This Is The Life

Meet Tanya, a 28-year-old hustler from St. Paul

CP:Did they let you in?

Tanya: You're basically a number. If they have your name, that's $600 a month for them. You're not getting nothing out of this, but they are going to get $600 per head. So if you come in with a kid and a kid and a kid.... They didn't like me because I didn't have a kid. Therefore you can't stay here, they'd tell me. I'm like, What the fuck? How am I supposed to get on my feet? They said I was going to have to go out and find a job. And I am like, Oh my god, do you know how hard that is?

CP:How much do you make per month selling?

Tanya: It fluctuates to the month. Sometime it's good.

CP:So, $700 or $800 per month?

Tanya: At least.

CP:Wouldn't you have made more at Mrs. Fields?

Tanya: Not even. I used to get paid on Fridays and maybe $150, $160 at the top. Some of them were for 99 bucks.

CP:What's the most pathetic situation you ever came across dealing?

Tanya: A couple different families in this building I lived in [in Highland]... a lot of these people, they had kids. Now, I didn't care for all of them. But certain kids are cute, but their hair is all dirty and their skin is dirty. Or they may smell a certain way. The mom smells just like them. She probably ain't jumped in the tub for two weeks and she's turning tricks. They're like four and five years old, sitting there. And I'm like, What are you going to fix them? And there is a steak sitting on the counter. Been on the counter since yesterday because they were going to make their kids lunch then. But then somebody knocked on the door and wanted to buy and then the party started. I'm like, Your kids ain't ate yet? And she'll be like, No, I've got to get my shit together. So, I would go to Mervin's. And I'd go to the kids' section and I'd see clearance, where jeans were like five and six bucks and I'd just grab them. I didn't know what size the kid was. I don't have any kids so I'd just kind of guess. And when I did buy the jeans, I'd rip all the tags off and go up to the house and make the kids put them on right now. But that doesn't really matter because if you've got a parent who's a zombie, they'll wait for you to turn your back and try to sell it out from under them.

CP:How did you feel, being a part of that cycle?

Tanya: I figured at the time they were going to smoke and do their shit anyway, so if I didn't get the money, somebody else was going to. And that was true. Because I went through that. Fuck it, I'm not going to do this no more. I'm not going to fuck with this woman. The hardest thing was pregnant people. They had to go through somebody else, literally. And I'd be like, I'd see them going to that pregnant woman's house and I'd be like, Oh. I'd think to myself, in a sense I didn't give it to them, but I don't know. A lot of their kids came out, they were lost, if not crack babies.

CP:What would you rather be doing?

Tanya: I'd love to have kids and be in a house with a car, rather than to be on the streets with nothing.

CP:How are you going to get those things?

Tanya: I don't really know. I don't have no resources or nothing. I've checked everywhere.

CP:You just came from a job interview?

Tanya: It was a telemarketing job that I interviewed for. I really don't want to do it. You're bothering people on the phone, basically. And that's something I don't like doing. I'm used to having my clients want what they want. They call me for a reason.

CP:You don't have friends who can help you out?

Tanya: I know there is no such thing as friends. I got associates. There is nobody I can just call and be like, Hey man, I'm in a bind. It's always, Hey, can I get a blunt for that? Everybody wanted to be my friend because I had the family that, if you fucked with one of us, we had cousins. Or us, ourselves, we're kind of crazy. We're not nuts to the point where we're going to kill somebody. But coming up in our family, it was like, Is that motherfucker fucking with you? Go out there and whoop his ass. He's too big. Get a stick. That's the type of family we had.

CP:Do you have a temper?

Tanya: In a sense my mom was making it so that her little girl wasn't no punk.

CP:Have you been in any fights lately?

Tanya: No, not since I got older. People don't even want to know what would happen. Because I'm so laid-back, and that kind of scares them. And people think, you know, that because of being in the life you kind of had to make yourself crazy. Because once somebody gets over on you, that's it. Everybody is getting over on you. Pretty soon you are getting jacked. Crackheads ain't got no respect for you, nobody's paying you. The first person I beat down was somebody that was older than me, twice my age. It was when I first got into the game. I was 19. I had long pretty hair. Smaller, skinny. This broad was like 45 years old. I had given her credit for $50. And she came and bought from me for two months straight. And all the while, she never tried to pay off her bill. I always reminded her and she would be like, I'll give it to you. And then she'd pay for what she got. So I was like, I got to get my money. So, I'm drinking one day and the same crackhead bitch comes to the door. She's like, What's up, I need to get something for 40 bucks. And I'm like, You still owe me 50, don't you? And she says Yeah, but I ain't got time. I can't do that right now. So, I took her money and I locked the door and put it in my pocket.

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