back in the day my name was Kid. my boy's name was keys, cuz he was a genius on the piano. this was 92, 93...we cut class and drove down crackhead lane, to where our friend A. lived. what i remember most about the place was that all the furniture was covered in plastic and all the curtains and shades were always drawn. i loved the dark, coccoon-like vibe. it always smelled of incense and after shave and spanish food that someone's girl was cooking in the kitchen. the various bands A. played drums in would come by to practice in the basement, and keys was of course true to his name and got in there on the keyboards. there he was--10AM when he was supposed to be in chemistry class with a nearly full ashtray and a glass of beer at his side, his glasses slipping off his face as he went deeper and deeper into the deep funk groove that was opening in the floor underneath him. soon he'd be dead to the world. the entire house could collapse around him and he'd keep right on playing. id watch for a while, but then i'd get restless and when no one was looking i went upstairs, to one of the first floor bedrooms where A.'s brother Peanut ran the family business, selling what everyone fronted like was weed, but was in actuality smack.

Peanut was small and misshapen, with a perfectly round, bald black head, immense shoulders and neck and a tiny, almost nonexistent waist and ladylike hips. he always wore sweatpants and he always wore them low. on top was a brilliant white undershirt over which he draped a silk or linen shirt that he left unbuttoned. it flowed about him like a cape. i knew he was strapped but i knew better than to look, although i always got the feeling that he wanted me to. his arms, while immensely muscular, were slightly foreshortened, which made them fascinating to me. they reminded me of action figure arms. i'd sit beside him on the bed while he stuffed baggies and watch the different bands of muscles move up and down. his skin was covered with raised pink scars. everywhere except his face, which was perfectly smooth--the skin drawn downwards, giving him the thoughtful look of a buddha. it helped too that his eyes were little slits--not because he was on anything. he didn't do drugs himself, that's just the way his eyes were.

at first when i came poking around he told me to get lost, but then he saw that i was smart and quiet, and the fact that it was heroin didn't seem to bug me, so he let me hang around. gimme that, kid, he'd say or reset the scale, kid...i'd sometimes catch him checking me out as i bent over to grab something but he never acted out of line, and on the contrary treated me with the kind of respect he might show another adult dude. i'd been working after school jobs since i was 13 but this was the first time i got to see how a business really ran. Peanut liked to joke around and act crazy, but when it was time to make money it was time to make money and everything became very serious. the musicians would come up stairs, one at a time, to make a score. they didn't see me, nestled between the side of the stereo and the wall and a big green bean bag that kept me hidden. i think some of them knew i was there, though. i heard their voices and i knew who they were, but the facts of the situation almost made them seem like different people...the shaky humorless jokes they made, the slightly defensive posturing...Peanut knew how to handle it all. while he never pitied their cravings, he somehow managed to honor them. they were, after all, his livelihood. i witnessed how he could diffuse a situation and rewire it, so that it worked for him.

i worked to adopt his poker face, and his manner of speaking slowly, which gave the impression that each word was chosen with care.

soon, i was heading straight for Peanut's room as soon as we came over, much to the chagrin of keys, who pretended it didn't make a difference to him whether i listened to him play.

maybe i've finally found something i'm really GOOD at, i thought.

peanut and i listened to jodeci, boyz II men and bobby brown while we measured, weighed and stuffed. i can still remember the feeling of honor when he finally let me count one of his wads of cash. his breath always smelled like hot cinammon certs. he told me about his girlfriends and showed me pictures of his kids in their school uniforms and told me that if i ever tried H he'd beat the shit out of me.

then there was that time he ran out for a second and an immense, murderous looking man managed to slip undetected through the front door and stood before me in the center of the room with his arms at his sides.

"where's peanut?" he wanted to know. he had a heavy jamaican accent.

"he'll be right back," I said...surprised at how easily i was able to speak. i was sitting on the bed, hugging my knees to my chin as i had been doing before he arrived.

there was a moment of silence, in which he looked me up and down. i was wearing an indie rock t and baggie jeans, not quite the hootchie gear he would have expected from a white chick on Peanut's bed.

"what the fuck, little girl," he said, "you gonna try and tell me yr peanut's bitch?"

"you gotta problem with it?" was Peanut's reply as he appeared behind him and pressed his foot into the back of the man's knees, causing him to buckle and loose his balance.

he stumbled forward and came just short of landing upon me on the bed, before he turned and broke into a wide grin.

"hahaha--y'all are crazy!" he shouted and proceeded to laugh like it was the funniest thing in the world, but peanut didn't smile, he just stood there, looking at the man and then back at me, and i noticed that he was breathing heavily, his nostrils flaring in and out as though he were upset.

and the feeling of everything always being OK was pulled aside for a few seconds, like the veil that covers the minister's disturbed and disbelieving face as he dutifully carries on with his sermon, revealing in its place a spinning world of pain and mistrust--a dark world of horrible endings and bent and broken souls...

i lit a cigarette and folded my hands in my lap. i could hear the blood pounding in my ears...

that was more or less the beginning...the first push or plunge or whatever...

...all the other shit fell like dominos after that.


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