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An incarcerated crack dealer looks back on his playing days.

I first started the drug trade at the age of 15, selling powder cocaine and heroin. I later was introduced to selling crack cocaine in 1990. I started selling with a classmate of mine. We both came up with an idea: We wanted to make a nice bankroll for our ninth-grade class trip to Disney World.

We started out dealing at 14th and W Streets NW. This was a very large open-air market. We could get up on the strip Saturday night around 11 p.m.—this was one of the peak shifts—with plenty of sales from all the nearby pimps and prostitutes. Throw in your junkies and occasional users and you have a profitable night.

The dealing didn’t end until 4 to 6 a.m. It was like a block party. Plenty of Dom P. and Moët being passed around. We were the youngest out there, dealing for a New Yorker named Charlie. We enjoyed every minute of it—getting nervous when the po-po [police] came around, roaring with laughter when they left without an arrest or finding a stash.

But we didn’t know Charlie was robbing us blind. Those things happen when you’re new to the game. Later, I would sell only for myself, to ensure that any money lost or unearned could only be blamed on me and me only. Trial by error, I guess.

Looking at me, you would not assume that I was a drug dealer. I am handsome, in good physical shape, and intelligent. Yes, we come in all shapes, disguises, and ages. I was an honor-roll student in high school, but I ended up dropping out of school in the 11th grade in order to spend more time selling drugs.

The next few years of my life were like a roller coaster. It wasn’t long before I got arrested—for stealing a car. I was arrested a few times for distribution of cocaine as well. I received probation a number of times, but continued dealing and living a carefree life.

In April of 1996, I got a wake-up call. Ten hot balls [bullets] were dumped into my body over a simple fight. The people that shot me were so-called friends of mine who were selling drugs for me. Still, it didn’t stop me from dealing.

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In this lifestyle, you come into contact with all kinds of people. You can have someone you consider a friend end up becoming your worst enemy. There were people who followed me around admiring me to my face, yet behind my back they were plotting to take away my life. I also found myself constantly looking over my shoulder for the po-po or looking out for stick-up boys. I have seen many guys on top of the world one day, and then the next, I’ve seen them suddenly fall. This is how the game is played.

People will hang around you while the getting is good, and as soon as you make a certain amount of money they will plot to take away everything that you have hustled for, including your life.

I found myself having to pack heat and carry it everywhere that I went. It was kind of scary, because I did not want the police to catch me with it. I also did not want the thugs to catch me without it.

I eventually began to sell “weight,” or quantity. Selling weight meant that I had a certain clientele that would come to me and buy a large quantity of drugs at a time. This kept me off of the street corners. Selling by quantity really made me feel like one of the big boys. I did not make truckloads of money, but the money that I did make was pretty damn good.

The truth of the matter is that most people who sell drugs do not make a lot of money. Even with the money that I did make, I wasn’t able to go on spending sprees every day. I made good money, but as soon as I made it, I ended up spending it. The money came fast, and it left fast.

I had responsibilities. I had to pay rent and car notes, and support my family. I also spent the money fast trying to uphold my lavish lifestyle. The more money I made, the more money I spent. This caused me to get deeper and deeper into selling drugs.

I’ve had a lot of time to think and re-evaluate my life since being in prison. I am currently incarcerated in the D.C. Jail. I’m here for distribution of cocaine. I have survived 10 bullets, and by the grace of God, I will survive this period of incarceration.

I sit in here and I see so many inmates walking around in this place like zombies. They become like this because of the medication they are taking, called Thorazine. They are on this medication because it helps to ease the pain of having been sentenced to life. Some are walking around with war marks [stab wounds] and bullets still lodged in their bodies. Some are paralyzed and are being pushed around in wheelchairs. These are the lucky ones: Most of the drug dealers that I’ve known ended up in their respective homes—heaven or hell. Their bodies lie in an air-proof bed 6 feet deep under the earth.

Even though I loved the game, I knew I always wanted more out of life. I knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t do this for the rest of my life. I always had a good head on my shoulders. I knew eventually I had to get a job and start pursuing a career. I just should have gotten out of the game earlier. CP

Durham has served two years and three months of his sentence as a result of a distribution-of-cocaine conviction. He is 27 years old.