Liverpool street, 2am

A made-up face that speaks of hours in a frilly bedroom dancing around to hair brushes, giggly from half a glass of stolen wine. What’s she doing in the city at two in the morning, with her mate begging the bus fare from a stuttering banker?

Yeah, she says. With her huge eyes, soft face, hands in the ends of her sleeves, you wouldn’t be surprised if she started sucking her thumb. She still stands in a childish way, tummy stuck out in front of her, leaning her feet outwards in unlaced sneakers. She’s looking in on an adult world. Yeah, she says, I live in Brixton.

Dangerous edgy Brixton, is the implication. Dangerous and edgy and hard, but that’s ok, I live it, I’m Brixton, I’m dark corners and ways of life that seems mysterious to you, but not me. I’m there, I’m grown-up, I’m Brixton.

But the impression she gives is soft and easy and comfortable. It’s not the hard, edgy world she wants to conjure. Hers is a Brixton with a hand written note saying Sweetie, your dinner’s in the oven. Hers is a house in a leafy side road and a Mum looking at the clock waiting for her to get back safely. Hers is a loving and gentle Brixton that whizzes past the pimps and drug dealers in a 4 by 4.

Not exactly out of her depth, but looked out for by a half dozen strangers at the bus stop, who chat with half an eye on her and her precocious mate, who’s twirling her hair for the booze-addled banker.

She’s so young she tastes of alcopops in the park. She’s so young she feels of butterflies and the thrill of staying up all night and talking to boys. She’s so young, but she can’t not be here. She has to be here, testing the world out.

But finally her bus comes and six or so strangers breathe a sigh of relief as, no longer their responsibility, she heads home.

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  1. Grill

    Nice – the strongest part of that is the fear you all feel for her, that upwelling of half-a-dozen watching worries, as she babbles on blithely. Is she aware, is she mocking and manipulating, or she is bestially unconscious, a caddis fly, living for the day?


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