Mornings blurred into evenings into mornings again. It seemed as if this winter was one long attempt of mother nature to break my spirit. Rain and the homeless junkie do not mix. The shelters are constantly full. I wouldn't bother going into one anyway. The few times I went in there to sleep on the floor, the staff acted like jailers. There is a complete loss of humanity when you have to ask a person for permission to use the bathroom. They hand you toilet paper or soap as if you have asked them for some type of severe inconvenience. "Ugh," the man groans as he reaches under the counter. It's not like I asked him for one of the candy bar he has stashed in there, the ones he eats gingerly in front of the hungry patrons of this establishment.
I have a brief reprieve from the outdoors. My new "friend" got their social security disability check and was willing to have me over for a few days. I guess they felt sorry for me. His apartment is on the sixth floor of a building full of studio apartments that overlooks an area where I sometimes sleep. I suppose he saw me laying there for a few days in the rain before they finally decided it was safe enough to let me in. I am grateful for the company.
He is a tall man, round in a few places. He wears the type of glasses that make it clear he is nearly blind without them. The thickness of the lenses causes them to fog up as he sweats frequently. He seems to have en endless supply of bandannas that he uses to cover the growing bald spot on the top of his head. The shortly cropped hair shows no signs of aging but I would estimate his age to be early 40's. I never ask. He told me he worked at a bank before he sick with some unspecified illness. Family and friends have long disappeared from his life. Drugs- which he used daily but not in large quantities- make his loneliness more bearable. He swears he can take them or leave them.
It doesn't take long for me to earn my keep once I have a base of operations. I middle man for a wide range of activities. If you want drugs or women or rent boys or stolen goods, I can find whatever your dirty heart desires. With a place comes a phone number, a connection to the world. Within a few days, I have some money in my pocket and some to contribute to the "house".
As I walk towards the drug market, my host calls for me to buzz him when I need to be let back in. He is also going out. OK. No problem bye. I am off to work my traps, run my hustles for the day. I am feeling fresh. I have on my Levis, a button down flannel shirt, green clam shell Adidas, and my baseball hat. I suppose you really couldn't tell that I am a female unless you caught me in the eyes. I wear sun glasses to cover them up when possible but on this dark morning, I could be anyone and everyone at the same time.
It is a few block to the open air drunk market. I stop by the liquor store on my way. I got $2 crumpled up in my pocket for a bottle of taca vodka. I don't need a wallet. Money doesn't stay with me very long. I pass by the home bums begging on the corner.
"hey sis can you spare some change?" Henry asks me. He doesn't remember my face.
I take a swig from the bottle and chase it with a V8. I got my two major food groups right here- alcohol and vegetables. Add some heroin and some chocolate, this will become a well balanced meal.
I pass him the bottle after one last pull "here," I tell him as I toss him the bottle. The last time I saw Henry he was turning blue between two cars by Eddy and Hyde. Normally, I would give a person CPR except Henry has that shit. He had open sores around his mouth from burning himself with crack pipes and a raging case of HIV. All of his friends ditched him. I went to the corner and called 911. I waited until they found him. It was the least that I could do. Here he was, back at it again. Such is life.
I tip past Henry full of the warmth the vodka has provided me on the drizzly morning. I guess some people have coffee to wake them up. I don't need it. I have a 500 pound monkey on my back that wakes me up every morning. Plus, there is enough coffee and brown sugar in this tar. 2 drugs for the price of one.
It takes a second for me to catch the eye of one of the boys slinging on the corner. I say boys because that is what they are- boys. 16 and 17 year old boys from Mexico. They come up here work a few months to send home as much as they can before they get deported then live like kings back home. A few of them find jobs here and stick around, but not many. They don't get to learn much English selling dope on the corner. It is a revolving door of Flacco or Gordo or Jaime or Jose. This one has a baby face. The crackhead hooker I know that dates him says he is 14. The truth is uncertain.
I walk toward babyface when a new dopeboy cuts him off as he tells me "you find me five and I give you one". He uses his fingers for emphasis. I nod my head "okay". What he means is for every five people I bring him, he gives me one free bag. This is not as easy as it sounds. There are cops and junkies and civilians everywhere. Plus, these boys are in a hurry to get home. You have to act fast. Baby face must have what people think the best dope. His cousin over here, Mr "I know some English" is trying to keep up. The customers don't realize it is all the same. They are all the same. We are all the same. We are just dollar signs and it is just a business to them.
I start working my morning magic. The first two of the morning take less than five minutes. They are a couple, copping separately. It is clear that they are both sick and neither one of them trusts the other. She is a beautiful girl with hazel eyes and one of those hemp necklaces. He has a scraggly beard and an army jacket with hand sewn patches. It is clear that they are both so afraid of buying bunk dope, they are not sure where to go. This is where I step in.
"Are you looking?" I ask as I try to keep pace with them.
She stops to get sick in the gutter. He pulls her hair back dutifully like a good boyfriend should. "Yeah," he says. "We are both really sick. Our connection is answering"
I whistle and wave. Within a second, help has arrived in the form of a 5'6" dealers in dark clothes. "TWO. TWO!" I use my fingers for emphasis. He nods and serves them. I want credit for both. DONE.
Three more...three more I think to myself when someone walks briskly behind me to catch up to my boy.
"I want a gram..." the man says loudly. He is sweaty and pasty and no ready to take no for answer.
The boy starts fishing around in his mouth.
"Hurry up!!!" the man tells him as he pushes the money in his face.
I was just about to yell "THREE" to try to get some credit when I see the boy push the man to the ground.
"Get the fuck outta here!" He tells him as he pulls off his belt whips the man with the heavy buckle. Another boy comes over and starts kicking the man on the ground.
I am not sure what I am supposed to do next but I snatch the cash that has fallen on the ground. NOW, I understand. This was an okie doke. I see a $1 with pieces of a twenty photocopied in the corner. In the darkness, this usually works. Not today, not this guy. He must have tried this before.
In broken English my boy asks me "you know heem (him)? Do you know this fucking guy?" I shake my head no. Now, suddenly, we are best friends. yay. He walks a few blocks with me, cursing in Spanish along the way. I shake my head as if I understand. I find him a few more customers as we are walking. The commotion has caused the beggars, thieves, and junkies to scatter like roaches. My boy is angry now. I like him angry. Angry makes him generous. After a we circle the block and hit a few more customers, he spits me bags.
"gratis and para mañana" he tells me. Little did I know they were cut to all hell. I think he is doing me a favor.
When I get back to the apartment, my friend has a surprise waiting as well. He greets me at the door wearing a dress, a blonde wig, some terrible heels, and a smile. He directs me into the kitchen area where I see he has company. There was a handsome young man sitting there, no more than in his mid twenties. The young Latin man was smiling like the cat that had eaten the canary. I shook my head for a second when my friend pulled me into the bathroom.
"Do you have any condoms?" he asked me in a sugary sweet voice just above a whisper.
I point to the other room "yeah in my bag." I tell him. I show him my bounty. He shakes his head.
"No girl," he tells me "I things to do. Just leave me some on the counter. He wants to buy some speed. You got to go somewhere for a few hours. Do your thing and go."
"Does he know you are a..." the words trail off before he shushes me. I don't know what the fuck is going on here but I need to get out, NOW.
As I finish up, I feel the warmth of the vodka, the heroin, and a perfect hustle. I walk into the street just as the sun starts to break through the veil of darkness. I find Henry and slide next to him on the concrete while I plan my next move. The day is just getting started.