Saturday night, lying on the couch reading I heard a wrenching sound from one of the upper stories, followed by the un-mistakable crash of breaking glass. It sounded like a window had fallen out of the windowframes of one of the flats but when I opened the paneled window in my own flat, I couldn’t see anything except for a gang of hoodies hanging around the little children’s park with the bright red and blue rocking horses and swings and teeter-totters – and all of them looking up at me looking down at them from the open window of my brightly lit flat.
I closed the window and dimmed the lights.
The ‘hoodies’ hung out in the park all night. I checked on them periodically. Though I didn’t see any bottles, they must have been drinking because every time I looked out, they were swaying back and forth a little more and yelling at each other a little more loudly. Finally, they appeared to be in some sort of group hug, with one guy at the edge clinging onto a tree. They kept giving each other these elaborate hip-hop hand clasps like kids in the States and after awhile I realized that they were Latinos – from a distance they really looked like American kids. Despite being drunk, they didn’t bother passers by and seemed entirely focused on each other. Finally, around midnight, they staggered off in the direction of New Kent Road.
The next weekend, I was on the train platform when I noticed some kids hanging around the stairwell of my building. Black kids, hoods pulled up, cans of beer visible in hand. With that strange cut-away effect the estate has from a distance, you could see the reaction of everyone around them to their presence. A black woman walked down the steps from the upper levels until, two stories above the kids, she looked down and registered their presence and went straight to the elevator to avoid them. One of the kids threw a beer can down the stairwell – a man came up the gangway, glanced up, then caught the lift two floors above them. The way they were spread out across the stairwell, you’d have to press your way around them, and I was tempted, with that slightly insane curiosity I have sometimes, to go back and see if they’d make way or give me agro. It was a cold fucking night and I wondered why they would even hang around a draughty stairwell unless they were hoping to start something.
But I didn’t go back and by the time I returned home hours later, all that was left of their presence was a half-dozen empty tins of Foster’s, scattered about the concrete steps.