It was like 9:00 P.M I think. I was standing all alone on Chicago’s South Side. Halstead and something. There was a Walgreens there, that’s about all I know for sure. I had just come out of a black hole of street level heroin and crack. I can’t really recall what I did to come up with the money I had, but I had some and stayed super fucking high with it as a result. But now I was coming to, which meant it was time to go back into one. I didn’t even have a cell phone. I had been out wandering the streets of the “wild hundreds” (a section of the city which refers to high crime, drug, and murder rates in streets which are numbered 100+) for many days now. I was dazed and confused. My jeans which now sagged off of me were covered in black soot marks from setting my hot spoons on them after I cooked, and before I injected. My feet hurt. My Soul hurt. But I just couldn’t stop the chase. I was incapable of thinking about anything other than the next bag. I looked around assessed my surroundings. It was night time and I was white. Clearly I was up to no good, but I only had one needle and maybe two bags of heroin on me, so I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t get arrested if I got bothered by the cops. My bag was in between my ass cheeks, and the cops never looked in there. And they weren’t taking me in for a needle. They would just destroy it and send me on my way back to the nearest drug store to buy another 10 pack over the counter for 3 dollars. Crazy system we have huh? But anyways, it was time to make a move, I had to find some cover for the night or at the very least get loaded enough to pass out on a bench somewhere. It wasn’t cold out, I remember that much. And I had several hundred dollars, so I would be able to get a hotel room if I absolutely had to, but that would be dope money lost.
A pay phone! okay, So what am I gonna do with it? Im gonna call my guys, duh. I enter the walgreens and break a few singles for change. I hit the pay phone. And scribbled on the inside wall of pay phone says something like “Got money? Call the crack express” or something like that. I thought it was a joke- pointing fun at dope fiends like me. But I figured “ah what the hell?!” So I called the number… “Good evening, __________’s Livery Service, this is _______.” And I hung up. And I checked the yellow pages of the hanging phone book for the name they just told me. And it matched, so I picked up the phone, inserted two quarters and dialed the same number again. Same greeting. Same person.
“Um, yeah, my name is steve. I’m calling the, uh, express number.”
“Where you at, Steve?” I looked at the streets and told them what I was near by. The walgreens right here on Halstead and (something). “Ok, steve, go sit on the bench in front of the store, what’chu wearing?” I told them. I sat down. I waited. Not exactly sure what in the actual fuck I was thinking here. But when you’re this far gone, this far in the grip, I didn’t really care if I lived or died. I mean, honestly, what’s the worst that could happen? LOL. My God I was sick.
About 15 minutes later, a newer dark colored almost like cop car looking tinted out Ford or Mercury something pulls up and there’s an old Black man driving it with one of those really nice looking Kangol hats on, but facing forward, not flipped around. This man actually looked like an actual chauffeur. “You Steve?” “Yeah.” “Hop in the back man, let’s go.” Ok… maybe this isn’t such a good idea. But I got in the car anyways…
“My name’s Edward, Steve. Nice to meet you young man. What kind of music you like to listen to man?”
“Oh I listen to everything sir. You can put it on whatever you want.”
So, where you from, Steve?”
He was clearly watching me more than he was the road. He was very familiar with the streets and this process. He was clearly a local and had to be almost 70. He was making small talk to feel me out and see if I was cool or not. (OOF this is making me sickly feeling just thinking about this memory).
We exchanged small talk for about 5 minutes. There was no meter and he never asked me where I was going. Ever. Finally he interjected, “So how much you try’na spend?”
“Um, I don’t know, like 100$” 60 for rock and 40 for some Boy(Heroin)”
“Iight man, Ill let them know.”
He makes a phone call from his cell in a low muffled voice. About 3 minutes later we pull into a drive way and he asks for my money. I ain’t falling for this shit. But he insisted that since this was the first time, he had to go in, and he had to watch me get high and check out how I carried myself while doing it. This was clearly a sophisticated ring I had stumbled into. So I gave him my 100$ and he was back in the car in less than 2 minutes.
We drove around for literally fucking hours while I smoked and shot dope. He would even offer the back dome lights to assist me. I had just found a new friend and this dude was super cool. Not weird at all. We would talk and he would laugh when I got all stuck and weirded out. I have no idea where I ended up that night, but I made sure to get his number before he dropped me off. He even took appointments to pick me back up the next day, or even “When you get your check”. All his card said was “Taxi Cab Edward” and I use the name here, because he actually once told me that that is NOT his real name. “It’s just what everyone calls me.” I’ll be damned. A real life crack and heroin chauffeur. And he was ALWAYS prompt. I never had to wait around. And it was always him. Which looking back is weird. You would think that this type of service would be in High Demand. It was very low key and the dope was always always good. Never once did I get ripped off or shorted. Hmmm…
So Taxi Cab Edward and I became friends. We would talk about all kinds of things. It was kinda like a fucked up modern day cracked out version of “Curtis Lowe” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. That old man would pick me up all over the city and drive me to the best spots and let me do all kinds of drugs in the back of his car.
And one time I got some crack that absolutely Rang my Bell and almost cost me a finger.
I have never had shit like this before and I used to smoke crack by the fucking wheel barrel: One blast. That’s all it took. I mean I smoked it all, but it took me like 3 days to do so. It was night time, and we were driving around somewhere, Edward and I. He handed it to me and warned me, to “be careful with this shit. They all after this batch right here. Tell me what you think.” And I would have, if I could talk. Sparks of sizzling debris, The taste of nail polish remover, a dash of egg, and the loudest high pitch sound I have ever heard in my life- running through my ears and brain. And I was stuck like chuck. Completely locked up. Damn near riggamortis in the back of this car while Edward laughed his ass off. “You aint gonna throw up is ya steve?” and I started to slump over at the same time being absolutely spun out of my Gourd. As the numb wore off and the Locomotive left my brain I started to notice a pain in my left ring finger. I had slumped over and locked up super hard and fucking melted the tip of my left finger on the hot end of my pyrex crack pipe. The nail had burned down in a crescent shape and was fucking throbbing. UGH. So I quickly shot some dope to numb it away and put this crack up. There was no way I was driving around smoking this shit. I was way too good. I would freak out if I had to look out windows on this shit. And once the Heroin did it’s job and I was coherent again and talking, I had to ask Edward for a big favor. I had to ask him to give me a ride all the way back to Portage Indiana, from the south side of Chicago.
“oof man, Edward. I’m fucking burned out man. I been going hard in the paint for weeks with ya man, that one put me in the dirt dude. I need to go home to finish this and rest for a couple days man.’ “I hear ya Steve, Tell me how to get there.”
No questions asked. He drove me back to portage, dropped me off. Shook my hand. And I never saw Edward again. Only because I was back in town and would have access to rides and stuff now. And would end up going another direction and using with “friends” from now on. But to be honest, I know it’s sick, but I wonder what ever happened to that old man.
The next morning I awoke in my parents’ hotel room where they had been living. A massive horrible hot white pain in my finger. It had swollen to about 3-5 times it’s normal size and width, and I could see my heartbeat in the finger nail. With every lub-dub of my heart; my finger nail would concurrently beat “black-white” More of an ill lookg grey than black, and my whole finger was dark blood red. I had to go in to the hospital. But first, let shoot some dope. The heroin coursing through my blood was still not enough to stave off the pain in my finger. I knew this bad, and It was about to get fucking gnarly.
I checked in and waited. And waited. And waited. finally they called me back to a room. And I waited some more. The on call Doctor appears sits down next to me, picks up my left had as I wince in pain. “Ohhhh, yeahhhh” He says in a very shrill and pity filled voice. “Ill be right back sir.” Moments later he returns with a pre filled syringe of numbing agents, shoots my hand and finger up and disappears again. About five minutes later he comes back and pokes my finger with a prick-tool thingy to check if I’m numb enough for him to do whatever the fuck he’s about to do. Ugh, this shit makes me cringe.
He pulls out some weird looking hand tool- from his coat pocket. This thing had some kind of like “snail antenna”/wish bone looking prongs on the end of it, and he was going to use it to burn my fucking nail open to release all the pressure from it. oof. And that’s exactly what happened. The little tool thing came to life and sparked as it met my nail and instantly a giant gush of hot red blood shot out all over the doctor, myself, and some even ended up on the ceiling tiles above our heads. You could tell that we both weren’t expecting such an explosion, as we both let out our breaths at the same time in a “Phew” type fashion. “How in the hell did you say this happened, Mr. Stepherson?”
“I burned the shit out of it on the end of a hot crack pipe in the back of a taxi cab on the south side of Chicago sir.” (Like it wasnt no thang.)
“Oh. Well that’s pretty hard core and I appreciate the honesty, sir. Now, you wanna see something really cool?”
“I mean, yeah. Sure Doc.”
And then he pulled some weird looking pliers out of his coat pocket and very casually place one pincher end underneath the tip of the deformed and melted nail. And I heard a very noticeable CLICK sound and the nail bed disconnected from the nail and the cuticle gave way. ugh. Then the doctor held it up in the light to inspect the nail and picked up my hand to inspect the bed. He rinsed both with some type of cleaner and then got out a little dentist air tool. And he blew my nail bed back open with the little tool, and eased the nail back into the bed and washed them both in cleaner.
“You’re lucky you came in when you did, I don’t know how you pulled that off, but if you had waited much longer you probably would have lost at least half of that finger dude. Maybe you should stop smoking crack sir.”
And then he wrapped my finger up in some gauze and taped it up.
“Yeah, maybe it is time to stop smoking crack.” I thought to myself.
I knew deep down inside It was way beyond time to stop. I was so sick and stuck in the grip man. I couldn’t even truly think about getting some help.
And anyways, I still had some of that shit left back at the house and a coupe bags of heroin. So I was gonna go back and get all weird yet again…
So yeah, that’s my “How smoking crack in the back of a taxi cab almost cost me my finger” Story.
Yeah I don’t miss that shit.