Speeding round the corner onto Brick Lane E2 on my now lost bicycle I meet a crowd
lining the street outside the mosque. It is midnight. I’m in a mini-skirt. The second thing I
see is white people looking scared, trying to get out. The cyclist in front of me panics and
stalls and I come to a stop behind him in the middle of near to a 100 Muslim men just out
of prayer. They take up all the cobbles on both sides of the pavement and have caused
gridlock in the road.
“What’s going on?”
I ask whoever is beside me – who happens to be a kid of 15 or so. Fresh face pushing out
its first thick hairs. He is wearing full robes and a little hat, and has his mouth wide open
yelling. We are so close we could kiss, but He can’t see me. In normal circumstances, he
would: Riding a bicycle with a skirt hitched up, flashing my knickers: Depending on the
sort he was, he’d either hassle me or jeer: Also depending on whether he was with his mates.
“Hey! Hey,” I yell this time. “What’s going on?”
He sees me. It is mechanical. I provoke neither smile nor frown.
He imparts information in a hurry, needing to get it over so he can carry on
attending to whatever is still happening.
“We caught a fish. A big fish. And there’s more.”
He is pointing down to the ground behind me and I turn to see that the centre of the
hubbub is an old man on his knees. He has lifted off the grate covering the sewer and has
thrust his arm deep down into it. A long beard is tucked into his clothes and pinned under
his chin. I try and move my bike, so I can see better. The old man whoops, and jumps to
his feet. He holds his arm aloft with what the fuck is it? A long wet body hangs. An eel?
A rat? Everyone is going mental !!! Some of the youngsters climb up on the bonnets and
roofs of cars, freaking. I move instinctively and escape by pushing my bike through a sea
of shins; jabbing hip bones with handlebars. I glance to the floor once more and between
stamping feet see more dead things lying there. I try to zooom away but my bike feels
heavy and slow. There are black and white people loitering in groups, trying to figure
what is going on with the Asians and the Arabs.
“What’s going on?” a couple of them venture, seeing I’ve just come clear of the crowd.
I ignore them. Fuckeers. No miracles for you. They stare from a safe distance, unsatisfied
as I speed away. I don’t look back, cos I don’t need to. I think about it. About the constant
rain and stormy skies and the putrid heat. About the neon star and crescent on top of
Jamme Masjid’s giant syringe-like minaret. About how Asian gangs run the r’n’b trade in
Whitechapel these days, and how it is more ruthless than ever. I think of the kid as a
grown man with a flowing lapis lazuli beard, selling rocks to withering white wasters;
spitting on them. Star and crescent. Or crescent and star. It must have a name, I think, a
single word that defines it. But it doesn’t. Even though it’s existed for ages. Sinful, and
piercing the clouds.