Book Excerpt

Eventually, I focused back on my crack hustle. I wasn’t making a lot of money because I was no longer living in the building. Every time I recouped a new stash, I was sold some bullshit.There was a short supply on the streets. A lot of dealers were selling B12 instead of crack and I couldn’t tell the difference. It was all white. Once a crack head bought from me and it was some bullshit they wouldn’t come back. I started working odd jobs. I was twenty-three years young and I had to fend for myself. I found a temporary job. I was working one temp job after another. I purchased Tupac’s new CD “Me Against the World” simply because of the title. Tupac had a way of saying things that justified my life and how I felt. I wanted to live and be loved. I was never given a blueprint on how to live. My mother came from nothing and was not able to teach me how to live only how to survive. My mom was only able to teach us what she knew.

I got hired with a group of guys to help rehab a house on the west side of Chicago. I had never done that type of work before, but was at the address bright and early, ready to work. At about noon my pager started going crazy. I was in a renovated house. There was no phone. I borrowed change from another worker. My pager continued going off. I recognized that it was Brenda’s number, but was getting pages from other numbers too.  I had to ride around for a while to find a pay phone not only a pay phone but a phone that worked. I had to call Brenda collect because another phone took my money.

Brenda: “Your mom is in the hospital.”

Me: “What happened?”

Brenda: “I’m not sure, but she fainted at her job.”

My mother worked a summer job every year for the state.

Me:“What hospital is it?”

Brenda: “Northwestern.”

Me:“Where is that?”

Brenda:“Somewhere downtown.”

I hung up the phone, I felt uneasy. I didn’t feel like it was serious. Should I keep working? Do I have enough gas to get there? I don’t want to lose this gig. That voice in my head told me to go.

I walked into the hospital and my sister was already there. My aunt walked in right behind me. Wow, this must be more serious than I originally thought if my aunt’s here. The doctor pulled us into a room and explained that they were trying to stabilize her so they could perform surgery, I said, “Surgery? What do you mean surgery?” The doctor looked at me and said, “Did you guys know your mother used cocaine?” I said, “Yes,” My aunt and sister said, “No.” The doctor continued, “Your mother has high blood pressure and a swollen blood vessel in her brain. The cocaine only made her blood pressure higher which made the blood vessel pop.” The doctor compared it to a tire and said “If you put too much air in a tire it will eventually pop.” She informed us that even with surgery that my mother would never be the same again. I said, “Huh? What does that mean doctor!?” “That means if your mom comes out of this she will not be able to speak or communicate or do anything for herself.” “So you’re saying my mom will be a vegetable?” The doctor said, “We try to stay away from those terms, but she will be comatose.” Wow, now the reality of the situation set in and I was not sure if I wanted them to perform surgery on her. What’s the point of her being alive if she can’t live?

I saw a white priest walking through the corridor of the hospital. A voice in my head said, “Ask him to pray for your mom.” No! I’m not doing that! The voice said, “This may be the only chance you have to save your mom.” I followed the priest and at the right moment, I asked him to pray for my mom. He walked me to a corner, held my hand and prayed. I thanked him. More of my family showed up. My brother flew in from Nashville. My mom was on life support. We all took turns privately speaking with her. I went in the room and didn’t know what to say. I held her hand and said, “Mom” my voice cracked, then I said, “Mom I will always represent you, I will tell your story.” My tears started to form in my eyes, but I stopped them. I felt if I cried, I had officially accepted that she was dead.

My mother’s name was Audrey L. Adams. The date was July 27, 1995. The doctor called my sister, brother and myself into a room; she stated that she only wanted to speak with us. My aunt came in the room totally ignoring the doctor’s request, so it was three of us and my aunt. That really irritated me. My aunt kept trying to push her lie that my mom wasn’t on drugs, though most of the time my mom was getting high she was getting high with her. I felt if there was ever a time to be honest, it was now. My aunt said that she was worried about the insurance. Fuck the insurance! I was worried about my mother’s life. We needed to be honest with the doctors.  I answered all the doctors honestly. I didn’t care what my aunt thought. After another hour, the doctor told us my mom was brain dead. I don’t know why the doctor used those words, but it was official, my mother had passed.  The family was calm, none of us shouted or cried. We all knew pain so well. It rained the entire day after she died. It felt like God was crying. I saved my tears for my own private moments. My siblings and I went home to Justine.

I was asleep on the couch. I hopped up in the middle of the night and I grabbed my mother’s death certificate off the table. It reads in all caps CAUSE OF DEATH: COCAINE.  Oh my God, did I kill my mother?! All the drugs I had given her a couple months prior came to my mind as I tried to convince myself that she didn’t have my drugs when she died. A bigger question entered my mind: How many people had I killed selling crack? I didn’t know someone could die from smoking crack. I was ignorant. At that very moment, I said: “I’m never selling crack again.” I felt different about everything. I wanted to blame someone. I first blamed myself, then I pointed the finger at America. When I say America I’m really talking about white America. There are those who will question my blame. There are people who will say no one told you to sell crack or steal from Best Buy. It’s those people who have never been without lights or heat or had to survive on donuts. We often look at the end result of something and not the root.

Truth is, my mother grew up very poor. The singer Billy Preston said it best, “Nothing from nothing leaves nothing.” America never gave me an opportunity. What I’m trying to say is that most people are going to follow the environment that surrounds them. That’s all I did. Why does the environment exist? My mind started waking up.The days leading up to the funeral were very difficult. The phone would not stop ringing. Our neighbors collected donations in the neighborhood and gave us a hallmark card full of money. Everyone was coming to the house with food. I started writing out the obituary, but my aunt thought it was a good idea for us all to get together and write it. I was upset because I wanted the chance to show my writing abilities. It was in my heart to write something nice for my mother.

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