56 pages • 1 hour readClaude Brown
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After moving to Greenwich Village, Claude spends more time with Tony, who lives next door to him. They watch “the artists, the quacks, the would-be bohemians” from the outside (169). He goes to Harlem only on weekends, noting that by 1955, heroin has essentially taken over the entire area. He compares it to a plague and a ghost haunting the community. He adds that people with addictions are often driven to steal from their own families to support their addiction and describes the way this has torn many families apart. Claude recounts a conversation with a 13-year-old sex worker named Elsie, who points out that Claude’s family is no different from other families: They would not want him to visit them if he did not bring them money.
Claude also describes the power that “the numbers” (betting) have over Harlem (172). Numbers are a local institution and almost everyone participates, driven by impoverishment and desperation. Claude sees this as an indirect effect of the heroin epidemic, as is the proliferation of sex workers on the streets. He describes theft and sex work as common practices even among formerly respectable families who have assiduously avoided drugs. One day, he runs into Danny, who is going through withdrawal.