And you struggle with your conscience, but in the end you have to let it go.
Erase your face. Scratch it off. Dig your nails right up underneath your jaw, bury them, gouge it out. This familiarity; rip it off.
We grow here too fast, kids with fifty-year old eyes who talk like old women, who smoke and drink and work and wear sandpaper hands and swear like we know what fuck means before it makes sense. Here's skin and bone and lips and teeth, all the colours of mud. We're soil and dirt and layers of grime. We're filth. We grow stupid, stuck underneath a starless sky, staring up, pretending we remember what it was to be human. Everything stinks of shit and sea salt and we starve and swallow rotten fish and spit and maybe some of us snarl our discontent and maybe some of scream it, but Jesus, all I hear are empty words and hollow fucking promises, and I'm sick of looking backwards.
When I was a kid I found a dead mouse and kept it in a jar. Week later and its guts had turned liquid, frothing up dirty yellow against the glass. Down here you get used to the smell of death, but something about the way that melted thing stunk so sweet made me sick.
Chameleonic, he pressed himself into the city and became it.
Almost sixteen and I'm falling, I'm a mouth smeared west across a bloody cheek and I'm choking, ugly, dumb and fucking lost, reeling, spitting... and I wanna know, I wanna know, but I've got no answers and this is all just cold rock, just shapeless lumps cliff-steep and black against a blinding sky...
Scaffold and plasterboard and chipped paint and faded graffiti and rage, basement sex and pupils like hot coals and fish-eyed girls with traintrack arms, the city and its discontent; he adopted it, without name or face he wore it.
Ten, I could mend nets with my eyes shut, fingertips redwet with the ocean in them, these nets like my old man's arms; all hard rope and sinew. Hanging on and throwing ourselves against the waves, straining backwards, I think I always knew I could only ever pretend to be anything like him. Our strength was never familial.
I'm still fixing holes.
Young, there had been an anger he didn't understand, black emotion he couldn't name that struck vicious beneath his ribs. It had frightened him, so he hid from it. Eventually, it burst. The day his father went down on a floor wet with blood and foam, something gave way. For a while it was constant, rage that sickened him, that discoloured everything, that shook in him, tectonic.
He disentangled himself from the morality his father had woven in him. When teenage hubris rendered him untouchable the city shat him out, naïve and alone. Only when dragged away did he see her: alive, boiling, clinging onto herself like any moment she might collapse. Missing her was something he had never anticipated. She was a tumour, cancerous and thick, streets thrombotic, and he loved and despised her until it made him ill. Outside, he was nothing. He found his name on a piece of paper, discarded himself and learned how to become everyone else, again, again, sloughing away old flesh and all those childhood memories.
The city isn't dead. She ain't cold; you just gotta treat her right. You gotta learn how she moves, how she shifts her thighs up against the grain of all these impacted storeys and settles heavy against your skull. Yeah, she's a whore, she's infested and over-saturated and if you stop and listen right you can hear her moan under all that patrician weight above, but that don't mean you gotta lay back and fucking take it. Step back and slip into brick and stone and pick apart the grout. Watch her crumble.
He built himself up on a name he stole from a man he didn't know. He wrote the city into his skin. Beneath her he found everything and nothing—human detritus, layers of self destruction gathered into something that barely held itself together. He couldn't hide from himself long enough to avoid his fury.