Around here, we watch the news all the time. Not for opinion, for information. Information about ourselves, about how and where we are allowed to move through our city. We know what we’re watching is not true. For most times we are there and witness the provocation, the retreat, the barbed-wire ripped shin, the scrake of dawn dismantlement of the interior of a redbrick terrace house so that it’s like an Uncle Remus Play-Kit with half the bits missing, the plum kiss of a rubber bullet on his belly, the Saracen running over daft Nelly’s dog, cutting it in half and the Brits staking the top half on her fence, the baby being pinched sore by his Mammy for to cry for his Daddy who’s being lifted, thirteen year-old girls, down the town, being body-searched in makeshift shelters, their Tammy Girl bras being snapped at the back, told by Brits twice, three times their age, to keep their little titties growing for a good chewing one night when they get big enough, the older women being directed by the barrel of a rifle to walk under the handwritten sign, SEX STARVED WOMEN THIS WAY, family photographs being snatched from their purses and pocketed, the decapitated head Mammy wrapped in my pink baby blanket and kept in the bath with the frozen turkey leaning against it because the Peelers won’t let the ambulance through, buying a copy of An Phoblacht because we have to and then burning it because we worry it’ll be found in a raid, cleaning up before the Brits come so we won’t be disgraced and cleaning up after they go so we won’t be disgraced, our bedroom drawers shaken empty onto the ground, knickers trampled over by army boots at the same time every Saturday morning, letters above shops depleting week after week smashed by stones and bullets, blasted until the shop names have no meaning in English anymore, wee fellas pretending they’re not ascared to walk home at night, the blue Ford Cortina driving slow, two men with moustaches in it, wearing grey suits, the orchestrated powercuts and the full moon, the banging on the door with the butt of guns, the interlinked roof-spaces in Etna Drive where the wee fellas scrabble through from one end of the street to the other, the monstrance winking from inside the back of the Land Rover, the two priests’ special white and gold vestments for the Corpus Christi parade, grubby from them being spread-eagled on the pavement while the children watching don’t know what to do so keep on singing ‘Sweet Heart of Jesus’, the second world war hand grenades that only blow off a foot, the green phlegm on my school coat from being cornered and spat on by big boys from the Model, Gus who lets wee girls ride on his hump for two p and keeps touches them up their skirts until they pay him another two p to get down, the lemonade van stopping at the top of Alliance Avenue because it can’t get through the barricades, smashing the empty bottles in the yard so they can’t be used as petrol bombs, being shot at from the Brit’s sangar on The Bone, falling to the ground into a ball to keep myself safe, crawling home, not telling Mammy and getting shouted at for getting my white school socks dirty, mizzle pooling in broken milk bottles, flimsy corrugated iron peacelines being kicked down most nights and nailed back into place for the next riot, praying for a breezeblock wall to hide behind, the oul lad’s slippers in the hospital, his feet still inside them, falling out of the carrier bag the ambulance man is carrying, the wee blond girl from Jamaica Street, whose nylon Communion veil catches fire and sticks to her face because her Da is standing too close to her with his lit Regal, the tit-for-tat, the Brits following you down Velsheda Park in a Saracen, shining a spotlight on you, telling you they can smell your taig cunt and you not even knowing what a cunt is, the teenage girls’ heads shaved, then them stripped, tarred and feathered, tied to lampposts, disowned by their families, three yellow teeth attached to fragment of shiny jaw on the pavement outside the papershop one Sunday morning, stepping over, the provocation, the retreat, the barbed-wire ripped shin, and we keep on watching, all of us, all of us across Belfast, in every street, in every house, all of us, all of us watching in silence. We want to know what happens in the end.
Maria Fusco is the author of several books including Give Up Art (New Documents), her new collection of critical writing. Her award-winning work crosses the registers of criticism, fiction and theory. Artangel called her ‘one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary writing in the UK.’ Born in Belfast, she’s based in Scotland, where she is a Reader at Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh.