[Memory] What: Memory Will characters be viewing the memory or experiencing it?: Experiencing Warning, this memory contains: Implied drug-dealing and extremely poor life choices
You’re young. You can feel it, the kinetic energy furled up in bones. Excited. Adrenaline is thudding in the pulse at the side of your throat, your hands are cold. The wind is sharp, cutting. It comes from the east and it whips mercilessly through the block, fluttering someone’s laundry and beating a faded t-shirt into a flag. Your heartbeat is on your tongue, your toes are cold stuffed into a pair of trainers you outgrew four months ago but you’re making cash, easy money. Dusk fell twenty minutes ago and the hair on the back of your neck is crawling upward to attention, beneath the razor barber-shop jobbie your friend’s girl did on the cheap.
It’s a risk. The coppers know this block. They know all the blocks but it’s not the kind of place people who don’t live here come to after dark. Even the coppers. That don’t mean they won’t take a chance if the reward is high enough. That’s life, you know that, balanced there on your toes, the twitch of muscles impatient to be on the go as your gut billows up to your throat. You’re waiting for the off. The go. The metal chain you bought from the man down the market because it looked mint, is a bit of flash under your shirt but the links are cooling as the sun drops further and the wind goes through the nylon of your jacket, until you got a cold loop around your throat, a reminder of how sinking this could all get.
You duck your head. You can hear footsteps on the concrete walkway from your right and you turn, casual as if you just happen to be taking in the sunset until your back is to the bloke, your elbows are on the brick wall and you feel him drop something weighted into your pocket, a crumple of paper. “Fuck this up,” he says, muttered but the wind is whistling like a warning in your ears, “And you’ll wish you were dead, believe me.” You do. You’ve heard, and for all the packed up adrenaline in your gullet, the way you walk about with the lads after dark, lurk about the offie next to the laundrette you know this man means business. He’s a man, he can fuck you up and the twist of plastic and powder doesn’t make you less disposable.
Your hands are shaking when he moves off but your fingers are numb and it’s cold, freeze a nun’s tits off out here. You feel carefully past the burst of cling-film tight around granules for a piece of bog-standard notebook paper, folded into twists. Phone numbers.
“Oi,” and you’re so quick to try and fumble the paper back into your pocket you nearly drop it over the side and your heart plummets so hard down into your knees at the thought that your eyes sting and your throat seizes because you don’t want to get your bollocks taken off for losing it within the five minutes you’ve had it. Be cool, you’re insisting, be cool. You turn, your chin ducked down to your chest, and you don’t look at her because you feel like she can see it written on you, what you’re going to do. What you’ve signed up for. You can see the grubby white of her trainer toes, the basket of somebody else’s stuff under her arm. Ironing. She does the ironing for other people, crammed in over the noise of the TV.
“Oi, look at me, would you?” Impatient. She’s always impatient, and you look up, focusing on her face in pieces. The jut of her chin, the tight, bullish way she holds herself, nobody gives your Mum any shit on the estate, they wouldn’t dare, it’s got nothing to do with you. Your old man would have fucked them up before they even thought about it, but he’s away. You try not to meet her eyes. Piercing, blue, they size you up, sees the inside of you before you even know it’s there. She purses her lips, claps a hand to the back of your neck. You’ve been taller than her for months, but she grips you there, where her palm is warm against the short hairs and she squeezes. It’s affection. Her fingers are rough, cleaning other people’s bogs will do that and they don’t pay if she doesn’t do it fast.
“Don’t you be getting in no trouble,” and you think, for a second, she can see inside your pocket, she can see inside your mind but she looks at you hard, and you worked out, maybe six months ago that she does it to see if you’ll crumple. “I never,” you say, your throat trying to close around it and you make it sound smooth, even a little offended.
She smiles. It’s brief. You don’t see them all that often, not since your old man got put away. “Good lad,” and she smacks the back of your neck, it sings, “Don’t stay out too late,” and you can hear the scrape of her keys in the lock. You feel momentarily sick, the prospect of blue lights and coppers in the front room. You can remember waking up to the noise, the kicking about of chairs in the other room, “Go back to bed, there’s a lad,” your mum saying, as your old man kicked off, tried to nut the copper holding him in the head. It’ll kill her, she said, if you go down.
But it’s not like you can sign on to help out. You’re fourteen and they don’t give out the dole to fourteen. You’ve seen the way she counts cash in the biscuit-tin when she doesn’t think you’re there. So you smile. You hear the door slam. And you finger the plastic twist in your pocket and you breathe, a juddering inward inhale as you stick both hands in your pockets, rotate off your weight on the balcony wall and walk.