Story time again! So, what makes a Hustler? Travel with me as I relate stories of moments that changed my life.
I used to live in a world just below yours. Some call it the Underworld. When people hear that term they immediately think hardened criminals, shady drug deals and sleazy dens of gambling and partying with danger lurking behind every door.
Some of you all watch too many movies and listen to too much gangsta rap.
Not saying that things like that aren't a reality, but on the everyday average, nothing much really goes on. This story however wasn't your average everyday.
I remember I was Grindin’ hard back then. I was running long “shifts” on the streets and it was slowly wearing me down. The problem with constantly Grinding is that sometimes you are so involved that you forget to look up. All that means is that you start missing important details because you’re too caught up with what you’re doing.
I thought it would be beneficial to take a day off and just relax. It just so happened I got a phone call from the chocolate beauty Ms. Nica (Nee-Kah).
I hadn't spent any time with Nica in a couple of months. When things like that happened I figured the old rule applied, “Out of sight, out of mind”. I rarely got upset about these things. I dated at least two women at a time so being on the outside of a woman’s radar went with the territory. That was the price I had to pay for the dating lifestyle I lived. In addition, my Grind was the most important thing in my life. I didn't have time to feel lonely.
About four days earlier Nica came through my Hustling spot and greeted me with a big hug and gorgeous smile. She had gotten a new cell phone so we exchanged numbers.
She also informed me that she had a new apartment. I agreed to visit so we could “catch up on things”. Hood lady code for: “Please come hit this!”. She even sweetened the pot by promising to cook. Nica was a sharp young lady, that’s for sure. I jumped in the shower, put on some impressive clothes, brought out the jewelry, scented-up and made my way into the hood.
For those of you that know Atlanta, you know anything around Metropolitan Parkway (formally Steward Avenue) IS the hood. I hadn't been over that way in about a year when this story happened, but I still knew my way around so it wasn't a problem finding her residence.
I made my way to the door and was greeted with her trademark seductive smile and a warm hug. She gave me the brief tour around her cramped two bedroom apartment and we settled in the living room. Night rolled in as we talked about regular matters for a while. She got up to cook – nothing fancy, just some spaghetti and homemade garlic bread. It was delicious. Nica always said she could throw-down in the kitchen but this was my first time tasting her cooking. Lucky for her it was worthy of a compliment. I think no comment is almost as bad as a critique with women who are sensitive.
As we ate she went through her DVD collection and when I heard the word Breakin’ I told her, “That’s the one!” Breakin’ is a classic and I hadn't seen it in years.
I finished my plate pretty quick and was captivated by the scenes flashing across the television and the memories those scenes brought back. Memory lane however, was interrupted by Nica’s cell phone ringing.
All I heard was a woman’s voice practically yelling through the phone and all I saw was the wide-eyed look of worry painted on Nica’s face. She ran over to the television, turned the volume down and kept repeating into the phone, “Where are you at? Where?” as she paced back and forth.
I sat there silently knowing that drama was on the other end of the line. I thought to myself, ‘Do I know how to run into drama or what?’ Sometimes you just have to invite the drama – face it and deal with it. Life is a series of problems that must be solved, after all.
“Oh my god, Oh my god!” was all that came out of Nica’s mouth. She was visibly shaken. Her eyes were glazed over in disbelief, as if the foundation of her reality was crumbling around her.
I approached her stunned figure. “What’s up?” I asked.
It took her a moment to register my voice, “It’s my homegirl Tan,” she replied.
I was familiar with Tan and the many stories Nica had told me so I asked the first logical question that came to mind, “Oh, did her and her man get into a fight again?”
“Um… No. She was crying so loud. Oh my god!” Nica closed her flip phone and stared at it.
“Wait. What? What’s up? Where is she at?” I asked as my mind began to run through a dozen scenarios. None of them good.
Nica’s phone rung again, she echoed the names of nearby streets and flipped the phone closed.
“Where we off to?” I asked.
“Up Metropolitan,” Nica replied dryly.
We hopped in the car and made our way up the road. Nica didn’t say much while she kept staring at her phone. I didn’t ask much. I had already ruled out the probability that there would be gun-play involved this evening. Although when you live a street life you must always stay open to that possibility. I made sure I was ready in every way I could be with the information I had. Which wasn’t much. The first lesson I learned here, when I contemplated on this situation later, was that information is king. You should have as much information possible before you dive head first into drama. Especially when the drama isn’t yours.
As I continued to drive I saw flashing police lights and yellow tape in the distance. A large part of the road had been blocked off.
“There!” Nica said pointing ahead.
I turned down a side street and she practically jumped out of the car and ran to the scene. I maneuvered around and then parked the car. I looked around as I walked toward her. Nica had just finished a conversation with one of the officers at the scene. She turned toward the street with her back to me. She looked up and down the road as if she was looking for something or someone.
As I came up to the police tape I saw a couple of News vans arriving. Nica opened her cell phone and dialed Jay. Jay was the General Manager where both Tan and Nica worked. They were all close-knit because they were all bi-sexual females. Nica told me a few stories and even threw a couple invites my way. I never had the opportunity to take advantage of those though. The timing was just never right.
Nica spoke so fast to Jay that I swore she was speaking a foreign language. She gave our location to Jay then hung up the phone.
“I talked to one of the officers. They say she hit a man with her car,” Nica said.
I looked slightly up the road and saw Tan’s vehicle on the side of the road. I don’t remember the make, model or color but I do remember the windshield being buckled inward. The street lights reflected oddly revealing thousands of cracks. On the ground, a few yards from us, a body was covered by a white blood stained sheet. A few police officers had bent down to examine it. I remember then nodding to each other, probably reaching the same conclusion.
It didn't take long for my mind to process what Nica told me before it left her lips.
“Oh my god, I think the guy she hit is dead! Oh my god! What about her kids?!” Nica said. Furiously she tried to call Tan’s cell phone only to be met with voicemail. It seemed that Tan was in the car alone and her five children were at her house. I suppose you could say that was as about as silver as any lining was going to get.
“She’s so fucked!” Nica turned to look up at me. “She didn't have her license on her. That officer asked if I could bring it to them.”
Feeling powerless all I could do was console Nica and put my arm around her. Vehicular homicide was serious and losing custody of her children would only put salt in the wound if it came to that.
Ten minutes went by and Nica still couldn't get Tan on the phone and couldn't get the attention of any of the officers. Jay finally showed up. She still donned her work uniform and she asked Nica if she could go to the restaurant and cover her while she tried to figure out what happened to Tan. Nica reluctantly agreed. We headed back to the car. I drove her directly to her work place. There was no time for a change of clothes.
Nica’s co-workers looked on when walked in with a disturbed look on her face. They all wanted to know what was happening but I could see it on her face that mentally she just wasn't all there.
Rest of the story short, Jay called the restaurant to tell Nica everything she knew. Tan was going to be taken in for driving without a license and her kids would watched by their grandfather. Tan was not going to be charged with vehicular homicide charges because there were too many witnesses that claimed the man was jay-walking. Jay was going to pick Tan up as soon as she was released and put up bond for her if necessary.
Nica and I returned to her domicile after Jay arrived back to finish her work shift. After she relaxed a bit, we finished watching the movie. Nica and Jay passed information back and forth through text messages. I left just before morning after we had sex; I think it was around 3am. I couldn't stay I had business to take care of.
Tan had gone to pre-trial and her bond ended up being about 200 dollars. A few of her family members caught word of what transpired and made plans to come to Atlanta for support. I never saw Tan or Jay again. I think I only saw Nica once after that night.
Surprisingly, the next morning we had found out that the man did not die on impact! Wasn't that something? But… the paramedics didn't show up in a reasonable time (over 2 hours late) so he eventually did pass away. 911 was still a joke back then. Negligence, go figure.
The main thing I had learned that night was what everyone always tells you. Your life can literally change in the blink of an eye. I would run into more situations that would re-instill that reality. Why do we take time for granted? It’s one of those things that we can use but never control. Consider the story I just told you. Five people’s lives changed forever so many years ago on that night. All from one tragic accident.
We can’t predict how many people our words and/or actions will affect, if anyone. But just imagine if you purposely chose to affect people with your words and/or actions what impact you could make in the World. And it could all happen in the blink of an eye.
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