Rad and the Ghetto
I am totally lost at this point in my life. The days of no bills, straight A's and a smooth path to graduation are so far in my rear view, that it seems as if it were another man's life. Today is exactly the same as the rest in my short term memory. My routine consists of the following: 1) Wake up around 7:30-8:00 a.m. and force myself to eat a half bowl of cereal. The only reason I wake is because the dope is wearing off. If H is not taken soon, withdraws begin. 2) I then unwrap my one to two packs of dope, saved from the prior night. This dope is saved to allow me to function in the morning. 3) While preparing my dope, I plan out the scheme of the day. To get through a single day I need a minimum of a hundred dollars. The entire hundred dollars goes to dope. I also need gas, cigarettes, and a Mountain Dew. I will do whatever it takes, with only a few exceptions. 4) I throw on some clothes without showering, and make my way to the D. 5) Take my medicine and repeat as needed.
The urgency of each day is extreme. Every morning I wake up, the count down begins. In my mind I am constantly aware of what time it is. How long since I last did dope. It's like I'm fumbling to defuse this bomb inside me. I have no more then eight hours. Eight hours to find money and get to the D. Eight hours until my insides explode.
I take my morning medicine and smoke a cig. My scams were many, usually using my ability to convince friends or family that I needed money for school, or by my “U-scam” trick on big corporations such as Wal-Mart and Meijer. Today though, I had money, enough for the day at least. My car, an old Pathfinder, still runs solid, but my license is suspended. It'll get me to Detroit and back. And today that's all that matters. The future takes a back seat to the immediate pressures of today. There is one problem though, I owe Rad Thirty bucks. Despite spending thousands and thousands of dollars, I know if Rad sees me, he will expect the money. The simple solution would be to pay the man, but I had a strict budget, I couldn't afford to miss out on thirty dollars, I might get sick. I've been avoiding him for a couple weeks now. I would still make my daily trip to the D but avoid his area of the projects. I often owed money in the projects, but the dope boys learned their lesson prior to me, addicts can't be trusted, so they kept my IOU's to a minimum. My small debt did not deter me in the least, but Rad does have my wallet as collateral for a prior IOU.
I make the short twenty minute trip to the ghetto, speeding most of the way. A familiar maroon mini van pulls off the curb. I take the vans place and park my car in front of the projects. The projects are conveniently located just off the freeway I take home. My parking spot is actually on the lodges service drive. I get out and walk into the pile of tightly packed apartments. The “walk into the ghetto” method is much safer then the “drive through” method, this is mainly due to the fact that the police don't come into the projects unless they are conducting a raid. However, they love to drive around the outskirts looking for suburbanites like me. If a cop saw me pull out of the ghetto, they could arrest me and impound my car for “loitering in the presence of drugs.” Does this make any sense? Instead of preventing the sale of drugs, they arrest the addict for being there. Obviously the city has all but given up on the drug war. Plus the dope boys rarely if ever use what they sell. Arresting a person who is addicted to what is being sold, will not change anything. This method will keep putting addicts in jail while the people selling the stuff go about their illegal business.
It is a warm late morning, and the projects are hopping. The dope boys are at their usual corner. Kids are playing. Adults are on the porch. There is no grass. It has been worn away by the drugs trafficking in and out. I stop and grab H from the Holla Back Boys, then round the corner to one of the many crack houses. I knock, and the door creeps open. After a glance at me, I am let in. I don't recognize the guy who opened the door, but he knows me.
The dope boys job is to make money, they are salesmen. Every day I picked up heroin they would offer me crack. “Nah, thanks though.” was my response. They were always trying to up sell and suggestive sell their products, just like I did in my current profession as a server. One day I came across a lot of money. The dope boys offered me crack, and I accepted. In my head I thought, I am doing way to much heroin, maybe crack would slow me down. This is a good example of an addicts thought process. A sane Brad would have laughed at this thinking. The sale of drugs in the projects is a twenty four hour business. These guys are not stupid. They have a system, they are organized. They have signals for raids or police, they even alternate shifts in the drug houses to provide this service at all hours. Disagreements are usually solved through a simple method known as violence. For me, it is similar to a gas station, you wait in line, get what you need, and get the hell out. I entered the apartment and as usual, a few guys were playing Madden on their PS3 or Xbox. In the kitchen, there is a table and two chairs. The table is full of crack with a small space for the digital scale. “Whatchu want?” he asks. “Just a 20” I respond. He goes about weighing out the rock, shaving pieces off with a razor blade for accuracy. I hand him the twenty dollar bill, he hands me the rock contained in the corner of a plastic baggie with a knot. I throw the rock into the same pocket as my medicine, and head for the door.
While making the drug deal, a spades game started just outside the crack house door. On the dirt they placed a cheap fold out table and some chairs. Only a few were playing, while a congregation of about twenty others bullshitted, harassed people walking by, or watched. They were all black men anywhere from the ages of sixteen to fifty. I spot Rad out of the corner of my eye. Shit, what do I do? My hygiene has gone out the window. I have a beard sunglasses and a hat on, maybe that'll be enough to avoid this inevitable confrontation. I put my head down, look away from the group, and make my way toward the Pathfinder. “Hey”, I hear a voice call from over my shoulder. It's Rad's voice, I can tell. I get a sinking feeling in my stomach, the way you feel when an elevator shoots you down to the next floor. Do I run? I am to much of a pussy for that, they could just shoot me in the back. What about sweet talk? I can be overly nice, and hopefully deflect his anger. I turn around and face Rad and my thirty dollar debt.
I cautiously walk back toward the group. Rad steps to the front and says “Don't you owe me money?” I could tell by the look on his face and the lack of conviction in his question, that he wasn't a hundred percent sure if I was the guy he was looking for. I instinctively responded to his weak question with ignorance, “Who, me?” I look left then right, acting confused. Everyone knows everyone's name in the ghetto, and I am the only white guy around. Nonchalantly I add “you must have me confused with someone else.” I am actually pretty calm to this point. My drugs are way more important then my safety, and I see a way out of paying him his thirty bucks. I try turning back towards the car in hopes my response satisfied Rad and the rest of his crew. “Hey, hey, hey, where you going dog? Come back here.” That wasn't Rad, now his crew is involved. Fuck . . . Here we go. I quickly analyzed what went wrong. I must have turned back for the car to soon, I must have looked guilty. Did my body language or weak voice give me away? I am no longer calm. My heart starts firing and I can feel my legs shaking. I reluctantly comply.
I am still capable of acting cool, so I continue with the ignorant fool routine. I lean against a porch near Rad and light up a cigarette. Because of my demeanor half the group goes back to spades, while the other half eavesdrop on Rad and I's conversation. This time Rad was more specific, “Don't you owe me thirty bucks?” He knows how much. “Don't I have your wallet?” God damn it, the wallet. My ID. It was as if I was watching his brain connect the dots. He knows, he knows who I am. He knows I'm lying. My get away is not looking good, but I can't stop the lie. I'm too far in. I reply “Dude, I don't know what you're talking about. My name is John, I come in here all time.“ Rad gains more confident with each passing second. He tells his boys to make sure I stay put, while he runs to his place, a block down, to get my wallet. I light another cig. My thoughts drift to the baggies in my pocket. There is nothing worse than getting my drugs and not being able to get an immediate fix. It seems that everything these days makes me want to use, whether it's sunny days, stress, good news or bad. Minutes later Rad comes jogging back, wallet in hand.
As Rad opens the wallet he asks “what did you say your name was?” I confidently reply “Man, my name's John Budick.” He holds up my ID, looks at it, then me. After a few seconds comparing he still cant commit. His crew thinks it's funny so they huddle around me and pass the picture around, each taking turns comparing me to the photo, like some kind of childhood game. They were laughing and joking around with me and Rad. One guy says out loud “six foot two, brown hair, blue eyes.” A fairly accurate description of myself. He continues “It sure looks like him but I don't know either.” This whole time my peripheral vision was locked on Rad. He was not amused, and did not enjoy the jokes coming from his crew. I accidentally made eye contact with Rad, and in that instant saw a light go off in his brain. “If this isn't you, wheres your wallet?” Huh, very valid question, I kept the comment to myself. Actually that is a killer question. My only escape now is to jump in my car and floor it, on the off chance Rad lets me go to the car solo.
I paused in my response to allow my desperate dope mind to formulate another escape plan. I reach to my back pocket, where I would normally keep my wallet. I continue to fumble around and then, as if I remembered I shouted “My car. My wallet is in my car. I will be right back.” That didn't fly. Rad jogged up beside me. His crew got up and followed us, but were a couple hundred feet behind. What do I do now? Dope brain recalculates. This kid is a little skinny seventeen years old. Kick his ass and run for the car. I have never seen Rad with a gun, but what if? Plus this is my spot, I know how things work here. I might get ripped off ten times before I find another spot. I stop and face Rad and tell him I am the guy that owes him thirty bucks. Again instinct kicks in and I justify my lie flawlessly. I tell Rad “I was intimidated by the huge group of dudes surrounding you, didn't want to get jumped.” He seemed to respond positively to my apologetic tone. Rad, to my surprise angerly demands “Gimee thirty bucks.” Guess I was wrong. “I don't have it on me” I say. “Didn't you just get a rock?” His boys are officially on the seen at this point and their demeanor is on the verge of rowdy. One of the guys affirms Rads question “Oh yeah, I sold it to him.” With command in his voice Rad shouts over the group “Gimmie the rock.” “Come on, I drove all the way out here, I will get you next time. It's thirty bucks.” I argued. He repeats “Gimmie the fucking rock.” I either overloaded my brain or ran out of options, but instead of dealing with the dangerous group of drug dealers by submitting to whatever they demand, I began to get angry. Rad's crew urges on Rad's anger. We are standing about a foot or less away from each other. I reach into my pocket and take out the rock. Rad extends his hand. I pinched the baggie between my pointer finger and thumb the way I would a cigarette butt, and flicked the rock with speed off his chest, all while saying “fuck you.”
The next thing I remember is my head slightly jerking to the side and my sun glasses falling to the ground. A little seventeen year old boy just socked me in the face. I have never been punched in the face before. Wrestling on the playground in elementary school was the extent of my fighting career. Must have been my adrenaline that allowed me to take the punch so well. I didn't feel any pain. My only reaction was “What the fuck man?” while I picked up my sunglasses. I was pretty confident that my life depended on my non-aggressive reaction. With twenty guys beating on me, yelling uncle isn't an option. Rad grabbed the bag and him and his crew walked back to the house. Rad hollers over his shoulder “You still owe me thirty bucks motha fucker.” I get my head right and sit down in my car. A minute or so passes and I remember I kept a five dollar bill in my car before I went in to get my drugs. It was meant for food, but I am in much greater need of a rock.
I grab my reserve money, and go right back into the ghetto. I avoid the normal house and go to Jackie's, the one nice lady I know in this shit hole. Ryan Introduced us, he often gets his dope and does it at her house before he leaves. “Oh honey, what happened?” She invites me in and offers what very little she has. Usually some water or a hit from the pipe. The area above my eye is beginning to tighten. Must be swelling pretty bad because it's getting harder to see. Her place has a minimum of thee crazy guests at all times. The only reason I'm mildly comfortable is due to Jackie's kind nature. I tell Jackie what happened to my eye. She responds in a high tone “Rad! He is my nephew. No, no, he shouldn't be doing that. I will have a talk with him for ya.” “He took my rock and all I have left is five dollars. Can you get me a 5 rock?” I'm like a little cry baby, Jackie is my mommy. ”Sure honey” She jumps up and goes outside, leaving me with two skinny short black guys with wife beaters, who talk to themselves, and a fat black guy that is either dead or super high, cause he hasn't moved since I arrived. Jackie whips open the door hand me a pipe and my rock, and I smoke it all at once.”You should ice your eye dog.” says one of the crazies. I nod my head in agreement, thank Jackie, and emotionlessly stumble to my car. I break open a couple packs of H, giving the pile a finer chop with a credit card and take it down. Usually I escape the ghetto with no visible marks of being there. This time the evidence is written all over my face. How am I gonna explain this? Before I complete my thought, the drip comes down thick in my throat. I gag and hold the vomit back. I have no thoughts