Here's a little short story I wrote:
Fiona and Sara were beaming as they excitedly hopped into Sara’s new Jeep Cherokee her parents just bought her for her sixteenth birthday. Clad in two hundred dollar jeans, along with a vintage tee shirt, boots and a hooded jacket, Sara drove with purpose into the center of Philadelphia. It was cold for October, but the night was clear. They passed the art museum where Rocky Balboa famously graced its steps, then through the array of international flags leading into Center City. Town Hall was next, its massive clock radiating a fluorescent yellow in the darkness, and then to China Town where they had spent many weekends going to concerts at the Trocadero or the TLA. Past all of the stores they had shopped in with their parents on their days off and the art schools where they had both received scholarships for summer classes, they cruised—detached.
Then the brightly lit streets devolved into dark, narrow alleyways—the ritzy shops and restaurants morphed into the old Projects, a slew of dilapidated houses sloppily slumped together like a crowded subway. Inside was even worse—nearly double the building’s human capacity lived too closely together, never able to savor a private moment.
Tall, overly muscular black men in dark clothing prowled the littered sidewalks, daring any passerby to merely glance in their direction. They walked like they owned the streets—probably not too far of a stretch. Every now and then the girls heard noises they couldn’t explain, or maybe just didn’t want to—a painful scream, thunderous shouting, loud bangs.
Two tiny white girls from a wealthy suburb of Philadelphia, they didn’t quite fit into the scene of the northeast side. Still driving, they became very aware of how they were perceived by the inhabitants of the “hood.” But they were young, ignorant to the danger of traveling alone to their city’s ghetto on a weeknight, and they paid no mind to the unwelcome stares and shouts that were ever present.
Pulling up to a house on 15th Street and Girard Avenue, they questioned—briefly—if the man they were coming to meet would actually show. Fiona pulled out her cell phone, preparing to dial the strange man’s number just as a loud knock came to the driver’s side window. Startled, Sara looked to her left where a man stood tall, purposeful. She glanced at Fiona, who slapped her arm, gesturing for her to roll down the window. Mechanically, she did it and looked wide-eyed at the man before her.
“Hey,” Sara said as coolly as she could muster. “So, you got what I need?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, mumbling, “Pull up over here and turn your lights off. I’ll be out.”
He flashed Fiona a smile, big white teeth against a dark canvas. He disappeared into the night like a panther, only after looking around cautiously and signaling Sara to park her car up the street at another house—not his.
It felt like hours as they sat idly in the car—lights off, keys out of the ignition, only the sound of anxious breathing and occasional sniffling—a result of their new affinity for nasally inhaled drugs. Then from the unlit town house their man emerged, heading towards the car. He climbed into the back seat without warning, handing Fiona the purchase.
“80 bucks, right?” she asks.
“Holla fo’ 80 dolla!” Fiona squeals, an inside joke stemmed from the rarity of scoring an eight ball of cocaine for only eighty dollars. The dealer laughed, said he’d probably see them again, and went on his way; it was systematic, every day business.
“Why is it yellow?” Sara asked Fiona while examining the purchase, still new to the life of a cocaine addict.
“It’s just like that sometimes. They have to cut it with something,” she said, pulling a rolled up dollar bill out of her purse—sampling the product. “Feels good to me,” Fiona laughed easily after a long inhale. Sara smiled, comforted by her confidence, yet silently vowing never to drive here again.
Like many promises she made to herself that year, it was a lie.