my sister decides to buy some feta and dried tomato dip with pita chips. She claims this dip is better than anything you can get at a supermarket. There’s nothing left for us to check out at this market so we decide to take off for the fields. It’s after five but the sun stays up close to forever here, especially in the early summer. So I’m not at all concerned about losing light to search.
We park about a mile away from the fields in a carpool lot that’s always free. There isn’t really a discreet place to pull off the road any closer. We walk the rest of the way to the field in relative silence. My sister is somewhat concerned that there might be authorities guarding the area. I formulate a clever excuse in the event someone finds us searching in the field. We will simply say that an important document flew out of our car and we are just trying to recapture it. That story will give us complete deniability I assure them. They agree and it’s settled.
When we get to the field, both Serena and my sister turn down my idea to split up and look for the marijuana separately. I tell them it will take less time but they are not convinced. They claim that they don’t really know what they are looking for and that it would be smarter for us to all stay together. I roll my eyes but eventually concede; there’s no use arguing over it. So we stay together for the time being.
It’s not long before I spot exactly what we came here for. I walk up to the plant briskly and take a big whiff. I smile wide back at my companions. Serena gives me a somewhat sarcastic “thumbs up” sign. Neither one of them is super impressed now, but they’ll both like the profits to be made later. They’re business-minded to the core and I can respect that.
I start examining the bud. This might be difficult. I’ve had little experience on this end of the transaction, specifically in the cultivating stages. It can’t be too hard though. I break off the bud and place it inside the pocket of my hoodie. Serena calls out to me, asserting that she found another marijuana plant. I walk over to where her voice originated from and find that she is correct. Nice! I pocket the bud off this plant as well.
Then I turn around and instruct both of my companions to start collecting all the bud they can fit into their pockets. We of course didn’t bring anything to carry it in. That was a pretty large lapse in judgment but I don’t think any of us really believed we’d find anything here. It’s nice to be wrong about something like this.
There seems to be a huge amount of marijuana growing in these fields. We’ve only been here ten minutes and I’ve already found five plants. Of course one of them was too young to have any usable bud on it, but still. This is quite remarkable. I’m glad that lady confided in me today. To think, if she hadn’t been eavesdropping on our private conversation, I would never have known about any of this. I’m glad she was present to be nosy.
There must be loads of marijuana here, just growing up toward the sun all around me, completely and wholly ripe for the taking. And I plan to take it. But this seems almost too good to be true in a lot of ways. I mean where are the cultivators with guns to protect their crops? Where are the authorities with warrants to enforce the law? Where are the other pilferers with bags to steal the weed?
The apparent emptiness of this field is starting to make me a little nervous. I’m not really versed in the art of committing theft, so it makes me somewhat wary when things don’t appear to add up. I walk over to my sister and voice my concerns but she brushes me off, claiming that I’m just being paranoid. Maybe she’s right, but then again, maybe she’s wrong. It’s hard to tell right now.
All of a sudden I hear some rustling coming from behind me, the kind of sound you can almost always attribute to boots forcing their way through plant life. Shit! Someone’s coming and they’re coming fast. I look in the direction of the sound just as a lady police officer emerges from behind the tall grass. Fuck!
Teegan run, I yell at my sister, as I push towards her. For some inexplicable reason, I have decided to completely abandon our plan of saying that we lost an important document in the field and we are now innocently searching for it. My sister turns around briefly and I watch her face change as she spots the cop running toward us. Shit, she exclaims loudly as the realization undoubtedly sinks in.
We start running away from the cop and further into the tall grassy field. I look out for Serena as I run, following my sister as she curves in between and around the brush. Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of Serena and I start to wonder if maybe she already got captured. That would be terrible. I’m sure there are more cops where this one came from. They never do anything solo.
Then without warning, Serena appears to my left and she’s running too. I’m glad she was able to get away. We stop for a second in a tiny clearing to gather our composure and formulate a quick plan of escape. Teegan and Serena throw all the marijuana they collected aside but I decide to keep mine where it is, damn the consequences. This is what I came for and I refuse to relinquish it as dismissively as my companions have.
The sound of rustling nearby, forces us to get on the move once again. I pick up some of the bud Serena dropped by the wayside and then I run off after them. But the grass is really tall in this field and I’m having a lot of trouble getting one foot in front of the other. This feels almost like a dream, one where you consistently try to run but you’re feet weigh a thousand pounds and refuse to work properly.
It’s gotten to the point where I can’t run anymore. I slow to a stop and put my hands on my knees. I feel like a failure and I really don’t want to keep running because I’m bad at it. I just don’t want to exert the energy it takes. It seems too hard anyway. But as I feel the cops closing in on me, they seem to have multiplied markedly in mere minutes, I decide that I must try to run again for my survival. I really don’t want to be captured and hauled into jail on drug charges.
When I finally catch up to Serena and my sister, they are crouching down near the edge of the field. We spot a cop driving slowly down Arizona Avenue so we duck further down until he passes by. I tell them that we should cross the street and head back to the car because the cops are still looking for us in the thick of the field. They won’t suspect that we made it all the way over here.
Teegan agrees but for some strange reason, Serena starts to freak out. She thinks we are going to jail and she begins to have a panic attack as a result. We try to calm her down but to no avail. She gets up and runs away from us and in the direction of the cops. What are you doing, I yell after her but she doesn’t stop. Teegan and I both look at each other in horror, neither of us knowing why Serena has all of a sudden lost it.
I tell Teegan that Serena will draw attention to us and alert the cops to our presence. We decide to run in the opposite direction, essentially agreeing to give Serena up to the authorities. I feel bad about it, but in the end it was her decision to run away and freak out. I don’t know why she did it. I mean even if we were caught, the worst thing that could happen is a ticket with a court date to appear. Marijuana possession has been all but decriminalized now.
As we are running through the grass, Teegan shouts something back at me. She has spotted an old shed in the brush and wants to use it as a hiding place. We approach it with a fair amount of caution, not really knowing what to expect. But it seems like as good a place as any to hide, so we walk inside and shut the door behind us. I want to lock it up in order to keep the cops out but I pause for a second. This lock is very sophisticated-looking, like the one I have on my apartment door. That’s weird. It’s so out of place because the rest of this shed is old and cruddy. Apart from that, there is really nothing in here worth stealing, at least nothing in plain view. All I see are a few bales of hay and some buckets, not a good bounty by any standards.
Teegan urges me to stop admiring the lock and lock it already. I comply and then back away to listen for movement outside. There’s just silence and I start to think that maybe we’ll be okay. Teegan nods at me and I nod back. We should be good now; all we need to do is wait them out for a few hours. Eventually they’ll get bored of the hunt and return to their lair to finish paperwork and return phone calls. Of course neither of us knows at the moment what the fate of Serena will be. If she had just stayed with us and kept her cool, she would have survived this along with us. But now, it’s anyone’s guess where she will end up.
What do you think happened to Serena, Teegan whispers, without taking her eyes off the little window at the east end of the shed that looks out across the field. I shake my head in lieu of actually voicing an answer. It’s hard to say for sure what will come of any of us. This is a fairly hairy situation and the outcome is still very much undecided. But I choose not to tell Teegan any of that in order to keep her spirits up.
Then without adequate warning, our meager little shed door is kicked open violently. Teegan screams and I step back a good yard in response. As pieces of the wooden door fly wildly about, I cover my face and look away. When I feel like it might be safe to unshield my eyes, I see exactly who was responsible for this mess. It’s the lady cop who first spotted us in the field. She has chased us down despite our best efforts to elude her. Now she informs us that we are both busted.
Teegan surrenders immediately and states that she is willing to cooperate in every capacity. But I can’t bring myself to admit that kind of defeat. So I push past her, out the shed door and back into the tall, grassy field. I’m determined to prevent the police from catching me alive. Besides, I don’t want them finding all the marijuana in my pockets that I’ve still been unable to part with. I’m sure there’s enough on me for a hefty possession with intent charge and that won’t look very good on my thus far unblemished record.
But I’m still finding it pretty hard to run with any sort of enviable speed. I want to evade the cop but she catches me by the arm and drags me back to the shed where my sister is now standing in handcuffs. How did this happen? I find myself angry with Teegan for surrendering so easily. We could have beaten this together.
I’m incredibly dismayed and I attempt to flee once more. But the cop is smarter this time; she anticipates my intent and blocks the door. I try to rationalize with her, desperately attempting to convince her that we did nothing wrong. When she doesn’t appear to be persuaded by my candor, I move onto bargaining with her. Finally she has heard enough and raises her hand to stop me from persisting. She pulls out a notebook and starts writing things down in it. I ask her what she’s writing but she doesn’t respond.
I begin to freak out about being arrested and having a criminal record. Things like this must be reported to the state bar and there are no exceptions. But how do you explain something like this to a disciplinary committee? I can’t believe this is happening. I feel like I’m being railroaded here, wrongly accused for a crime I only thought about committing. I start to scheme ways to best argue this case before a judge or jury. But I’ll have to be much more persuasive than I am being right now if I want any chance of an acquittal.
Finally the officer finishes writing her notes and instructs me to place my hands behind my back. I decline to comply. This is wrong, I tell her with all the sincerity I can muster. We weren’t doing anything illegal, I add while taking a couple of steps away from her. She advances on me, handcuffs in hand, telling me not to resist. I reply that I will always resist when I know I’m in the right.
She snorts at my statement and then proceeds to challenge the very veracity of my claim by once again pulling out her notebook. She starts reading off a list of my prior offenses. As I listen to her name transgressions going back years and years, I find myself wondering how she could have possibly obtained all this information about me. I mean she knows about the time when I was a kid and I threw a ball at Teegan, which ended up breaking everything on her dresser. She knows about the time I broke a mirror by using it as a slide and she knows about the time I almost got arrested for smoking pot up on the Eleventh Avenue Lookout. How could she have possibly found out about all of this?
Finally I believe enough is enough. I raise my hand to stop her from continuing on and to admit my earnest defeat. I’m very disturbed that an Arizona police officer, with no identifiable connection to me whatsoever, possesses this kind of information. It definitely releases the air from my insurrection in a big way. I turn around and allow her to place the handcuffs on my wrists.
It’s all over now.