Candy changed my life forever. I can’t even remember who I was before I met her.

It’s hard to imagine life before I met Candy. I just can’t see myself without her. The most I can manage is the last half hour or so of life before Candy. Back when I was just a boy. On a train. With a lump on my arm and a black hat. I was innocent then, before Candy. And now, looking back, I know I won’t ever be that boy again.

That afternoon I was on my way to London for a doctor’s appointment. I needed my map to make sure I made all the right turns, but I didn’t want people to see me with it. It makes me look so country, when Londoners all seem so cool and sure of themselves. So I put the map away. I knew to get off at King’s Cross Station, and I knew I needed Euston Road, but should I go right or left? I tried to see the map in my head, and turned left, then thought again and turned around, stopped and turned back left again, and that’s when I heard her.

“You want to make up your mind.” It was a girl’s voice and it cut sweet and clear through the noise of the street and the confusion in my head. I turned and saw her smiling at me, the kind of smile that rips a hole in your heart. I couldn’t do anything but stand there and look at her — her eyes, her hair, the shape of her body in the little miniskirt and crop top she wore, and her smooth, pale skin. I couldn’t say a thing, even when she said she liked my hat, not even when she gave me a little smile, picked up her bag and vanished into the crowd.

And it all would’ve ended there, if I hadn’t stopped at that McDonald’s, if I hadn’t accidentally dropped a handful of coins on the floor, if one of them hadn’t rolled under a table where some hard-looking guys with shaved heads and chains were sitting glaring at me — but all those things did happen, and then I heard a voice behind me say, “You want me to get that money for you? Those guys aren’t as bad as they look.”

It was her, the girl from the street, Candy. And that was when my life careened off-course. Before, I was just a kid who didn’t have much to say, who played guitar in a band with some of his friends, who wrote some of the songs they played, who lived with his dad, who loved his older sister and thought her new boyfriend was the best thing to ever happen to her. Now, I’m not that kid any more. Now I’m a kid who knows too much about crack and pimps and teen hookers. Who knows too much about danger and death and guns. Who knows about regret and change and how nothing’s the same any more. And it all happened because of Candy. Because I fell in love with a beautiful, smart, funny, crack-addicted hooker, whose pimp was very, very deadly.