Root causes

We were so poor we didn’t know it. On cloudless
nights we looked for the moon so we could howl at
something that wasn’t our stomachs. On the nights
even the moon said fuck off we hacked ourselves into
a pack and paid for cheap Polish vodka and slid sweet
packets into our sleeves so our family didn’t need to
feed us.Years later, scattering folding chairs into crop
circles in church halls, saying the serenity prayer like
a ghost note, we debated how much money our light
fingers and seared throats kept in our parents’ wallets.


We lived in an era of invisibility. The fraud boys
disappeared into our Direct Messages when they
suspected they had been seen too publicly; we basked
in attention from boyfriends we had only met on
MSN Messenger; unseen girlfriends were easy to get.
In the early days, we were wooed by wastemen who
pretended they weren’t wastemen so paid for holidays
and Air Max and watches and weave. Occasionally
they’d evaporate too early too—sometimes only their
money did.

Sometimes we’d walk with nothing chasing us
then turn around to find mandem. They’d materialise
out of air thick with weed smoke and menace and
opportunity; on these days we’d make ourselves
invisible too, let ourselves fade away into roads with the
right postcodes.We’d spot plain-clothes feds—always so
fucking noticeable—and find ourselves fleeing until we
knew they wouldn’t find us. Some of us vanished better
than others but certain things always helped: the back
doors of bendy buses, the fact everyone wore black,
how we knew no-one

who didn’t look like us could even attempt to tell us apart.


‘Everybody knows the story about Keisha da Sket,’ says
an Older.

It’s true. We do.

The day she ate her BlackBerry because some
roadman tried to pull a pin out of her on road so she
swallowed it whole and parts of her exploded into
something the gyaldem who perch on the pavement
agreed looked like dog shit.

After, when the remnants were between her
lips and dripping down her elbows, and we could see
straight through her stomach because of the hole the
blast made, and the roadman said you’re butters anyway,
everyone agreed her rust-stained mouth still looked