For the past three days I’d been secretly staying at the hostel. Going to bed at one, after Ali, the hostel’s owner, left, I’d wake up at six. Before Ali did the morning walk-through of the building, my friends that worked and stayed there, helped me sneak out through the fire escape.
It was the afternoon. I payed for a room since I got my check from a temp gig. I just changed out of a tuxedo from working a banquet at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Mayor Gavin Newsom was having a fundraiser. Ra’s ship was sinking into the pacific. On the hostel’s rooftop, the San Francisco sky looked like watercolor stripes breeding analogous tones. Up came Black.
“Damn, you summoned the blunt, my nigga,” he said, holding a long cigar full of the Bay’s medicinal heritage.
Black and I passed the blunt back and forth. Finally, Black told me his story.
“Florida, dawgs, I ran that shit for three years. When I was 15 I’ll never forget, this cat Moo, that’s what we use to call him. That nigga got merked, shot up in the car -blouw. I’m not gonna lie, that was one of the happiest days of my life. Me and my niggas claimed that shit.”
His crew stuck a flag into the corner of his block.
“My family was like, ‘this is our shit.’ You know when you 12, 13 you get tired of making deliveries. You get your little %15, fuck that. In the hood if you hungry you gonna eat. Just like when I got here, broke, saw this white dude on Haight flashing his cream, counting it, blouw, snatch niggas shit and keep it moving. But in New York…”
Black hooked up with a Vietnamese dealer in China town who was partners with a Dominican cat.
“Dawgs, barrels of heroin. I only paid for a quarter, but they fronted me a whole. The Vietnamese dude pointed at my partner, ‘186 Fulton. You, 566 Myrtle.’ These niggas weren’t fucking around. ‘I know where you live, ya moms, aunt, you got a daughter. Don’t fuck with my money. Hey…,'” Black said as if the man was asking them to bring his change back from the bodega, “‘just come back. I’ll see you later.'”
Black’s career began making drop offs from Bed-Stuy to East New York.
“Here come this 16-year-old ashy white-looking Puerto Rican kid trooping through the hood to see some little black chick. ‘Oh you trying to catch bugs. That bitch got something.’ Niggas on the corna, ‘Hey pappi where you going?’ ‘I’m going to see Yolanda.’ I’m like, fuck that, I’m smashing.”
Black’s grandfather owned a dry cleaning business off Broadway Junction.
“Niggas loved my grandfather. I used to troop there all the time. Niggas on the corner, ‘Hey pappi what’s good.'”
Raising his hand to the clouds, he waved at the street-watchers.
“When you live in the hood, it don’t matter what color, you become a part of the hood.”
One time, when his mom was working the counter at the dry cleaners, she had a customer that wanted to take his laundry, but he couldn’t pay for it.
“I come walking up the block. I can see money arguing with ma dukes. Just before I get up to the door this nigga snuffs my mother in the face.”
We looked at each other, the same way Muslims would look at someone pissing on a picture of Mohammad.
“Nigga come running out the store -blouw.”
Black, clotheslined him.
“Started kicking that nigga on the ground. Niggas came running from down the block, stomping dude in the face like, ‘Oh word, this nigga hit momma,’ pushing me out the way. Niggas stepping back….”
He simulates pulling a gun out of his waist.
“Niggas was like, ‘no no don’t do that.’ They was trying to merk him.”