The project hallways were oddly structured, each floor like a maze, with passageways that confusingly led to unexpected places.
I hung in the hallways when I should have been in school. Yet, in part, the hallways were like school, the graffiti an essay of street names, gossip, and slander. “D-Nut,” “T-Bone,” “White Boy Bobby,” “Bedrock,” “Monique fu#*! Dwayne,” and “Nicole is a hoe.” I tagged “Talia was here.”
The hallways were damp. The walls sweated, even in the winter. Cigarette butts, empty beer bottles, and spit littered the floors. The corners were like clogged toilets, overflowing with urine and human feces.
Every building had a different purpose:
Building ten was where we hung to sell crack, smoke marijuana, and make out.
Building nineteen is where I could find my mother when I went looking for her.
Building twenty was like a drug house. Plastic nip bottles (makeshift crack pipes) littered the steps. A crack head smoked while her daughter watched. Drunken men slept. Prostitutes pleasured their Johns and pimps collected the money.
On hot summer nights the hallway was my cool. During spring showers, an umbrella. In the fall, a sweater. And in winter--when I imagined families relaxed by a fire place, snuggled in a blanket, sipping hot cocoa-- the project hallways were my family and home.