downstairs that morning, I noticed several cars lined up with white men in the driverâs seat on the block. They saw me, a black guy, on the way to school and they assumed that I had drugs. I saw them, white men in the hood at eight a.m., and I knew what they wanted. When I approached the first car, they said they were looking for red tops. This was actually a green top neighborhood and I wasnât supposed to be selling on that block. Apparently my âworkâ was good so they came back for more. I couldnât turn down an opportunity to make money. I was the only one who had any reds, but they were upstairs, in the crib, in my room, hidden in the corner of my closet, underneath my sneakers in a sock. I told them to wait, Iâd go get them. I was going to be late to school again.
There was no one hustling in the mornings. My man Gee was a lieutenant on the block. Me and Gee went way back, to when Gee started a wrestling ring when we were in elementary school. Tyray and me would imitate the moves we saw on WWF. Gee worked it out with the bosses of the block so that I could do the morning shift and keep the sneak hustlers off the block.
Other hustlers on the block were stepping to Gee asking, âWhoâs this lâil nigga?â
Gee handled it for me. âNo one is working in the morning, anyway. And, he has heat , so he can take care of business if he needs to.â
I got the job.
On the warm mornings, I hustled in my underwear, boxer shorts and a T-shirt. I cut out the backs of my sneakers and turned them into slippers. Slipper sneakers, I called them. It was a comfortable uniform that I wore every day. I was running up and down the stairs so many times, I had to be comfortable.
The morning shift became popular and suddenly there were a few of us out there, slinging in the morning. It was me, Gizmo, Snails and Pie-Faced Mel, mostly.
When the morning hustle was on, school was permanently off. Thatâs how the streets won over school.
Aisha said my eyes were starting to look a little crazy when I mixed weed, alcohol and mescaline together. In those days, I didnât care. I couldnât really feel a thing. I was numb. I kept my mind strictly on money and music so I didnât have to feel the hole that was growing inside of me. None of us had fathers, so we were all doing the same shit to deal with it. I just wanted to make money and not have to care about anything else. I was bugging . The block had become my home.
Moms knew everything but didnât say anything. Moms was sniffing out the shift in me. She also noticed all of the money that I was leaving around. She would glimpse the stack of bills on the table when I was in the shower, but she wouldnât mention it. Moms was noticing other strange things like opening up our mailbox and finding small little baggies filled with crack rocks. When she asked me about it, of course I blew up in denial.
âMa, itâs not mine! I told them niggas to stop using our mailbox for that shit!â Moms knew whose shit it really was, but it was just too much for her to do and undo. All of her friendsâ sons were hustling, too.
Life had hit me and I had to hit back, just like Moms told me to.
DRUG DEALING WAS REAL SHIT , like Mic Geronimo said. We called the drugs our âwork.â In the early days, the work was packaged in multicolored capsules that we got from the Chinese man. The Chinese man was in the lucrative business of selling the colorful caps. Each primary-colored cap represented the block and the dealer in charge. The safest place for hustlers to keep their âworkâ was in our mouths. When we were hustling sometimes weâd have to run from cops or other hustlers who thought youâd taken their customer.
A hustlerâs challenges were many but the addicts lined up religiously. They were like an army of ants; sadly creeping towards five minutes more of joy while flushing their life down the