Wednesday, 31 January 2007



One thing about Birmingham is that it’s full of Asians. It has, it seems to me, as many mosques and Sikh temples as it has churches. Driving down into Birmingham from above, the domes and minarets of mosque so flash in the sun it feels like driving down into some place out of the Arabian Nights.

Most of the Asian men –all the boys certainly - dress like non-Asian men and boys. Many more of the women and girls though dress like Rahilah, very prim, reminding me of nuns, even though nuns aren’t allowed children, whereas Muslim women often have lots of them. You think the girls must be especially good, much better than the rest of us, thinking holy thoughts when they’re not thinking about babies. Not thinking about pop groups and sex and boys like the rest of us. But then you see them giggling together and after a bit you realise they’re like us really; just as capable of being silly and frivolous and even irreverent. Rahilah is friends with two girls from another class, they’re not quite as strict as she is, they wear dresses and jeans and things, even though they cover their heads with scarves like her. She looks quite different when she talks to them, much less severe than she does in class. I even heard them discussing boys once; who they’d like to marry, who not. (As soon as they heard me listening they stopped talking in English and went back to Urdu.)

There must be some kind of grapevine among them. The day after I’d been rescued by Rashid, Rahilah comes up to me and says she’d heard all about it. It’s almost the first time we’ve spoken to each other outside class and neither of us knows what to say after that. I mutter something about our English homework just to break the ice she starts the same moment talking about a science project. Then we look at each other and burst out laughing and after that I don’t think we feel shy of each other again. I even dare ask her what I’ve always wanted to ask, whether she felt hot under those clothes, whether she minded having to dress like that.

‘Everyone always asks that,’ she answers, surprising me, because I’d never noticed her talking to anyone who wasn’t Muslim.

‘Well then, do you mind?’ I ask.

‘Not really. I’m used to it. And anyway it’s useful,’ she adds. ‘My mother says she doesn’t envy non-Muslim women, always having to worry about what they wear, what they look like, if their hair is neat and so forth. She can put on anything, have her hair anyhow, and then cover it all up when she goes out. Noone can see. Of course not everyone thinks like that. Some women care a lot what they look like even if it’s only in front of their families.’

‘Can you wear anything you like at home?’ I ask. ‘Of course. And I can wear anything I like here. Today I’ve got my favourite blue sweater on under this. It’s got little loops and squares embroidered on the front. And I’m wearing ear-rings,’ she adds, almost naughtily. I look at her admiringly: in awe even. We are not allowed to wear any jewellery in school. I can’t wear earrings at all, ever, except the clip on kind that pinch, and only those when my mother isn’t in sight: she thinks I’m too young to wear earrings, and that ear-piercing is mutilation at any age. (Granny says this is nonsense, and she’ll take me to have my ears pierced if I want, but not till I am sixteen. She doesn’t want still more trouble from my mother.) Looked at like this, Rahilah sounds like a rebel, hence my awe. Thinking about it afterwards, I decide she isn’t as much of a rebel as she sounds. Where she comes from wearing earrings is normal when you’re four, let alone when you’re fourteen.

I like talking to Rahilah in this way. It makes up for the fact that though Rashid smiles at me now, he’s gone back to not talking to me. I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose, but I am; I’m even cross. I want to talk to him about cranes again. But I can’t; I have to talk to Jay, instead.

I haven’t told you about Jay have I? Perhaps I should. He’s my best friend and I ask his advice about most things. Even about Ella in a roundabout kind of way. Like how you could send emails to someone who didn’t exist outside cyberspace. Which he treats as a serious question, funnily enough: I knew he would, that’s why I asked him. Of course he doesn’t know what I mean by it, he goes off into some story of his own about parallel worlds that he says he wants to write one day. Which isn’t helpful really, not that I expected it to be - I couldn’t tell him about Ella, properly. What is helpful is being able to mention it to him.

Jay: he is taller than me, taller than Tracy but not so tall as Rashid. He’s stockier than Rashid and not nearly so good-looking. His eyes, though just as dark, aren’t more beautiful than Border’s, like Rashid’s eyes. (Not that I could tell Rashid that. Border being a dog he’d think it was an insult.).

Jay’s eyes are not only deeper-set and less brilliant, he covers them with such thick black-rimmed glasses you might think he was a nerd if you didn’t know him. But he isn’t a nerd and I don’t know anyone who really thinks he is. He has straight black hair, cut so it stands up in a brush at front: when he doesn’t comb it down it stands up all over – after he’s been playing soccer in the playground, for instance. He never lets it stand up for long; he combs it down a lot -. his thick hair is the one thing Jay seems vain about. (Outside school I’ve seen him wearing it greased up into in fancy spikes. He has to take them out before his mother sees him, he says.)

The chief thing about Jay, though, is that he’s joky all the time. It’s hard to say anything to him that he doesn’t turn into a joke, even things he cares about like cranes – he’s another one, like Rashid, who says he’s interested in cranes. (Although only after I’d told him I was. Nor does he say he wants to be a crane driver.) His jokiness used to annoy me at first. When I sat next to him in class. I didn’t like the way he teased me - not because it was unkind but because it was boring not to have anything I said taken seriously. Trace is good at throwing the jokes back at him, but I’m not. So what changed that? What made us start being proper friends?

It was like this. We all had to write a story about time travel one day, and some of us had to read them out to the class. This wasn’t much fun, because half the class is too rowdy to listen. Some people gave up reading after a bit, and the teacher, Mrs Adams, didn’t make them go on again. She’s not a strong teacher. She couldn’t make the noise stop, either.

Jay didn’t give up. He has a very loud voice when he chooses to and he ploughed on regardless of the noise. And after a bit people around started to listen to him and then people beyond them did, and it was only some idiots right at the back of the class continued to fool around.

The story was about Jay himself. How he went to sleep at home one day and woke up in the same house but a hundred years earlier. And how everybody in the house looked at him as if he came from outer space and said what are you doing here? Where did you come from? And they drove him out as if he was a mad dog, got into the house – his own house – by accident. And then he wandered round the streets not knowing where to go, and everybody there looked at him strangely as if they hadn’t seen such a person before. And of course they hadn’t – most of them hadn’t – seen such a person before. ‘It was because there weren’t many Indians in Birmingham then.’ Jay said.

In the story a kind Vicar rescued the 100 years past Jay – and took him in and gave him a bed and food. But even this vicar didn’t like it when Jay and his daughter fell in love with each other. He threw Jay out too then. I don’t remember how the story ended. Maybe it didn’t end properly. I just know that Jay stopped reading and some people around started clapping. Then the whole class started clapping. I clapped too. But all the time I was looking at Jay and thinking; this isn’t about Jay a hundred years ago; this is about Jay now, how he feels different because he’s Indian in an English city, even though there are lots more Asians here now. And I knew what he felt like, in a way, even though I am English in an English city and so shouldn’t feel like that. But I do. Sometimes.

I saw him look at me once and I looked back at him, straight in the eye. And I knew he knew that I understood what the story was about. I think he did. We were friends after that. He stopped turning everything I said into a joke, especially when I was talking about cranes. In particular he never turned any of my hints about Ella into a joke. As if he understood somehow what a truly serious subject it was. Even as if he knew it freaked me out.


As for Trace. When she’s tired of joking back to Jay she tells him to shut up. And he does. Joking or not joking, they talk non-stop about everything under the sun: about what they’ve got up to in chat rooms for instance. Not the kind of chatrooms I know about, though. When I tell them the silly stuff I’d found in my kind, Trace shrieks ‘teen chatrooms? – you’ve been into teen chatrooms? – all that junk? – ‘what about Britney?’ ‘Do you fancy me?’ ‘How do you know they’re like that if you haven’t been into them?’ I ask coldly. Trace does get on my wick sometimes. ‘OK, so I did,’ she admits, not quite apologetically. ‘But only once or twice; till I found out what a waste of space they were.’ Her and Jay’s chatrooms discuss the problems of the world; some of the newspapers have them, you can post up all kinds of things and get answers and questions back. Jay says he found one on ‘why Muslim men have problems with sex’ … but he’s pretty vague about what those problems are.

We’re all in Selly Oak at the time – Trace calls it ‘Smelly Poke’ - she would – sitting in the bus-shelter in the Bristol Road, outside the big Sainsbury’s. It’s after school, home time, but none of us are in a hurry to catch our buses yet. I look at my watch after a bit, though. I have to go back to granny’s and take Border for her walk before it gets dark. I think of suggesting Jay and Trace come too, but before I can make up my mind. Jay says - he’s looking at me now - ‘Guess what, I just found a new chatroom. For crane drivers, or anyone else who works with cranes.’

‘Cranes?’ says Tracy looking at him as if he’s out of his mind. ‘What’s interesting about cranes?’ (I thought Trace would say this. That’s why I’ve not mentioned them before.)

“Difficult not to be interested in them when it’s all you see around this town these days,’ Jay says, jerking his head. Though actually all you can see of tower-type structures around Selly Oak are the chimneys at the QE hospital, and the dark red clock tower thing at the university which my mother says is the ugliest thing she ever saw. (Typical Birmingham, she says. My mother hates Birmingham almost as much as she half loves it.)

.’Yeah well, takes all sorts,’ Trace says in a bored voice. ‘What do these crane drivers chat about? About looking down on the rest of the world and feeling superior?’

‘Of course not. They talk about different kinds of crane; how they’re used, stuff like that. Where people have seen them. Bet you didn’t know how careful you have to be stop tower cranes overbalancing themselves?’ he adds. I look at him in amazement. It’s never occurred to me that such beautiful things could have problems of that sort. They just are, as they are. That’s how they seem to me. Anyway I’m interested enough to ask for the address of this chatroom on the web, and he scribbles it down on a piece of paper. And then I look at my watch again and seeing how late it’s getting, seeing my bus coming, I wave goodbye to them and run to catch it.


I walk past the building site this evening on my way back home from the bus-stop. I don’t have to go that way, but I do sometimes. It’s interesting to see it from ground level for a change. I stand by the gate for a minute, looking at the bustle, the heaps of building blocks, the rusty iron supports standing up everywhere now, listening to the noise of the machines, the shouting men. The cranes make no sound so far as I can tell. The drivers’ cabins on top look so tiny from down here. Hardly big enough to hold a man.

A gaggle of builders comes out of the gate now: some of them stare at me. They all look alike to me in their shiny orange helmets; except for one who is shorter than most of them and fattish and has a very bushy beard and carries a bucket in one hand. He’s weird, I think.

All this makes me still later for walking Border. She only gets a short run today. I don’t stay with Granny long either. She’s crochetty– maybe she’s had a row with her boyfriend. (You think Grandmothers don’t have boyfriends? – then you’re wrong. Mine does – and not just mine. I was talking about granny at school one time, how unlike a granny she was, and when I said, ‘And she’s even got a boyfriend, ‘someone else said ‘That’s nothing. My granny’s got three. She goes on holiday with them by turns.’ This sounds gross to me. But I daresay it’s true.’)

Turning out my daypack when I get home, I find Jay’s website address for cranes, and decide to try it out. But first, as usual, I go into my email. There’s only one email – from Ella. But it’s not blank this time. What it says freaks me out; I mean SO freaks me, I leave the website for now. It says – exactly like this -: Cranes. CRANES. CRANES. CRANES. CRANES.

The mast grows itself one section at a time.

Next time I see Granny I tell her what Jay said about how cranes stand up. I’d never wondered that. before. They were like dancers to me. You’d never ask why dancers don’t overbalance; it’s just their skill, the way they are. But now I know that cranes need to be embedded in concrete on the ground to keep them steady.

Of course it’s interesting to know how things work. Yet I’d still rather see cranes as holding their own balance, like dancers. When I try and explain this to granny she laughs and says ‘I suppose there are two kinds of people – the kind who assume cranes will stand up and the kind that don’t. Your idea is fine in its way, Esther; but be careful; it can be a dangerous way of going on.’ Did I understand what she was saying? Maybe I did. I’m not sure though. I’m even less sure I want to believe it. I might as well have asked why I keep on getting messages from Ella. When there is no such person as Ella, I made her up. Maybe if I told Granny about Ella, she’d assume I was sending the messages to myself. But I’m not. I don’t think I am; unless I’m doing it in my sleep. I don’t sleep walk so far as I know.

This evening my parents have to go to the parent’s evening at my school. My father has even come home early so he can go too. I’ve been a bit worried about that. What with thinking about Ella and going into chat rooms in the library and so on, I’ve been skimping homework lately.

To stop myself thinking about it I skimp homework tonight too. I go into my email and get up Ella’s crane message. I reflect on it for a while. ‘Does this mean you like cranes too?’ I write at last. ‘I watch tower cranes all the time from here - I think it might be cool to go to the top of one, some day.’ I think a bit more, then I add, ‘I wish I would. Even though it would be scary.’

Do I really believe that? Or do I write it for something to say? What can you say, after all, to someone who, in your heart of hearts, you don’t believe exists? I don’t believe Ella exists I don’t even want her to. ‘One day I would like to..’ I write. “I wish..’ As if! Get real! But the moment I reread what I’ve written I know it’s true. I would like to go to the top of one the cranes I keep watching. Even though my stomach turns right over at the thought of it. I almost don’t send the email off. Because that might make my wish come true.

But I do send it. Straight afterwards I open an email from Jay saying ‘Howdy pardner.. What do you think they’re saying about us at school…?? I’m your boyfriend? GARBAGE!!! Jayxx.’ I liked the xx.

I should have got to my homework then. I really mean to. But I don’t. Instead I put in the address of Jay’s crane-driver chatroom. It comes up at once. Two guys – I assume they are guys – one calls himself ‘GUNMETAL’ and the other ‘SKYDIVER’ - are arguing about whether it’s better to drive a tower crane or one of the much lower, squatter mobile cranes. (There are a lot of mobile cranes on the building site too so I know about them. But they don’t interest me as much as the way the towers do. They’re not beautiful for one thing.)

The tower crane driver says he likes driving tower cranes because it makes him feel he’s right above the world, in a place all his own. The mobile crane driver tells him that up a tower crane he doesn’t have to think for himself. ‘You get your orders about what to lift and where, mate, the machine does the rest. But me, driving a mobile crane I’m in the driving seat, I have to think for myself, it’s just my skill matters.’ The tower crane driver comes right back at him; ‘That’s what all you mobile crane drivers are, cowboys, Michael Shumacher with lifting tackle. Well, that doesn’t appeal to me, mate. That’s boy’s stuff. What’s man’s stuff is climbing all that way up and keeping a clear head.’ And so on. On and on. I get bored after a while.

And then my parents come home, and then I really do wish I was high up a crane far away from anyone. It seems my class teacher thinks I’m just ‘fooling around’ ‘wasting my potential’ along with some other bright kids who should know better. My parents don’t listen when I tell them we’re not wasting our time, we’re into all kinds of interesting things not just schoolwork. They seem to take it for granted that these kids aren’t as bright as me, let alone brighter: not in a comprehensive school. Whereas if I’d gone to the kind of school they’d chosen I’d have been with plenty of brainy kids, all properly motivated, and all of the same class as me – well they didn’t actually say this last bit, but you could feel the words hanging around.

“Excuse me,’ I say. There’s some kids in my class who are near geniuses.’ I’m thinking of Trace, here, which might have been exaggerating a bit, but not by a lot. (I heard one staff mutter ‘Oxbridge scholarship’ round her; I doubt they’d do that of me.) And there’s two really bright Asian boys – ‘Jay’ I say, ‘He’s Hindu.’ ‘It doesn’t sound like a Hindu name,’ my mother says doubtfully. ‘But we did meet a very nice Indian woman, in a sari. Her son was called Jatinder? or something,’ – ‘Jay,’ I say. ‘He hates his Indian name.’ My mother isn’t listening though. ‘She was hearing just the same things about her son as I was hearing about you. How he fooled about at school, and at home spent all his time on a computer playing computer games, or on the internet, and didn’t do his work. We agreed that perhaps we should both ban you from computers some of the time.’

‘Oh great,’ I say, ‘Oh great.’ Thinking almost panicked – my very first thought, which surprised me – but it was my first thought – but then I wouldn’t get my messages from Ella.


My mother doesn’t say anything more over breakfast about banning me from the computer; I’m not going to remind her, for sure. We have a double maths class first thing, so I don’t have a moment to talk to Jay till break time. I grab him going out into the playground and tell him about my mother’s threat. He doesn’t sound impressed; ‘my mother’s always saying that,’ he says dismissively. And before I can say more Trace comes up. ‘Have you talked to Rahilah today?’ ‘Excuse me? During double maths?’ I say. (The small group that includes me, Trace, Rahilah, Jay and Rashid is always being pulled out and given extra work, and the maths’ teacher never lets us get away with anything. My mother would never get any complaints from her.) I’ve noticed Rahilah looking a bit subdued, but that’s all. ‘Look at her,’ Trace says, ‘She’s really upset, all the Asian girls are.’ Across the playground I see a group of them in a huddle; some of them are even crying. ‘What’s up?’ I ask. ‘Why don’t you ask Rahilah?’ Trace says in her usual maddening way. I punch her on the arm a bit, but she shakes her head and isn’t saying.

She gives me an idea, though. If my mother once met Trace she’d give up all her ideas about noone in my school being bright enough for me. I mean she might get other ideas seeing Trace’s pierced ears and pink hair, which is why I’ve never suggested taking her home before. But she couldn’t think she was stupid, possibly. ‘Why don’t you come home with me after school?’ I say, hesitantly. I kind of assume Trace'll say no. I can’t imagine her doing anything so boring after school as coming home with me. To my surprise, though, she says, ‘OK. Right, Cool.’ So that’s that. Which leaves me nervous and apprehensive for the rest of the day. Suppose my mother is looking after the baby? She might be- I can’t see Trace being into baby talk. And what will my mother say about her pink hair?

I don’t get to talk to Rahilah till dinnertime. She brings her lunchbox over and sits down next to me at the table. ‘Did Trace tell you what happened to Naifah in year 5?’ She asks. ‘No,’ I say. I don’t even know which of the Muslim girls Naifah is, for sure: I don’t know anyone much in year 5. ‘She’s disappeared – she went to Pakistan, just for a holiday, her parents said, she was very excited about it, but she’s not come back. It wasn’t a holiday after all. Her father had sent her to get her married. To an old man. Well a man of 40, anyway.’

‘But she’s only fifteen,’ I say, horrified. ‘Noone can get married when they’re fifteen, it’s against the law.’ ‘So? You don’t think things are different in Pakistan?’ Rahilah asks. ‘You can be married at 13 or 14 there. Or younger even.’ ‘And have children?’ I ask faintly. ‘And have children,’ she says. Some of her friends have come to stand behind her, and they are all looking at me. I am 14, I’m thinking. Suppose someone forced me to marry someone twenty-five years older whether I wanted to or not? Gross. Well it couldn’t happen to me. But maybe it could happen to them. I look at each of them with new eyes: Nasrhula. Fathima - I don’t know the names of any of the others. They look back at me. Then they go away, giggling a bit, as if my look of horror has cheered them up. ‘What do you know, baby English girl?’ they might be saying. What do I know, I wonder? Later, when I catch Rahilah on her own I ask if her father could do that to her. She shakes her head.

‘Daddy says he’ll find me a husband, but that’s alright by me because he says he won’t make me marry anyone I don’t like and whoever it is will have to promise he’ll let me finish my education and get a good career.’

How old will you be then? When you marry?’ I ask. ‘Seventeen; eighteen,’ she says. That still sounds much too young to me. But Rahilah just says, teasingly; ‘I might even ask you to the wedding if we’re still friends and you promise to dress modestly and not shock my family. You’d have to come with your father and your mother, of course.’

‘Of course,’ I say faintly. Though I’m not at all sure I’d fancy the idea of my parents turning up at Muslim wedding and being anthropological about it all. ‘How fascinating to see other cultures at work.’ And all that. It’s how my parents are. Never mind.


Trace, if you ask me, belongs to a culture of her own. All the way back to central Birmingham on the bus I wonder if asking her home isn’t a big mistake, if my parents will look at her anthropologically, too. Not only has Trace’s hair been re-dyed lately, it’s pinker than ever, she’s put ear-rings with yin yang symbols into her pierced ears the moment we got out of school, and replaced her school shirt with a crop top. The ring in her pierced belly button will show as soon as she takes her jacket off. If anything I’m still more alarmed about what she will make of my mother; especially if the baby’s there. Taking Trace to see Granny was one thing; taking her home quite another.

But I needn’t have worried. True my mother does look at Trace a bit oddly, but then most grown-ups look at Tracy like that. It doesn’t last for long. If anyone goes on looking at Trace oddly it’s me, the way she plumps herself down on the ground besides the baby, playing with him like she’s done nothing but play with babies all her life. (Which she hasn’t: One of the few things I know about Trace, outside school, is that she’s an only child; of a single mother what’s more.) ‘Isn’t he a duck,’ she croons, ‘Est, you’re so lucky being an aunt. Just listen to him laughing?’ I’ve never heard the baby laugh so much. His rolling chuckles make me want to laugh too. I can’t think what Trace’s doing exactly; she only seems to be making faces at him, tickling him, which is what I do sometimes when there’s noone to see (to stop him creating, I tell myself). But the baby doesn’t think it’s the same at all judging by the way he giggles and chuckles and flourishes his little fists. My mother is delighted – not only by him but by Trace too by the look of it, pink hair and all. After a bit she makes us tea in the kitchen while Trace leans against the units and chats to her like she’s grown-up friend of my mother; or like my mother is a schoolgirl friend of hers. Turns out they’ve both been reading a book by Margaret Atwood – re-reading my mother insists - The Handmaid’s Tale, about women being enslaved to men. It makes me think of Rahilah’s friend married to a man old enough to be her father; but I don’t say. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways, even if I wanted; and I have to hold the baby because my mother doesn’t have a hand to spare and his baby chair is still sitting in the other room.

My mother not only produces tea, but also bread and honey and a fruit cake of which Tracy eats a lot, to my surprise, she is stick thin and never bothers much with lunch at school. Afterwards we go to my room and turn on my pc – Tracy says she’ll put me onto one of her serious chatrooms, as opposed to the silly teen ones. ‘I can’t get those anyway,’ I say. My email comes up at once usual. Tracy peers at the list of senders: ‘Who’s Ella?’ she asks. ‘Just a friend from my old school,’ I say hastily, and switch over at once, but not before I notice that a new message coming up, not from Ella, but from Rashid. Rashid? It can’t be, I think. But it is.

If Trace notices she doesn’t say. She’s not staring at the screen any more, her eyes are going round my room at my posters and so forth; I’m glad I got rid of Girls Aloud last week and David Beckham too. She doesn’t think much of Morcheeba, she says, the group on the poster still stuck above my desk. And ‘who’s that?’ she asked staring at the picture of Simon Rattle I’d put up instead of David Beckham. (I know Simon Rattle is old enough to be my father and older, but I think he’s dishy all the same. Granny has taken me to Symphony Hall to hear him once or twice, he comes back there sometimes. Liking classical music is something I don’t admit to at school. And as for Simon– if I could find a boyfriend who looked like him I wouldn’t look any further.) Trace doesn’t seem any more interested in him, though, than in Morcheeba.
Her proper chatroom of course, is a newspaper one. People are discussing what should happen in the Middle East: it reads very seriously, not a bit like the teenage chatrooms. Trace even adds a comment herself, but it’s quite flippant, her heart doesn’t seem to be in it today. She seems more interested in having another session with the baby before she goes home. ‘He’s such a duck, Est,’ she said; ‘Aren’t you lucky.’ I decide to take her word for it, though it’s not exactly how I see myself. I am in a hurry myself now; I want to know what Rashid has to say. He hasn’t spoken to me for days; but then I know he’s not really supposed to speak to me at school. One thing for sure, he doesn’t look a bit like Simon Rattle. Simon Rattle doesn’t have beautiful dark brown eyes like Rashid. Come to think of it I don’t even know what colour Simon Rattle’s eyes are.

‘I like that friend of yours, Esther’ my mother says as soon as Trace has gone. ‘Though I can’t think why she has to deck herself up in such a peculiar way. Thank goodness you don’t want to look like that, at least.’ (Give me a chance I think; though I suspect I wouldn’t be cool enough to get away with it; not yet anyway.) ‘She seems most intelligent,’ mum adds.

‘I always told you there were bright kids in my class, mum. Much brighter than me.’ I say.

Back in my room I head straight for Rashid’s email. ‘Hi, Esther,’ it says. And then; ‘On a website I found the names of all these different cranes and thought you might like them; it’s a bit like a poem don’t you think?
mobile henbow cranes
knuckle boom cranes
pedestal cranes
railway cranes
equilibrium crane
hydraulic truck crane

He’s written it out like that, like a poem, too. Mobile henbow cranes - knuckle boom cranes, I like those names especially. I haven’t the faintest idea what any of look like. I just think the words look lovely set out like that. Jay wouldn’t see them that way, I think. Maybe Rashid doesn’t either, but at least he understands that I don’t see cranes only in practical terms.. Mobile henbow cranes - knuckle boom cranes.. Unreal. They are as real unreal as Ella. They too might as well be from outer space.

See you tomorrow, ends Rashid’s note ends. He doesn’t seal it with a kiss.

Why do I feel so happy and yet so sad? Trace has come to tea. Rashid has sent me an email. Jay sends me emails signed with xx. Rahilah is more and more my friend. What have I got to be sad about except about being a teenager? - which is sad enough, I know - not just sad, pathetic: gross; not knowing sometimes where your body starts and ends. Really it feels like that sometimes and it is sad: as if something you can’t quite catch is over and done with forever and ever, amen. Maybe that’s not what makes me sad. But something does, for no reason that I can see.