The air wasn’t stale round here. It was popping with the good, the bad, the painfully good looking and the God damned ugly. The toothless men with their yellow eyes bulging out of their heads, litter swirling around all their feet lifted six inches off the ground. Music blasting from car windows, men chirpsing girls, tattoo parlours with blacked out windows, betting shops with men lingering at the door, kebab shops, fish and chip shops, Chinese takeaways, pizza parlours, chicken shops, ribs ‘n’ fries. It was all here; everything the city could hold but not quite handle. This was a life. Not the life but this was a life, a life with buzz and zest and swing. Beautiful and challenging and alive yet somewhat cruel because where had those men left their teeth? Who was left at home while those husbands and fathers lingered outside those betting shops waiting to win or lose their weekly pennies? These were streets that held the unbridled passion of Etta and the deep rawness of a woman’s voice laid down over Ray screaming ‘baby’ over and over and over again. Just like musical icons playing host to both heroin and genius so the streets were. They gave off a sweet beat to shiver and quiver to. The good and the bad co-existing and enabling. Such a dichotomy, co-existence made plain. Vice and virtue; one side couldn’t exist without the other. A place where one’s mettle could truly be tested, where one might find a road to virtue or else lose oneself along the way in pursuit of the greater good. Where ‘the ends truly justified being really mean’. Murella loved where she was but hated it at the same time. What was the right way to be here? To give in to the id? To suck life dry of all it had to give, then spit it out like a chicken bone? To embrace one’s flaws and boldly walk the fault lines?
© W.V Ragiste 2015
Wendy Ragiste, is an author and community leader at Living Under One Sun, for the Well Park Lane project, Tottenham Ink, a weekly creative writing group for locals living in the area.