The Brooklyn housing projects were deserted as Eva
Patterson took a shortcut through the buildings, trying
not to get drenched in the pouring rain. It was unusually
cold for early fall, and all she had on was the corduroy
skirt and Salvation Army sweater she’d been wearing
when Rasheena kicked her out of their tenement apartment, but the temperature was the last thing on her mind as her eyes scanned the crime- ridden buildings in search of a safe place to go.
“Sheena, please . . .” Their neighbor Iris had butt in on
the earlier drama as Rasheena cursed her daughter out
like she was a grown woman. Iris had puffed out her
cheeks and held her breath between tokes of weed. “Stunt, stop
fuckin’ trippin’. Eva’s a good girl. And young as she is, I know
you ain’t . . . putting her out in the . . . street this time of . . .
It was a GreyGoose night, and Rasheena drunk was somebody
altogether different than Rasheena high. The high Rasheena
would have been sitting in a corner somewhere. Getting her nod
on and leaving Eva the hell alone.The drunk Rasheena had stood
over her daughter giving her a grimy look that said Eva could kiss
“What?!?” Rasheena had turned to Iris. “Fourteen is grown!
Sheeit . . . my ass was on the ave gettin’ tricked when I was
twelve. Who the fuck took care of me?”
Rasheena slurped a mouthful of Goose straight from the
bottle, then chased it with a long swig of cranberry juice and
explained. “Look, I. If you lie you steal, and Eva is a thief. Agoddamn
thief. There’s two things I ain’t ’bout to watch in my
own goddamn house. My duji and my dick! Ya feel me? Eva
grown enough to fuck with my man and dabble in my shit?
Then she grown enough to let the doorknob hit’er in the ass on
the way out!”
” Iris toked the blunt and muttered under
her breath. “Y’all the ones who got her started on that shit in
the first place . . .”
Eva had just sat there crying inside and looking forty instead
of fourteen. She had
tried to dip in Rasheena’s stash, but she’d
been sick all day and couldn’t go out and make no money. Eva
hated stealing from her mother. These days she hated taking
anything from anybody, but she had a hungry monkey on her
back. And Iris had it right. Eva wasn’t responsible for putting
herself on the gutter path to drug abuse, but neither did she
have what it took to get off of it. She hadn’t gotten a hit all day,
and just thinking about having to get out on those cold streets
was enough to bring her jones down even harder.
“Don’t worry I got you,
” Eva’s stepfather Jahden put his hand
up to his mouth and whispered. He winked and grinned as Eva
slunk into the tiny room she’d once shared with her cousin
Fuego, whose street- translated name was Fiyah. Eva missed her
cousin real bad. But Fiyah’s mother had gotten out of rehab a
couple of years earlier and he’d gone back to Harlem to live
with her. Even with all the grimy things they’d done together
Fiyah was down for her through thick and thin, and Eva
wished she could have escaped to Harlem with him.
“And don’t you take a damn thing outta here that I bought
you!” Rasheena screamed from the kitchen. Eva sighed. The
only thing she was interested in taking from the room was the
most important thing.
Jahden grabbed her thin arm as she headed out the front
“Hold on, baby. I said I got you.” A mid- level drug dealer,
Jahden specialized in pushing smack while most trap boys were
busy trading that rock. His hand slid around Eva’s narrow
shoulders then fell to the small of her back. Eva stiffened as his
fingers crept down the lump of her ass and massaged her
cheeks. A cold sweat broke out all over her skin. If my real father
was here Jah wouldn’t be touching me like this,
she cried inside.This nasty pervert woulda been bodied by now.
Eva bit her
tongue, trying not to throw up. Jahden liked to cold sex her.
He would do things to her that Eva’s young body just wasn’t
ready to handle. There was no end to his twisted demands, and
earlier in the day he had forced Eva to sit on the floor and
watch him fuck Rasheena from the back while Rasheena got in
Iris’s pussy at the same time.
“Check me out, Eva baby!” he had panted as his ass cheeks
gyrated and pumped like a steam engine. Eva shuddered. Her
mother was rotating her head in circles and lapping nookie
juice like that shit came in thirty- one flavors. Jahden laughed at
the look of revulsion on Eva’s face, then screamed on her as she
closed her eyes and tried to escape the horrible scene playing
out in front of her. “Bitch open ya goddamn eyes! You betta be
a student and pay attention, dammit!”
Eva had just sat there and cried. She was traumatized and
sickened. She wanted to stick a knife in Jahden’s neck. The
same way he’d stuck a fearsome needle in her neck a year ago
and turned her into the scared, humiliated shell she was today.
Although Rasheena had starved her child almost to skin and
bones and done things to Eva that even the lowest dog- mother
would never consider, Jahden was the real reason her life was so
fucked up and Eva hated him for it. Every other day she’d
promise herself that she’d kick dope cold turkey before she let
him rape her or
get her high again, but her greatest fear had become
her greatest joy, and Eva was helpless.
Rasheena, who had held Eva down the first time Jahden shot
her up, and who had then stood by and watched as her boy -
friend busted her young daughter’s cherry, had been acting real
jealous. She got mad whenever it looked like Jahden would
rather fuck Eva than fuck her, and she put her foot down and
demanded that from that day on Eva had to pay for her skag
with cold hard gwap just like every other fiend- head customer.
Desperate, young Eva had taken to the streets to earn her
drug money the only way she knew how. On her knees and on
her back. She’d been beaten by strange men, raped, stabbed,
and almost strangled. She had cried out to God for help, begging
to know what she had done to deserve such a dark, treacherous
life. But as usual, there were no answers for Eva. There
was only more destitution and misery. Only fear and more
pain. And right now, standing next to Jahden while he rubbed
all over her ass, she was hurting. Real bad. Hurting and scared.
Seeing the disgust on her face Jahden grinned and reached in
his shirt pocket. He passed her a tiny foil- wrapped package and
squeezed her fingers when she tried to take it.
“I got what you need, baby girl.” He cupped his dick and
licked his lips. “See how cool I am? Tonight I’ma let you get it
Eva burned with rage, but he was right. She feared what he
had, but she needed it too. She snatched it greedily and fled.
Downstairs, Eva’s nose was runny and her entire body
ached. A deep pain gripped her as she was leaving her building,
and it wasn’t just from anger or from her mother’s cruel behavior.
Rasheena had once been a top clothing model for a highly
successful designer, but these days she was a common needle
fiend who put her man, her drink, and her drugs way ahead of
her only child. She had also been an extremely beautiful and
intelligent black woman who could have gone far in life. Tall
and shapely, with skin the color of brown sugar, she had wide
eyes, stunning lips, and hips like sweet chocolate milkshakes.
Back in the day she used to be known as the finest chick in
Brownsville, but a fast life and a series of grimy men had
proven more than Rasheena could handle. She’d traded her exotic
beauty for one too many heroin trips, and these days she
scrambled with the low- life Jahden because he not only paid
her rent, but he also kept her head right.
Having a junkie for a mother was bad enough, but the
drunken rages Rasheena flew into always cut Eva deep. Juiced,
Rasheena would wrap an extension cord around her fist and
whip her daughter until Eva’s skin split open and she passed
out from the pain. Eva’s starving body was a canvas of thick,
ugly scars and fresh bruises that she’d picked until they were
oozing, infected sores. Her stomach, ass, and back would be so
cut open that her wounds bled through and pussed over and
glued her undergarments to her skin. Her arms and legs had
their fair share of crisscrossed cuts and welts too, but Rasheena
had learned to chill on those areas after the school social worker
got on her case and told her she’d make sure her black ass got
locked up the next time she saw Eva with a fresh belt mark.
It was hard for Eva to admit that she would rather see her
mother mainline heroin than guzzle vodka and gin, but that
was the way it was with Rasheena. Besides, Eva understood
duji. She respected that shit. Liquor was something else
though. A smack head could find any old corner and cop a
quiet nod, but a drunk usually got loud and abusive. Drunks
liked to bully the weak, and that was Rasheena to a tee.
Eva dodged rain puddles and hunched her narrow shoulders
against the cold. It was after midnight, and the sixteen- story
concrete towers of Howard Houses Projects were a mixture of
illumination and darkness. Rain curled Eva’s silky hair and
drenched her down to her bruised skin. Shivering, she tightened
her grip on the tiny package she’d gotten from Jahden,
then ducked her head and moved down the walkways as fast as
She was close to building 420 when the same pain she’d felt
earlier slammed into her again. This one hurt so bad it
snatched her breath and doubled her over in her tracks. She
tried to pant quick and deep and get past it, but the agony
clawed at her gut and she fell to the wet ground, busting open
a partially healed sore on her knee.“Please, God,”
Eva begged. Her nose was running freely now,
and she was totally sick. “God, please help me.” Rainwater
mixed with tears fell into her mouth. Eva was scared. She felt
like a train had hit her and she needed to find someplace safe
fast. The wind screamed and she clenched her fist tight, holding
on to her precious package. She crawled over to a seesaw
and rested her cheek on the painted wood. Her knee throbbed
and her stomach felt pressurized, like she needed to take a real
Eva fought the urge, and as the wind screamed all she could
think about was getting someplace dry where she could get herself
right. She was a young girl but experience had taught her
what would happen to her if she went up in one of the regular
drug dens to do her thing. Like a lot of chicks, she might come
out of one of those joints either raped or beaten, if she made it
out at all. She gripped the small square of foil in her fist and
pressed on. She was alone and afraid, jonesing in the night, and
moments later she stood staring up at the windows of building
420. She knew people there. Her girl Sherri from junior high
lived on the third floor with her crippled grandmother. Eva had
come up on the streets with Sherri and a real cool dude named
Reem Raw, a true friend who would fight any niggah in the
street who so much as looked at either one of them wrong. But
Reem had moved up to Harlem, and Sherri . . . Eva gazed at
her friend’s window where a light shone from a bedroom. She
saw movement. She took a step toward the building, but then
remembered. Sherri was clean now. She’d washed her hands of
all the shiesty things she and Eva had done together. Eva moved
closer and the curtains fell closed. A shadow retreated from the
window and the light went out.
Friendless, Eva glanced around, searching for a spot. She was
tempted to take her chances and run up in a project stairwell
and get right real quick, but on a night like this there would be
more predatory winos and pipe heads on the stairs than there
were people living in the apartments. She would probably go
into a nod and come out of it dead.
A large basketball court was on her right and a parking lot was
on her left. Eva thought about breaking into a parked car, but she
didn’t have the strength. She didn’t have the time neither.
Suddenly she thought of something better.
Drunk Mister James.
Drunk Nasty- Ass Mister James.
Clenching her silver package, she scurried along the side of
building 420. Her sleeve scraped against the building’s rough
brick exterior. She hesitated at the mouth of the ramp that led
down to the underground laundrymat and decided to take her
chances. Sometimes Drunk Mister James was too lit to lock up
on the weekends. Closing time would come and go, and the
old man would be off, who the hell knew where, sipping on his
With her dope safe and dry in her left hand, Eva’s bony fingers
skimmed the rain- slick banister as she descended deeper
down the ramp. Step by step, terror crept over her. Pitch blackness
waited for her at the bottom, and probably a piper and a
stray cat or two as well.
“Oh . . . my God . . . please help me,
” Eva moaned. Another
pain seized her and she almost peed right there. She pressed her
knees together, feeling hot and nauseous. Like she needed to
shit and throw up at the same time. Determined, she moved
deeper down the ramp, the wind kicking her in the ass. If she
could just get someplace dry, she would be all right. She didn’t
really care about the pain. She lived with pain on the regular. It
was the dope sickness that was killing her.
A sudden surge of vomit splashed at the back of her throat
and Eva flung herself down the ramp. Her jones was riding herbad.
Desperation wiped away her fear and she was ready to
fight. If something bad was waiting to hurt her at the bottom
of the ramp then it better be jonesing harder than she was.
She stepped deeper into the darkness and stood before the
closed door. Her hand slipped on the wet knob as she twisted
it frantically. She almost couldn’t believe it when the door
swung open and she was inside an empty foyer that was as big
as her apartment. She was greeted by the smell of bleach and
laundry detergent mixed with the moldy aroma of rank old
piss. Drunk Mister James was a lazy ass. The Housing Authority
paid him to keep the place clean and swept up, but even in
the dark Eva knew the walls and pipes were covered with years’
worth of residual lint particles that spewed out of the ancient
She walked into the main room holding her hands out in
front of her, willing her eyes to adjust to the lack of light. The
shadows were still as the wind raged outside, and Eva’s eyes
darted over the large, spacious room. The project laundry was
supposed to be used by the residents only, but Eva had been
coming over here by herself since she was eight. She used to
envy the project kids as she watched them from the fourth- floor
window of her raggedy tenement. They had plenty of heat and
hot water over there. And windows that closed all the way in the
winter. Eva’s apartment building didn’t have a laundry room or
much of anything else, so she would venture across the street
and through the tall buildings to use the project laundry that
Drunk Mister James ran. Rasheena didn’t even have to make her
do it neither. At the age of eight Eva knew it was either cross the
street so Drunk Mister James could sneak her in the storage
closet and feel her nubby titties to see how big she was getting,
or walk around in dirty clothes every day.
The far left wall was lined with fifteen front- loading wash-
ers. At a dollar fifty a pop and ten minutes of lukewarm water,
they were just another ghetto rip- off. Three large wooden tables
stood in the center of the room. People often fought for
folding space on these tables, and Eva’s eyes had adjusted well
enough to make out several towels and shirts and other items
that had been discarded or left behind by their careless owners.
On her right were the clothes dryers. Eight of them. They
were jumbo. Industrial- sized.
Eva approached a middle dryer and pulled the metal handle
on its large Plexiglas door. She stood trembling and wet as she
gazed into the giant blackness. Her sickness rose again, and Eva
leaned forward. Pain throbbed in her lower back and there was
no room in her head for thought or fear. Every fiber in her
being needed this. She climbed into the dryer and settled her
small frame between its grooves. The metal was cold against
her wet skin. Her teeth chattered as she scooted backward,
pushing herself deeper inside.
Eva sat cross- legged. She uncurled her fist and gazed at her
fearsome package, then reached under her shirt and into her
dirty bra. She pulled out the plastic baggie containing her works.
Excitement surged through her the moment she held it. Her
skin was slick with anticipatory sweat despite her rain- drenched
clothes. She took off her panties, then removed the belt from her
skirt and looped it around her bruised upper thigh. The bulging
vein and scabbing track marks in her groin didn’t bother her. Nor
did her hunger pangs. Neither did the warm liquid that had
begun to seep from between her legs. She took out a spoon and
hummed as she flicked her lighter, then cooked and made her
preparations. Fast music played in her head and her stomach
cramped again. Hard. Eva ignored it and held the thing she
feared out in front of her. She flicked the tip with her middle finger.
Anticipation had her head spinning. Soon she’d be in a place
where there were no beatings, no hunger, and no pain. She
withdrew the plunger then pressed it back in slowly. Liquid
dribbled from the tip. Wrapping one end of the belt around her
hand, Eva bit hard on the other end and jerked her head. Yanking
it tight. Drool slid from her mouth and trickled down her
chin. She sat there, head bent and gap- legged. Straining against
the belt, Eva slapped the crease between her pelvis and her
thigh. The sound echoed in the darkness as her body yearned.
It was gonna feel sooo
good. Her fear was turning into joy, and
it was beautiful. The sharp tip glistened silver. She pressed it
into her flesh like a pro, piercing a worn vein.
Pure love shot through her. Her skin was on fire and her nipples
tingled. Eva pumped the plunger in and out, sending pleasure
waves from her vein straight to her brain. She rode those
waves until her mouth went slack. The needle fell from her
hand and her chin dropped to her chest. She had no idea how
long she stayed like that. Nodding. Emerging briefly from the
fog, just long enough to pick at the pus- filled sores on her arms
and legs, and then dive back in again. Eva’s lips spread in a half
smile. Music was in her head. In her stupor, she danced. She
felt happy there. Safe. Eva would have loved to stay in her nod
forever, but a pain so bone- grinding and graphic moved
through her midsection that it blew her high and sent a scream
flying from her lips.“Mommy . . .”
she moaned, loosening the belt as a huge gush
of water soaked her lower body. Eva was gripped in a tide of
pain that arched her back and ripped at the soft area between
her vagina and ass. She patted her pussy, horrified as a hard
mass bulged right there inside of her.What the . . . ?
The mass was forcing its way out. Making
her push. Eva gripped her thighs and fought with her pelvic
muscles. She pushed down three times and screamed into the
darkness. Four pushes later it was in her hands and she lay back
in the dryer, moaning. She could hear it, but she was too scared
to look. Minutes later another wave of agony tore through her.
Eva cried out and pushed again, then got freaked out by the
hot glob of tissue that just seemed to roll out of her.
She panicked. Crawling over everything she’d just pushed
from her body, Eva jumped out the dryer and staggered over to
one of the large folding tables. The back of her skirt was saturated
and a trail of fluid splattered the floor behind her.
Shock tried to paralyze her, but her panic was too great.
“Oh shit, oh shit . . .” Eva cried out, her fear- filled words
mingling with the small cries coming from the clothes dryer.
She grabbed a discarded shirt from the table and pushed it between
her legs. Her mind raced. Where in the hell had this
thing been hiding? She was too skinny to hide a damn baby!
She touched her stomach. It hadn’t even gotten big! Her period?
Shit, she shot so much smack she couldn’t tell you the last
time she’d had one. She had started her period at thirteen. Jahden
had started getting her high and messing with her even before
that. Eva held on to the table and took deep breaths, trying
hard not to freak out.
The soft cries were becoming demanding.Shut up!
The noise was killing her. It sounded like a kitten
was in the dryer. The mewing was pitiful and it scared the shit
outta Eva and added to her confusion. What if I just leave it
there? Ain’t nobody gotta know it was me . . .
She crept back over to the clothes dryer. Her heart was
jumping around in her chest and her head was spinning. The
crying was louder, making her dizzy, like she wanted to black
out.Run, stupid! Get the fuck outta here! Don’t nobody hafta know!
Eva peered into the clothes dryer. Arms and legs waved in
the air as the baby wriggled, naked on the cold metal. It was a
boy. Eva’s hand found the door handle. She pushed against the
dryer door . . . closing it. The baby’s cries grew fainter.
Seconds later she flung the door open again. Eva reached out
for it despite the voices that were screaming out warnings in
her head. The baby was slippery in her arms. Soft and small. It
Eva wrapped everything in the abandoned towels from the
folding table. Drunk Mister James would be opening up at
daybreak. Saturday was the busiest day of the week. Plenty of
project folks would be lining up to fight over the washing machines,
extractors, and dryers.
Holding tight to her bundle, Eva stumbled weakly back to
the folding tables. She had just lifted up her knee when a wave
of exhaustion washed over her that was more draining than
anything she had ever felt before. Crying, Eva scooted her
weary body onto the table. She curled up with her baby cradled
against her chest.
Outside, the rain had stopped but the howling wind still
screamed through the project buildings. Eva was bleeding bad
and she knew she didn’t have much time. Just for a quick
minute . . .
she told herself, holding her baby close. She was
weak and her young muscles felt like jelly. I’ma rest just for minute.
In tears, Eva kissed her baby’s forehead and slept.
Excerpted from Hittin' the Bricks by Noire. Copyright © 2009 by Noire. Excerpted by permission of One World/Ballantine, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.