I spent a lot of time homeless while in my active addiction. That’s no secret. Everyone who has been following me already knows this. It was miserable. It was very lonely. I cried silently to myself often. I prayed. I hoped in my core that things would some day get better. In between the twacked out crack highs and the oblivion heroin lows, when I had the mental capacity to do so, I would reflect back on my life. I would kind of just blank, and watch my life story in the fore front of my mind while looking out the window of the CTA bus line, or the red line train, or the blue line. It was strange. I was present and alert, sometimes, but I could actually watch my life story in a very morbid reflection. How did I get here? How did I actually end up in this place and in this time, this very moment? Sitting on a bench in Garfield Park, or at a bus stop in Lawndale, while the busy hustle and bustle of local gang, crime, drug, and police activity just passed me by. And during my comings and goings I met a lot of sad, lonely and broken people. I encountered some of the forgotten ones. I saw what the bottom rung of our broken society looks like, and for a brief moment in time, we shared each other’s pain. You know what’s interesting? Is that today, there is absolutely no way that I would ever go back to those spots in the city. I would never in a million years go back to those benches, bus stops, or gang ways. No way. It was far too dangerous, for me. Today. But, back in the day, when I was in it, it was weird- I was a regular in some of the most depraved and deadly parts of the most dangerous city in the United States, and very few times did I ever actually feel in danger, save for being robbed at gun point, or afraid of the cops. I hope this makes sense, yes I was scared, but I was scared FOR MYSELF. I was more afraid of facing another day than I was of walking into an unknown alley way, to buy an unknown powder, from an unknown gang member who was visibly brandishing a very large hand gun. I don’t know, it’s strange. It’s almost like this survivor’s bond that we all shared. All of our lives were shit. I can’t even begin to understand what would drive a 9 year old boy to sell heroin on a bicycle. But I bought it from him every day. I wonder if he’s even alive today? Anyways, that was a rabbit hole of thought, and not where I intended this entry to be going. I aimed at the beginning to share with you some of the sadder souls I have met, and one of the more insane and depraved. So here we go.
While living my life on the bottom, I would frequent the area just off of Ohio & Homan on the city’s West Side. Incredibly high crime area, God I can see it right now with my mind’s eye. Open air drug market, addicts every where, dealers every where, screams, gun shots. Blue lights flashing on local CPD cameras, which seemed to be on damn near every corner, but did nothing to stop anything. And then there was me: stinking, unbathed, strung out, 125 pounds soaking wet, right in the thick of it all. And I was hollow, I was alone, I was scared. But it didn’t matter because “I” was not even steering the ship, it was like watching myself walk through life. Like an outer body experience, just kinda drifting. Watching this nightmare unfold day after day. And sometimes, maybe for a few minutes, maybe for an hour, I would encounter a fellow dope fiend. Just as lost as I was. Just as hopeless, just as broken. And for those brief moments in time, I would have a friend. And sometimes it was just a fucked up chance encounter. Like “Bud”. “Bud” was clearly not his real name, so I’ll use it here. Bud lived in an abandoned building on Homan. Between Ohio and Chicago Ave, I think. Now I had always seen this guy coming and going. Scurrying around like a crack head, making dope fiend moves, ripping off white kids from the suburbs in Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin who came to the West Side for the promise of the best shit around and a few extra bags that they could then skim from their friends back home for making the trip and taking the risks, but were too scared to actually go to the source, so they entrusted guys like Bud to make the run for them and then bring it back to them. But, I obviously wasn’t one of those kids. And one day, while waiting on the plug to get to the spot, Bud and I struck up a conversation. The topic of which I have no fucking clue. But here we were, among a throng of other awaiting dope fiends, two of which was a pregnant couple. And I think things took a turn for the scary when I had mentioned that I was a lone wolf and only got to smoke my rock and shoot my dope comfortably when I found an entry to an abandoned building, or a tucked away corner some where. And Bud invited me to come and get high with him, in his “house”. I didn’t think anything of it, I wouldn’t be there long anyways. Being a panhandler, and a petty thief without a car and on foot never really netted me much, maybe one rock and one blow per trip, so I’d be there, what?- maybe twenty minutes? So I took him up on his offer. The plug got there, served us, and we were on our way. Bags in our cheeks and pipes and needles in our pockets. We scampered over Homan Ave, through the gang way, around the back, and into Bud’s dwelling. I’m getting nauseous and sickly feeling recalling this memory, but I promised to never hold back, so I’m not. We entered the “house” which was basically a one room apartment located inside a completely abandoned building. And, to be honest, I was actually kind of impressed. He had somehow acquired power. He had lights, and even an antenna T.V. rigged up inside this little crack shack. He had a bed, a couch and even posters on the wall. I guess necessity is the mother of all invention, huh? So we sat down and started smoking. Neither one of us spoke for about 20 minutes. Those of you in recovery who have smoked crack before know why. It is not a very social drug or high. And as we started to come down and stop shaking, We both prepared our Heroin to “get right”. And now we were able to actually speak to one another. I don’t recall about what. But we spoke, and it was casual. And sometime later, Bud said that he was about to make another run. He told me that I was welcome to stay but not to steal anything and he would be right back. Well, shit, that sounds good. Go right ahead, its cold outside, I’ll be right here man, thanks for letting me chill for a bit. And in no time flat he was out the door. But after quite some time, he still hadn’t returned and I could feel inside me that something wasn’t right. So I got up to walk out to the gang way to smoke a cig. But when I got to the only door to the outside I noticed something very strange, and I had to do a double take. I looked at the big heavy and fortified door, and noticed that there was a massive chain on it. At first my strung out brain couldn’t quite compute what I was seeing. I grabbed the knob and pulled the door inward to open it. But it would barely budge. What. The. Fuck?!?….Holy shit. This dude left the apartment, and had this whole chain set up long before I arrived and has it fashioned and locked from the outside in. He has actually fucking chained me inside. Oh no, this is not good. I ran back up the landing and into the room where we were chillin. I stuffed all of my paraphernalia and checked the windows. Barred and locked. Fucking of course they were. Back down the landing to the door. Yanked it as hard as I possibly could. Nothing. It was becoming very clear to me that he had done a very good job at keeping me contained inside this little room with no way out. PANIC. SHAKING. FEAR. What was about to happen to me? I have got to get out of here, and fast. My survival instincts kicked in. Search the apartment. Find something to break out of this place as quickly as possible. Drawers. Under the bed. Behind the couch. Nothing. Holy shit. Will I be beaten? My God, will I be raped? Or worse, murdered? I gotta get out of here, my hands are shaking as I type this. I felt like I was gonna vomit, and I absolutely TOSSED this apartment searching high and low for anything I could find to get outta here. And I can’t even recall where it was, but I found something I thought I could use. A claw hammer. And I got to work. There was about 15 nails pounded into the back of this VERY HEAVY, probably oak door, holding the massive chain in place and they were pounded flat. Nowhere to grab the heads of the nails and simply pull them out. Fucking of course there wasn’t. So I violently pounded against the piece of the nails where they bent over and made contact with the chain. Violently pounded. Loud as hell. If Bud was within ear shot certainly he would hear it, but if he came rushing in to stop me, I remember having the image of bashing his brains in with the now tool as well as weapon that I clutched in my right hand. I did not give a fuck, this was life or death. One nail broke, then two, then five. I was slowly breaking these nails free, and pulling each chain link free as I went. It was working. Holy shit. But I’m not quite there yet. More nails broke, more links freed. And finally got to the last one and was able to pry the door completely open. I stuffed the hammer into my waist line and bolted out the door and around the corner toward Chicago Ave., where I would wait and jump on a bus and in plain view of public just in case something happened. And as I turned the corner from the gang way and out onto the side walk of Homan Ave., here came Bud, with about 6 very sketchy looking men with him. I have never ran so fast in my life…”Motha fucka” I heard Bud kinda say to himself and the others. “Steve!!! What the fuck white boy!!?” And I heard the stampede of foot steps racing behind me. But The closer I got to Chicago Ave. The safer I felt. And I got there. Right next to the Family Dollar, and turned the corner. As I did I looked behind me to check the distance, and it was clear to me that Bud was obviously frustrated. He kind of did the “Ah Damn/Oh Shucks” Shoulder lift and downward fist punch in annoyance as he realized I had gotten away, and the group of men gave up their pursuit. They turned around and headed into the gang way. My heart rate finally slowed as I got onto the CTA bus, headed for God knows where. But far, far away from here. Holy Shit. What could have just happened to me? Phew. I survived another day. Thank God I’m outta there. Relief…..
But then dread. Because I knew. That if I wanted to get my fix again. I would have to go right back into that Lion’s Den again. In just a few short hours…..