JS: Alright, so what was your name again?
JS: And how long have you been working out here?
Azlyn: I just started, only like 2 months.
JS: What I’m doin is, what I’m doin is trying to make photographs uh that kinda communicate that we’re all human beings and that the people out here are still people. They just need help. Um you know, that they just have circumstances that no one else really knows about. You started to tell me a little bit about those circumstances.
Azlyn: I was raped by my stepdad. What is there to say? That like, I guess that’s why like a lot of people say that like I do drugs, is to cover up like the pain and the feeling of being abandoned. Not being abandoned but basically it was because like my mom let it happen, my dad knew about it; it started when I was 7 years old with him raping me, beating me, and it continued until well the raping stopped because I was old enough- I was strong enough to fight it off, but the beating didn’t stop until I moved out. So, I just feel, felt alone, like nobody was there, so I guess that’s one of the reasons why I use is to cover up that one of feeling dirty and disgusting and unwanted.
JS: Um did you find it helped escape the other things that were bothering you?
Azlyn: For a little bit but not you know. I don’t know.
JS: I mean now that, I mean that pain never really went away, did it?
Azlyn: No, that pain will never go away.
JS: And doing drugs is a, is like a temporary thing, right, just to keep your mind off it?
Azlyn: Temporary numbness, yeah.
JS: What do you think that you would actually have to do to, to um feel better about your past, to try to get over it?
Azlyn: Well, I go to counseling, but I don’t really like to talk about it as much; I like to keep it bottled up inside. That’s what one of my problems is; I keep my emotions in because I don’t really trust a lot of people cause the people who were supposed to be protect me were hurting me, so it’s hard for me to be able to trust anyone.
JS: Who do you trust?
Azlyn: I trust my boyfriend, Vinny, but that’s basically about it.
JS: And how do you and your boyfriend survive out here?
Azlyn: Make money. I do what I do, and he does what he does.
JS: And, how much, um you use Heroin? Um what is, what is your habit? How, how much do you use it?
Azlyn: Well between me and him, only in a couple hours cause I told you how I got out of jail last night. I spent like $200 in, like, 3, 4 hours, but we also were doing coke, too. But we also ate like I don’t, I try not to spend all my money on drugs, like I try to do like normal things too. Like we went out to eat and stuff like that also. But I try not to have drugs as my main focus in life. I mean it is a focus in life because I don’t want to be sick.
JS: Have you tried to get off? Have you tried the methadone clinic?
Azlyn: I did go into, I walked off the methadone, off 160 mg. I’m going upstate New York either tomorrow night or Monday morning for a couple weeks, gettin’ Suboxone going a change of scenery.
JS: What does your boyfriend think of that?
Azlyn: He’s coming with me.
JS: Oh, wow. You guys are doing it together.
JS: And he’s, he’s been using Heroin too?
Azlyn: Mmm hmm.
JS: Do you have any other friends out here on the Ave?
Azlyn: I do, but I don’t really talk to people, you know people get shady. It’s all about themselves. I help out people, help out so much, like buy people stuff and everything, and when I need it, they’re not there so I just. But I don’t like seeing anyone sick, so I try like I can’t help but help them, but I guess it’s me being too kind.
It’s a disease you know like it’s not something that we want; we don’t want to be drug addicts; we don’t want to have to find a way how to get money; we want to be like normal people, and it’s just a disease like anything else.
Tic Tac and Tootsie, 2009.
I met Tic Tac and Tootsie also known as the twins, Carroll (left) and Shelly (right) standing on the corner opposite the Huntingdon Park El Station along Kensington Avenue. At the time I made this photograph, the sisters were 20 years old and had been living on the street for one year.
Edited Audio Transcript:
Shelly: The only reason why we pros, we are out here is so that we can get money so we has somewhere to rest our heads. We look out for each other, if I can’t get money she gets it and whatever money we get we share. Our money is together, my money is her money, her money is my money. There’s are a lot of guys that pick you up and then they try to tell you they’re an undercover cop, that if you don’t have sex with them they’re gonna lock you up. We need quick money cause we need somewheres to sleep every day. I mean trust me we don’t want to be out here doing this. This is the last thing I want to do. But I do what I have to do to take care of my sister. Cause she’s all I got and I’m all she’s got.
Shelly: We barely prostitute, we do it once in a while so we can get somewhere to sleep. We do one a day.
Carroll: We mess around with Zanies, once in a while we do Wet, sometimes we do Percocet’s and that’s about it. We don’t do no hardcore drugs, dope, crack, none of that. We don’t drink… We’ve been out here a year. My dad lives in a halfway house and my mom lives with her boyfriend. She gives us money here and there but we can’t live with her. We’ve been raped, tied up, guys try to say they’re undercover cops… That’s why we stick together cause we try to be there for each other as much as we can… cause without each other I guarantee we would have been dead by now. We wouldn’t have made it this far. We were out all this winter. We had nowhere to live this whole winter and we made it, sleeping out on the street… together. And like… we’re twins but like… I’m the older sister. We’re seven minutes apart but still I feel obligated to take care of her and it hurts me that I can’t provide a house for her and stuff like that. So I try to do the best I can to make sure I get money so she has somewhere to rest her head, food, and stuff like that. No matter what I gotta do, any means necessary.