Kitanye, unstable, dangerous; a no-go area, a refuge for addicts and dealers, pickpockets and prostitutes; criminals and crazy kids carrying something sharp to filch the contents of a passing pocket or easy purse. Yet, I was fortunate to have a loving parent and a regular bed to sleep in, and I was able to attend primary school all the way up to 13. I had a job too in the kitchens of Humphrey’s Diner, a greasy, grade-C, bargain-breakfast bar where, daily at dawn, I would stand in the courtyard among dozens of other young, energetic contenders. The Cook would come out, always holding that enormous cleaver that he used to point ‘You! You! And…you!’ at a few lucky hands who were awarded mountains of aluminium pots and pans and trays to scrub till their fingers shrivel. So some days I was able to give my mum some money.
On my way home, I sometimes stopped to play football. Not an organised game. Just something ad hoc and scarcely spherical, kicked by a local gang openly smoking drugs or ingesting, and sometimes injecting. God knows what. I did not know their names or where they lived. Some of the boys offered their flesh in the nearby red-light district and spent their salary on cocktails of ganja and heroin at a dollar a toot. During the day the girls hid, else they would be harassed or openly sexually abused. They remained invisible until dark, when they could charge a fee for such indignity. I did not judge. Is one coin more tainted than another?