Maybe Another Time (A San Francisco Story) PART 2

Abraham Woodliff
6 min readOct 28, 2019


SROs in the Tenderloin

There was always a slight hesitation when she was about to buy. She knew it was poison and would often fantasize about the day she would get clean. The day she would prove herself wrong. This wasn’t that day. She intently stared at her phone and attempted to calculate the risk of buying from one dealer over another. Her first choice was always Zach. Zach was a college student at SF State who would walk up and down Market Street taking photos of buildings and people. He never attracted attention. He looked like any other college student roaming around a new city, harmlessly trying to make memories in an exciting environment before he fully set into his predetermined white-collar job and suburban life. He was blond, had green eyes, wore hoodies emblazoned with the SF State logo, khaki shorts and always appeared distinctly nonthreatening and non-criminal. Despite his image, the backpack he carried contained a large text book with the bottom half of the pages carved out to create a space to store weed, heroin, Adderall and ecstasy. He didn’t consider himself to really be a drug dealer, but a young entrepreneur. Zach felt his business classes couldn’t compete with the experience gained by hand-to-hand sales in an unregulated market, such as drug distribution. He was a Libertarian at heart, and it meshed well with his personal philosophy. There was always the money, too…

Destiny sent a one word text that simply read: “Henry?”

‘Henry’ was a code word Zach had made up for heroin. If you wanted marijuana you’d ask for Martha, Adderall was Andy and ecstasy was Emily. Zach would only respond if you used his code. He shied away from popularized drug slang, as he deemed it could be used for evidence if he were to get caught. Now, all Destiny had to do was wait for a reply. She hated waiting. She went back to the bathroom to adjust her makeup as a way to pass the time. She thickened the dark eyeliner around the curvature of her eyes. She felt the darker and thicker the eyeliner the more her sea-blue eyes would stand out. She was prideful of her natural beauty, but as she gazed upon her face she silently acknowledged that this asset wouldn’t last forever, even with concealer she could still see a faint hint of crow’s feet. As she aged into her 30’s she began to notice the odd gray hair or two dispersed at random throughout her naturally golden blonde hair more often. One of her fears was ending up like the old, washed up women she would see around the neighborhood; they charged discounted rates and still ended up on the street, shaking from withdrawal. When she began as a prostitute, she felt a sense of superiority to those women still working the street in their 40’s. She thought she was different, but after years of stagnancy, she wondered if what she attributed to youthful arrogance was just internalized fear masquerading as confidence.

Nightfall approached, Destiny still hadn’t received a reply from Zach. The early stages of withdrawal began to set in: minor nausea, cold sweats, dull muscle aches. She didn’t want to buy from a random dealer, but she was running out of options. Destiny had roamed the streets of the Tenderloin countless times. She was familiar with all the alleyways, side streets, cracks and crevices that made up the neighborhood. But despite her familiarity, walking the streets after dark still inspired an anxious feeling that manifested in the pit of her stomach.

Fear wasn’t new to her, and did little to dissuade her. Fear was just a part of life she learned to accept. She knew that there was always a chance that one of her clients could be psychotic, possibly even a murderer. She had heard horror stories from some of the other girls who work the neighborhood. Stories about men with strange requests, men who would become violent if their demands weren’t met. She knew the risk she was taking every time she stuck a needle into her veins. She felt the fear. She did it anyway.

“I’m an Irishman! Second generation in this nation! I went to the guy’s house, Mark’s house I think, and they’d give me booze and drugs, whatever I wanted for free. And his wife told me to stay. And I said I’m a human being, now suck my fuckin’ dick! I’m here… I EXIST!”

These were the first words Destiny heard as she exited the hotel. The man who said them was leaning against a heavily graffitied security shutter, pointing aggressively at someone, or something that wasn’t there. As Destiny walked by, the man muttered, “Go fuck yourself.” Destiny didn’t respond, she didn’t look at him, she continued to walk. The further away from him the better she felt. He smelled like death. And not in a rhetorical way. The stench that was emitting off of him was capable of conjuring a mental image of someone that had been dead for many years, and for some reason was brought back to life for purposes unknown. Maybe he was reincarnated to let everyone know about his Irish heritage and to demand blowjobs as a right of existence. Whatever the case, the stench was so foul that it couldn’t have naturally occurred as a result of being on the street, it required some sort of paranormal backstory to provide a proper explanation. The smell faded and was replaced with the scent of marijuana and cheap cologne as she approached three men loitering in front of a liquor store near the corner of Taylor and Turk street. One of the men looked at Destiny and asked, “You need somethin’?”

“Yeah, got any H?” She replied.

The dealer paused for a moment and said, “How much you need?”

“A bundle,” she said.

“Alright, one minute. Stay here.” The dealer said as he turned away from Destiny and walked around the corner. Destiny pulled a bent cigarette out of her pocket, before she could even realize she had forgotten her lighter back in the room one of the other men standing in front of the liquor store asked in a playful tone. “Need a light?” Destiny looked over at the man; he had a fresh tattoo of a dollar sign above his left cheek bone, the skin around the ink was still swollen. She knew not to respond. He had the aura of a pimp.

“Come on, girl, I’m just trying to be friendly. You know there’s more to the city than just around here, right? You too beautiful to be hanging out here. I can show you the finer things.” Destiny continued to ignore him as she mumbled to herself, “Yep, definitely a pimp.” She hated pimps. She saw them as nothing more than leeches who promised everything and delivered nothing. During her time as a prostitute Destiny had been pimped by two different men. The first pimp she had convinced her to work in Las Vegas. He said that’s where they’d strike it rich. What really happened was he’d get drunk and gamble away all the money she had made. After nearly 2 years in Vegas, she decided enough was enough and caught the first flight back to Northern California. The second pimp was the only man she had ever fallen in love with, he was the man that introduced her to dope, he was the man that impregnated her, and he was the man that ruined her life. The dealer returned and said, “Aye, I got it.” He casually walked up and handed Destiny a gram of black tar heroin. She pulled out the two crumpled 50 dollar bills she stashed in her bra and handed it to him. Little was done to conceal the exchange, as it was commonplace.

“Oh, now this bitch can miraculously hear? Fuckin’ stuck up ass dope fiend. Too good to have a conversation, but not too good to shoot up dope… Fuck outta here, bitch!” The suspected pimp said angrily. Destiny walked back to the hotel.

Along the short walk she passed by the homeless man who had told her to fuck herself. He wasn’t screaming. He was sitting against the same security shutter, clapping his hands and humming a song she didn’t recognize. He seemed content. Despite his deplorable living conditions, foul stench and lac of sanity, she found his contentedness in that moment, enviable.





Abraham Woodliff

Bay Area native, Hip Hop nerd, literature and poetry enthusiast, freelance writer, gamer, caffeine addict. Follow me on Twitter.