BW: How long have you been traveling?
Jaydee: About eleven years.
BW: What brings you to Atlanta?
Jaydee: I broke my foot like three years ago on the tracks and at the time it didn’t hurt too bad. I just walked it off. I came here to Grady in 2014 because I was fighting cancer [and got a Grady health card]. This is the only hospital in the country that I have any type of insurance at.
Anyway, my foot’s all fucked up now. Some days I can barely walk. My foot’s deformed. They’re gonna have to rebuild the whole foot. I’m not sure what they can or will do, but I know this is the only hospital in the country will help me, if any.
BW: Well, what set you on this path?
Jaydee: My mom was a crackhead and a prostitute so a…
BW: Where’d you grow up?
Jaydee: Houston, Texas. Fifth Ward. In the bad part. Trying to keep her off the streets, I started selling drugs at an early age.
BW: How old were you?
Jaydee: Probably about thirteen when I got on, just to keep food in the refrigerator. I’m thirty-two now and I’ve been to prison a couple of times for selling drugs. No matter where I was in my life, selling drugs, or having a job in a warehouse, when I had a house, or car, or whatever, I couldn’t get my mom out of the slums.
BW: She didn’t want to leave?
Jaydee: No she didn’t want to. All I ever wanted was a normal life, but my definition of a normal life included her. And if I got the normal life and my mom don’t want to be part of it, well then I’d rather just be in the hood. Know what I mean? Looking out for her.
BW: Do y'all talk now?
Jaydee: Yeah, I travel through there every couple of years.
BW: What was it like growing up with her?
Jaydee: Well, [when I was] about fourteen, we’d get a motel room. As soon as we wake up, the Indian lady, Ms. D., [would say] “$40 money pay” . I’d say, “Look. See these rocks? As soon as I sell four of them you’ll get paid.” Every day that was my life. I had my own room. I’m selling drugs at thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, but I got my $40 every day.
When I was younger, before I was selling drugs, I’d just have to leave the room when she’d have company, or whatever. They didn’t take long. Wham, bam, get out of here. She’s kind of crazy. She’ll kick your ass and take your money, my mom.
She’d always embarrass me. [We’d be walking and] she’d say “I don’t want to walk!” She’s all out in the middle of the street, “fuck this, I’m gonna get a ride.” She would get a ride [with potential tricks] with her kid right there.
That was just a daily thing. I’d get a ride to school like that. Anyone would stop for her. As long as I’d stand a couple of feet away from her, it didn’t really look like we were together. Then I’d just walk over and get in the car too.