Bubbles: Mr. One day man. Wasn’t even that.
Walon: Stood up, though.
Walon: He ain’t anywhere near his bottom. Got to see that bottom coming up at him. Hard, too, cause he’s young, 24. Most people don’t get tired till they’re 35, 40. How old are you?
Bubbles: Young at heart.
Testers are out, and everybody is having run-ins. First, Bubbles recognizes Walon from the NA meeting he attended in “One Arrest.” Johnny, thinking Walon is there to get high, mocks the big man for his hypocracy. But then Bodie arrives and Johnny recognizes him as the boy who put him in the hospital. Johnny shuffles off to find a less-traumatic source for his next blast.
Not that Bodie would notice or care. In his eyes, all fiends are the same, even a white one who he personally beat down. He is far too busy managing the pack of fiends that swarm around him in supplication, seeking one of his precious vials (Bodie keeps them in a bag of Utz crab chips, the best place to keep a Baltimore stash).
Finally, Bodie gets fed up with the crowd and so he tosses the vials into the grass behind the fiends, who descend on it like a flock of hungry birds on a handful of breadcrumbs. Bubbles is either smart enough or lucky enough to have been standing away from the crowd, so three vials land at his feet. He snatches them and steps away from the feeding frenzy. He catches up with Walon and generously offer one of his vials, but the tattooed man says he is not there to cop.
No, he is there to protect his nephew, a scrawny white boy who could be Johnny’s younger brother. As Walon and Bubbles look back, they see him crawling through the grass, frantically searching for stray vials and fending off the rest of the crawling fiends. The image of people circling and looking for treasure hidden in the grass, the scene is oddly reminiscent of an easter-egg hunt.
It is a perverse twist on that childhood ritual. On Easter, children search the spring grass for carefully-placed eggs, the symbol of life and rebirth. In the projects, the fiends search for their own elixir, one that promises life but brings death.
Still, Bubbles’ conversation with Walon suggests a hint of rebirth, at least for this one soul that remains “young at heart.” It starts when Bubbles admits to Walon that his claim of 24-hours sober at the meeting was fraudulent. Walon is forgiving, saying “stood up, though.” He sees hope in Bubbles desire to be seen as sober, since desire is the necessary first step to making sobriety a reality.
But that is a tough reality to attain. Walon has no illusions about being able to keep his nephew clean. Instead, he envisions a decade or more of this lifestyle before the nephew sees “that bottom coming up at him.” This timeline clearly strikes a chord with Bubbles, who is at least a decade closer to his own bottom. His face twitches guiltily as Walon talks. Bubbles is not quite at his own bottom, but he senses it down there, waiting to smash his world to pieces.
He will get to the bottom (or at least, a bottom) later in this episode. After narrowly avoiding a beating over a bag of vialed-up Arm&Hammer, he goes to the only place he can think of: his estranged sister. It is an uncomfortable conversation (it is particularly heartbreaking when he is suddenly overwhelmed with regret and and says “that’s not right, is it?”), but at the end of it, she gives him the key to the basement. It is a symbolically significant moment. He has been entrusted with a key to his very own bottom, a place where he can nervously ride out the tide of withdrawal in his attempt to emerge anew. Plus he already has the chain that can hold the key.