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One Day, Crack Entered the Picture

Updated: Sep 18, 2021

TW: explicit mentions of sex in exchange for drugs--and no, not the fun kind.

One day, crack entered the picture.

I'd enjoyed indoor drug use for an entire year, working at various temp jobs in downtown San Francisco, raking in buttloads of cash, and starting to spend some of it on heroin. After coke entered--haha--the mix, things went downhill fast. Unfortunately, that was right around the time I lost my living situation and my jobs.

If I had known what awaited me, I might have been more judicious with my heroin use, less willing to adulterate it with uninteresting cocaine and disgusting crack, and slightly more vigilant when trying to shoot up at my desk after hours. Yes, yes, the answer should have been, “I would never have taken that first fix or that first hit” but that’s not how I feel, especially now.

Especially after having survived that treacherous period of time because of unbreakable spirit, youthful resilience, naïveté, and God’s hand upon my head, my cheek upon his hem.

Especially after having God take the molten experience of homeless drug addiction, with a side of prostitution and jail for dessert, and forge me into an exquisite blade.

Especially after having come through the hottest part of the flame with only a few missing teeth that got pulled in jail instead of filled.

Especially after having all of these experiences combine to equal the exact mother that Daughter needed through her darkest years.

One day, crack entered the picture.

I'd enjoyed indoor drug use for an entire year, and then I was cast out of the misfit warehouse. I moved back in with Sevven David and was cast out again months later (and rightly so; I'd already caused a ton of wreckage and was lead zeppelining at an alarming rate). Unbeknownst to me, I would not see the inside of a permanent living situation for the next six years.

You would think it would be a shock to one’s system to suddenly become homeless. But I didn’t know that’s what was happening. Who does? Who loses their home and then throws up their hands? “Whelp, guess I’m homeless for the next six years!”


You think you’re suffering a temporary setback and in just a few days or a few weeks, you’ll be up and running again. I’d be willing to bet that even victims of floods, fires, hurricanes, and tornados, think that they’ll submit those insurance papers, the money will come rushing at them, and they’ll rebuild in no time. If they even have insurance but that’s a rant for another day.

For example.

About ten years ago, a fire broke out along the alley behind my flat. The flames, of course, spread quickly, devouring two adjacent buildings, scorching structures across the alley, and burnishing a telephone pole. The fire department arrived at once and started wetting down several apartment buildings, including mine, because of the rapid pace of the fire.

One tenant arrived home from a blissful week at Burning Man to discover her unit burnt out and inaccessible. The pilates studio on the bottom floor of one was intact but smoke damaged and water logged.

Days later, a note appeared on the door of the pilates studio informing interested parties that it was holding a fundraiser at a local bar and that, after working with its insurance company, would be back in business within a couple of weeks. White people in a rapidly whitening neighborhood came to stare at the note.

“The pilates studio burned!” they gasped, oblivious to the rest of the building to which it was attached. To the other longterm residents who'd made the Mission the attractive neighborhood that they were now trampling with their mediocrity.

The white owners were so sure of their ability to resume normal operations because of their superior coverage and their support at the fundraiser, which focused only on their business and did not involve helping any of the other tenants in the building. The rest of us scoffed because we knew better and were offended at their selfishness and their privilege.

I attended, hoping to see the other neighbors being included because, perhaps, I'd see that the owners had found Jesus and were willing to extend their bounty to some of the needier neighbors. What I found instead were Karens, Megs, Jens, and Ambers crowding the establishment, none of them giving two fucks about the other residents according to the conversations I eavesdropped on. I left in disgust without so much as flinging a penny at the owners’ heads.

Weeks passed.

An update appeared informing us that they had moved into a temporary space. Months went by. No work had been done, much less a triumphant reopening. Perhaps even a year had gone by.

Do you think the owners actually believed that it would take them such a long time to get back into their space? Can you imagine the shock of finding out that with so much support and so many tools at their disposal they still couldn’t materialize the repairs in a few short weeks?

This is what becoming homeless is like, minus fundraisers and insurance. In many cases, minus the care and holding of friends and family.

I had managed to burn some really important bridges in a very short amount of time, so much so that I didn’t have anybody I could ask to put me up for a few days when I'd been locked out of Sevven David's. Well, I didn’t think my time on the street would even last that long. I’d just get another temp job, find another place to live, and resume ‘life.’

Wait! What’s this? An offer by a family friend to pay six months of rent for me in an apartment building just a couple of blocks from my old residence? Yes, yes, no problem, please and thank you! See? I was well on my way.

One day, however, crack entered the picture.

I’d enjoyed an additional six months of indoor drug use, cohabitating with a different household of misfits, one of whom was some kind of a drug addict himself but who hid it by projecting all the ills of the deteriorating apartment onto me. I got blamed for returning spoons to the kitchen that had that black-ash patina on the bottom. Only, I wasn’t into using spoons. Now, there were other unsavory things going on behind my locked door, but cooking up heroin on spoons wasn’t one of them! No, something much worse was worming its way into my system.

Sonny was a beautiful chocolaty brotha with brown cat eyes and rough hands. I invited him to my room because he said he had some ‘dope.’ Cool, I thought, I could use a fix. When we got settled, he pulled out a small crystalline rock, broke off a piece, and stuck it on a homemade glass pipe.

“Hmmmm, this is odd,” I thought to myself, ”isn’t heroin supposed to be a brown ball of tar? Is this some new kind of dope? And why are we smoking it?” except in my head it was more like, “the fuck is this shit?” I was trying to be polite so I didn’t say anything. He passed me the pipe. I took a hit.

A feeling I was neither expecting or enjoying overtook my entire body.

Instead of the beautiful cocoon of downtown, I was yanked 30,000 feet in the air, sounds receding, lights brighter than necessary, before being dropped into the loud and terrifying landscape of my instantly claustrophobic room, strange man staring at me intently while he removed his penis from his pants.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I probably said a little too loudly. Or maybe it was in a normal voice. I couldn’t tell because things were happening very quickly, loudly, all at once. After a brief exchange, in which the veteran crackhead reassured me that everything was okay and could I suck his dick, I complied, suddenly noticing the dirtiness of his clothes, the unwashed smell of his crotch, and the blackening of his fingertips caused by the handling and smoking of crack.

“Surely this is an anomaly,” I thought, only much more violently because I was suddenly performing felatio on a person I’d just met not an hour before. After he left, I swore I’d never do that again.

As I ventured out from my new abode, I gradually became aware of more and more drug addicts, seemingly with no place to go, talking about dope.

Craig was a beautiful caramel colored brotha with untamed locs and rich full lips. If Lenny Kravitz and Jimi Hendrix had a baby, he would be Craig.

One day Craig informed me that one of his associates had found a place to squat South of Market. It was an entire abandoned apartment with flea-infested carpeting. He was so beautiful that I went with him to his place even though I also didn’t know him that well. On the way he told me he had some dope and I was relieved because this had been the third or fourth time some dude told me that and then it wound up being crack, which I smoked but didn’t enjoy and which also required my services in order to obtain a piece. Of course, I didn’t ask him what he meant, specifically, by ‘dope.’ I assumed by his look that he was a fellow heroin user.

Upon entry, he sought out his companions, stuck out his arm, made a fist palm down, and deposited a gleaming crystalline rock the size of a marble onto his fleshy brown dais. I was once again disappointed but I went along with it and this time, I was not averse to having sex with him for a couple of hits because he was big and beautiful and had a big beautiful cock.

It was right around this time that I started becoming addicted to crack.

Up until that point, I’d smoked it because, like a good little addict, it was available. But I didn’t really enjoy it. That doesn’t matter, because drugs like that are made specifically for causing instant addiction whether or not you actually like it.

Thus, the goal of controlling the Black body by yet another means had begun.

I said all that to say:

One day, crack entered the picture.

Seemingly overnight. With the swiftness and ferocity that can only be described as an epidemic.

The Crack Epidemic.

It’s the most plausible explanation. It’s not like I’d been doing hard drugs for very long, but after about 18 months of good solid heroin use, being with drug addicts who used coke and speed regularly, learning how to be homeless with 24-hour exposure to street life, and dealing with dealers who sold a variety of drugs but none of them crack, it entered stage right.

Yes, I am One of Those People who believe that the US government supplied inner cities with the drug. How else can you explain its swift entrance, widespread devastation, and blanketing of Black people?

A population of people who are so grossly over-policed that a broken taillight or a missed turn signal can lead to our death?

You know how a heavily armed white boy can gun down Black parishioners during a prayer circle at which he was included and then be taken—ALIVE!—to get something to eat on the way to jail? Yet how police don’t let Black people get away with anything?

How a man selling cigarettes can be jumped by a police mob of thugs and then strangled to death on video?

If that can happen, how do you think crack go into Black neighborhoods so quickly, way before widespread use of the Internet? By all those slick Black drug cartels operating undetected, with their fancy cars, war rooms full of semi-automatic weapons, and high-tech gadgetry? Yeah, I don’t know any of those either. And, why would a slick Black drug cartel operate in the penny ante environment of an urban projects?

Funny how crack didn’t infiltrate white middle class suburbs.

And, as you should know or guess, the sentencing for crack cocaine possession is as much as 10 times higher as that for possession of powder cocaine. Guess who gets caught using which one more?

We can’t get access to tax dollars to better our neighborhoods but we get access to guns and drugs? How do you think something like this has been able to infiltrate and impact Black communities so quickly and thoroughly?

The government let that shit happen, is how.

We are kept out of decent-paying jobs, good education, fresh food, secure housing, real estate purchases, voting rights, reform activities, and reparations, but somehow, crack managed to flourish in the seedier neighborhoods of San Francisco and far, far beyond?

And I was caught up in it. Fully. Finally.

I was a victim of The Crack Epidemic.

Contemplating the copious amounts of time I spent in this particular doorway. Photo by Karen Nuñez.

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