You’re thirteen. A girl is glassed in an alley near home. Her webbed face stays with you and her name is on every pair of lips in the lower school. They say, she must have done something bad to get that. Violence. Justice. Part of the scenery like weeds or abandoned cars.
You’re seventeen. Afternoons you saunter home from school, under skies coloured like pencil-nibs. You manage the weight of 960 pages of Sociology in your rucksack. A pop tune is spinning in your head.
It’s always like this, till one day there’s six of them. Waiting. You’ve done nothing wrong. All you know is that you must get home, climb the stairwell, only remember to breathe after the latch has clicked shut. One says, she’s only a girl and you’re walking you just keep walking.
I am revising on the roof-top terrace: Hace buen tiempo, hace sol. Next door a woman is screaming, wrong side of the rails. ‘Chica!’ I try, ‘Señora!’ ‘Tranquila!’ I am taking care with the tone of my voice, as I’m learning these days to do at all times. She shows me the bruise on her upper arm, purple as a storm cloud, darkening. Now she’s shouting at the onlookers glutting in the street below and I’ve abandoned my offer of getting her an ice cream. A man in shorts starts skittering across the tiles to reach her while other men rush up our stairs. They flow across the roof like cooling air.
Emma Must the poems