“What you doing, girl?” shouts someone from across the street, near the corner of Winona and Kenmore.
“Girl, we’re on this mission,” answers Jeannie.
It’s around seven on a Saturday night and 23-year-old Jeannie and her friend Patty are out to score some crack cocaine.
“The first thing to look for is starter jackets, you know, with the names of sports teams on them,” says Patty. “You find a kid in a starter jacket, like with Raiders on the back, and chances are you found some coke.”
“We’re looking for ready rock, coke that’s already been cooked to remove all the mix,” says Jeannie.
“You can’t smoke coke that ain’t cooked,” says Patty. “It just don’t get you high.”
Jeannie yells to a group of young men lurking in starter jackets across the way, on Winona and Winthrop. “Yo, Easy! You seen G-Money?”
“Nah, baby, what you need?” answers Easy, the one in the “X” cap.
“I need two dimes,” shouts Jeannie.
“Don’t get shit from him,” says Patty. “He sell dummies.”
Sometimes dealers sell bags of drywall, gravel, baking soda.
“Let me just check it out,” Jeannie says to Patty, and she crosses the street.
“Can I taste it?” Jeannie asks Easy, and he hands her two small yellow plastic bags.
“Go ahead,” says Easy.
“Man, this ain’t coke,” says Jeannie. “This is Ivory soap.”
“Girl, you opened my product,” says Easy. “You better give me my money.”
“I ain’t giving you nothing,” says Jeannie. “I didn’t smoke it.”
“You opened it,” Easy says emphatically. “You better give me my money.”
Easy snatches a ten-dollar bill from Jeannie’s hand and casually saunters off with it and the dime bags as well.
“Damn,” says Jeannie.
“I told you not to mess with those Vice Lords,” screams Patty. “Now we only got $20 left.”
“Let’s walk up to Thorndale,” says Jeannie. “I know somebody up there.”
It’s ten o’clock and no one has even gotten high yet.
Jeannie and Patty walk the ten blocks up Kenmore from Winona to Thorndale. It’s cold out but all they’re wearing is light sweaters.
By 10:45 Jeannie and Patty have finally found some “good shit.” They find a hallway and hunker down to smoke their pipes.
Thanks to the efforts of Father George Clements and Father Pfleger, the sale of cocaine paraphernalia is illegal, so Jeannie and Patty have taken an El Producto cigar tube, which is made of glass, and cracked the closed end open. The pipe’s screen is fashioned from a Chore Boy-brand kitchen scrubbing pad.
“Chore Boy must be rich by now, all the drug addicts that use it,” says Jeannie through puffs of cocaine smoke.
“Yeah,” says Patty. “I must have given them at least $1,000 of my money since I started smoking.” Patty’s been smoking crack for three years, Jeannie for six.
The drugs are taking effect, and though the radiator in the hallway is just inches from the wall Jeannie is trying to crawl behind it.
It’s midnight before Patty can drag Jeannie out from her hiding spot, and now that they’re both “geeked,” or coming down off their high, they’re desperate to find more crack. Their eyes bulge from their sockets, seeming ready to pop out. By the time Patty turns a couple of tricks most of the drug dealers who stand along Kenmore between Granville and Thorndale have gone home, so the search must begin anew.
“Before that bust in Addison, we used to didn’t have to look like this,” says Jeannie. “Crack was everywhere. Now it’s so hard to find.”
“Yeah, sometimes this looking makes me want to quit,” says Patty.
Both Patty and Jeannie have run through drug rehab programs like Ben Johnson beat Carl Lewis–fast and still under the influence.
It’s 4:30 AM and Jeannie and Patty have made it all the way to Wilson and Sheridan.
“We just got enough for four dime bags,” says Patty. “Dealers don’t like shorts.”
The bag costs $10 even. You might have, say, $9.11, which most dealers will accept. Almost none will give any more of a break than a dollar.
Jeannie and Patty find some good stuff, but the guy wants $20 for a bag. When it’s this late, prices go up.
“Let’s just get it,” says Patty. “I’m tired of walking.”
“OK,” says Jeannie, and they’re off into the early-morning light, looking for a hallway to smoke their dope in. They’d probably go home if they had one.