“Cut me then. Cut me if that’s what you wanna do.” Cassidy was making herself larger than life, sticking her chest out and spreading her arms out wide as if to welcome the blade into herself. “Don’t make no difference anyway with stupid fucks like you trying to exterminate everybody.” Cassidy’s anger was at once electrifying but also terrifying. In her day blades were seen but not used. Now they were used but rarely seen, sneakily driven into one’s enemy. But Cassidy had not changed with the times. A petty squabble, a lengthy look; everyone now knew the costly price of disrespect on ‘the streets’ but Cassidy did not care. She eyed lingering youngsters. She refused to baby them through their disaffectedness, would not cow to what the papers were now calling hooded menaces. ‘Feral youths’ were dying before they had time to come of age and adults were now driven into hiding trying not to get caught in the crossfire. But not Cassidy…she was striding just the same.
“Oi!” Cassidy drove a gruffness into her voice.
“Oi!” she said again as she drew closer.
“Cassidy,” Murella cautioned, but Cassidy didn’t know the meaning of caution. Scuffling so close to her doorstep, how dare they? If ball games were not allowed then surely flying fists were also prohibited. Murella stayed close by her side but Cassidy had not broken stride, would not stop short of the friction but instead placed herself in the centre of it all, pulling at the hoods of the hoodies to drag one from the other. It all happened so fast but not so fast that Murella couldn’t see one of the boys reach into his pocket and secretly slide the handle of a weapon into his hand.
“Cas!” she screamed and in response, almost instinctively, Cassidy turned but she did not fully face Murella. A quick look at the boy’s face and she knew what was coming. Her only reply was to invite it further. She became angry and Murella could almost sense the fire rising from her neck to the backs of her ears.
“You wanna shank somebody? Shank me.” She was angry to tears and, although afterwards she did not talk of it, Murella knew she had been hurt that day – not physically, but deep within. The whole thing had almost driven Murella to her knees with shudders but, as always, Cassidy’s stride was not visibly broken. She was not hardened to the realities of life, but her mind was in possession of certain reinforcements, reinforcements that pushed her into actions. Sometimes it left no space for pampering, rhyme or reason. For what excuse was there for staining the streets with blood over a postcode? Children want to hold onto things that are their own, want to belong, want to feel worth but a collection of random letters and numbers is not something which is up for true ownership.
Cassidy’s mother was as big as a house. A house which, with the passing of each new year, saw the adding on of extensions to every corner; that being that every contour of her body had become layered over with flab. Her life had become so devoid of all hope that she was inexplicably luckless and food had become her only joy. No-one could deny her it. In the absence of any real hope people are apt to claim food as their only birth right. The heaviness of world weariness is something that must be explicitly stated in order for one to understand it. It is something which, after a time, becomes impossible for the sufferer to vocalise or articulate.
Cassidy could not make a hero of her mother. She was too close to the situation to do that. But others saw a woman valiantly swimming against the tide. Through the years she came to realise that social mobility was never a tangible option. World weariness is as much an inheritable disorder as heart disease or bowel cancer, for before we know anything else all we know of life is that which our parents show us. World weariness is not a thing of age and can be a very dangerous thing when mixed with the exuberance of youth. Those who fear nothing will do anything. Cassidy would not talk in depth of such things save to mention that fists were the weapons of her day. She did not see the value of talking, for while the media talked in sound bites of ‘absent fathers’, ‘feral youths’ and ‘hoodies’ the children were still out killing one another. And still these circular discussions went on.
After the incident on the pavement, on their way back to Murella’s flat, Cassidy left Murella behind. She marched on, occasionally looking over her shoulder to check that Murella was still following her. In that petulant manner of children, Murella refused to catch up but instead lagged behind. The angry urgency on Cassidy’s face gradually gave way to a certain brand of annoyance – the kind that is written on a mother’s face after she has just disciplined her child and he reacts by using the only remaining means of rebellion left open to him, that of unnecessary dilly dallying. As they turned the corner Cassidy stopped and waited while Murella kept her own sweet pace, moving along in her own sweet time.
“Is there something wrong with you?”
“No Cas. I think there’s something wrong with you. Do you never wonder why there’s so many have a go heroes in the newspapers? It’s because most of them wind up dead, crippled or brain damaged. You’re not Charles Bronson you know. Vigilante techniques don’t go down too well round here. We don’t live in a comic book world.”
“Just shut up Moo.”
“Well why in the hell do you do these things? It’s not like it was in our day. These kids carry all sorts; knives, guns, whatever, whatever they can get their hands on.”
“Look don’t have a go at me just because you were shittin’ your pants back there alright.”
“Oh, like you weren’t?”
“I didn’t have time to shit my pants. I was too busy being angry. I was concentrating on not getting myself skewered.”
“That’s like a suicidal turkey shoving sage and onion up its arse at Christmas time then running from the butcher’s axe. You put yourself in this situation. Why do you always have to be in the centre of things telling everybody what to do?”
“I did not put myself in any situation. You’re chattin’ crap sis’.” Cassidy was struggling to find a way of framing her emotions in language. “The situation’s already there on my doorstep, what you want me to do?”
“Nothing, that’s just it. We ain’t kids anymore and we certainly can’t run like we used to. Bullets move fast you know.”
“Oh please. How we go from knife to gun? He was gonna cut somebody with a piece o’ kitchenware and my mouth move faster than his hand, so what now? You wanna say like I was the one askin’ for trouble, takin’ unnecessary risks. And where you goin’ with that comic book crap? You know I don’t think I’m Captain Invincible.”
“Well why you wanna act like it then?”
“Act like nothin’. I was angry, you was scared. End of.”
“End of fucking nothing.”
“Ooh swearing now? Pity you couldn’t have shown some o’ that fire back there instead o’ saving it up for me.”
“If it weren’t for me…”
“If it weren’t for you I woulda seen it coming anyway. Did you see them guys? Pants hanging so low they looked like they’s the ones shitted in their pants. How they gonna make any quick moves on me with they crotch down by their knees? Granny woulda dodge that blade.” The two had to laugh. Had to because fear makes humour out of inescapable circumstance.