By: Barbra Leslie


It was November, and I love November. I love the sunny mornings and the slate gray afternoons, and waiting for the first snowfall.

What I hate are perfect July evenings when all the young couples in love stroll around with arms around each other’s tanned waists, jeans hanging off their hips in such a way that you know that they just pulled them on after having sex all afternoon. Or maybe they just drove back to the city after being at their parents’ summer homes for long lazy weekends, diving off the dock into cold blue water. They wander the streets, meeting other carefree youngsters for drinks on the street-side patios of bars, their voices carrying into the night.

I like that in November, people cover up and walk faster to get where they’re going. And I don’t have to see young people with the cockiness of a perfect past and a promising future in front of them. Or so they think.

My sister thought that. I thought that once, too. And look at us now.

She’s in her grave. And me?

I’m going to find everyone who put her there.


A handy tip about addicts:

For every crazy-eyed, brain-fried crackhead you see shambling down the street with flip-flops on in the middle of winter, there are a hundred like me, who stay at home and have their drugs delivered. If you have ready cash and know a dealer (and preferably one who doesn’t dabble in his own merchandise), it’s not much more difficult than ordering in pizza. But unlike the Domino’s guy, dealers drive black SUVs with tinted windows, they never get out of their vehicle, and forget about thirty minutes or it’s free.

See, we’re not much different to alcoholics. You see boozers on the street drinking two-dollar wine out of paper bags, and you know they’re only five steps ahead of your Uncle Eddie, who drinks a quart of Jameson every night and falls asleep on the couch with a lit Marlboro in his hand.

We’re like rats: if you see one in an alley, you know there are dozens more, hiding inside somewhere in the dark.

But this isn’t about crack.

This is about Ginger.

* * *

It was a typical day for me, or at least a typical end-of-bender day. I’d been up for two days with Gene, my partner in crime. We were watching a stupid comedy on cable, laughing and feeding each other hits. As usual, we were carefully watching the size of the rock sitting on the CD case on the coffee table dwindle, the anxiety building.

For a crack addict, the coming down is so bad that you’d rather keep going until there is no going left.

“Call him,” I said, referring to our main dealer, D-Man. “He can get down here and back by rush hour.” Gene lit two cigarettes and handed me one. We were a regular forties movie brought to life, we were.

“No, darlin’,” Gene said. He always did this, pretended that we should stop. He wasn’t the one paying for it. “We can’t.” It was pure show. As usual, I ignored him.

“If I call him, you have to go outside and get it,” I said. For a full-time crack dealer, D-Man wasn’t a bad guy, but I didn’t particularly like having him up to the apartment. It was not a pleasant experience. He had some kind of paranoid mental illness that he obviously wasn’t treating with the right medication, and having him around made me feel like I was in a bad early-90s movie about the dangers of the druggie lifestyle. He was a slightly built but pudgy Slavic guy. He wore Bee Gees or Air Supply t-shirts tucked into combat pants that left very little to the imagination. And I have a good imagination. His real name was Darko, and he had a heavy Eastern European accent. Some days he said he was Croatian, some days Czech, but who was going to argue. The D-Man moniker he had come up with on his own, he said. He was proud of it. He wanted some of his customers, the ones he had never met face to face, to think he was a black dude. The black guys got more respect, he said. I never wanted to tell him that even over the phone, no one was going to mistake his accent, but keeping drug dealers sweet is something junkies tend to aspire to.

D-Man answered on the second ring. At this time of day, late morning, he would have been asleep for about three or four hours, and he always feigned impatience with us when we woke him up. But we all knew that Gene and I were his best customers. He lived way, way uptown, but within an hour, he or one of his scary-ass drivers would be idling at my back door with a little white rock wrapped in Saran.

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