There’s no black eyeliner in the house and the bathroom’s a mess as usual. Mum’s staring into space and smoking. Dad’s probably pissed up in the pub. Neesy will have to watch the little ones; I’m sick of being an unpaid babysitter. I use Carly’s face paint to line my eyes. Neesy says I look like Madonna in ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’. I steal Mum’s red lipstick to complete the look.
Nobody notices me leaving.
The hot air of the nightclub burns my nose hair. I ignore the sniggering girls and keep on dancing. Two boys join me. I’ve never had a boyfriend. Too shy, I suppose. Too ginger, Mum says. One of the boys has his arm around me and I’m thinking, please kiss me in front of those cruel girls. The other boy disappears. The leftover boy looks down at me, so I tilt up my face like Rosanna Arquette does with Aidan Quinn.
“Do you fuck like Madonna too?” he says, his teeth gleaming ultra-white under the strobe light. I really want a boyfriend, so I say yes. He doesn’t let me hear the end of the song.
Outside, against a rough wall, his breath puffs hot air and spit onto my face. It’s my first time. He doesn’t kiss me.
In the mirror, back home, I see the face paint has rubbed black circles around my eyes and the lipstick has stained my teeth.
Neesy says I don’t look like Madonna anymore; I just look dirty.
Nobody Talks about How Bad Being Poor Smells.
The black trainers stink. It’s the distinctive smell of unwashed, old trainers. Our washing machine broke months ago. Most people don’t know how bad being poor smells. I don’t care. I hope I stink up the entire classroom. I’ve backcombed my dyed black hair and rounded my eyes with thick, black eyeliner. I’ve dressed myself in my very own black hole in the hope that it will suck me out of the cheerful hell that surrounds me.
Fat Michael is pointing the camera at me. I’ve been chosen to star in the video we’re making because I’m the only girl who does Media Studies. The boys surround me with their huge VHS cameras. Trendy Tony with his blonde flick is directing and some skinny lad called Effort is playing Aztec Camera’s ‘Oblivious’. I’m supposed to walk across the classroom as Fat Michael films a close-up of my feet.
He’s on his knees with his camera and I can see a sweat moustache forming on his top lip. As he tracks my feet, I smell the trainer-stink waft through the air.
“Shit, Michael, have you farted?” shouts Trendy Tony.
“No, it’s her feet!” Michael scrambles about on the floor pretending to vomit.
The boys look at me and then at my trainers.
“I didn’t expect her to smell as bad as she looks,” says Effort.
They smell of laundry detergent and soap. I bet their washing machines and mothers never break down. I see red. Not the mythical anger mist but the bloody red of rebellion. Boys like these are my enemy. They will never know my worth whilst my poverty is so easy to smell.
“Fuck you, I’ll make my own film.” I twist my finger into a knife and slice it upwards through the air.
They laugh. Of course, they do. I’m a combination of all things loathsome to clean, white boys with rich dads – I’m female, poor and I don’t need them.
I make a film about a Nadezhda Krupskaya and use ‘Vengeance’ by New Model Army as the soundtrack. I get a grade A. Of course, I do. Most people don’t know how smart being poor makes you.
Siouxie Sioux Live
You know this monster: her lipsticky grin, her eye-blackened insolence. You know the furious scream that rips up her throat, shredding decibels. You know this rebel girl, this 50 foot Queenie. The music bends her backwards and forwards. Her pain transforms her into a God. Eyes that mock are gouged and eaten. Hands that touch are torn and twisted. Tongues that taste are ripped apart. Her hair is pure black shine, sharp as shattered glass. She swings and slices in time to the pulsating beat. Her legs are black pylons shooting electricity into the crowd, crackling skin and burning hair. The music gets faster, louder. She is a black leather Godzilla, a red-taloned Boadicea. She is queen of the world. She is king of the world.
You know this monster. You slide beside her, slide inside her. You feel her rage. You draw her light into your empty sockets. She irradiates your bones until you are everything and nothing; you are sweat, spit, skin and bone; you are the red, hot air. She breathes you in and you lie inside her lungs, feeling the heat of her blood smashing its power through your veins, eating up your shame in time to the dirty cacophony.
The unwashed sheets, the crying sisters, the broken mother, the drunken father all fade away and you are happy for the first time in your fifteen years. You are happy because you know that you are the monster and, one day, when you are ready, you will open your legs, raise your machine gun cunt and shoot down the world.