Excerpt from How To Love A Scar, an essay collection proposal by Rebecca Balfourth
Over the next few months we will be celebrating the work of the shortlisted authors from our 2021 call for essay collections. Excerpts from their proposals will be showcased here on our blog. Excerpts have been left largely unedited, aside from minor changes to formatting and typos. This is to give a sense of the wide variety of writing that engaged us during the reading of submissions. All of the entries were unique, and interested us for different reasons.
This excerpt is by Rebecca Balfourth, a writer living in London. Rebecca has had work published in The Colour of Madness and Mslexia. In addition to writing she likes reading (everything) running (a lot) and hulahooping (but can’t do many tricks!) Follow Rebecca on Instagram at @balfourthrb.
‘Deeper,’ she says.
I inhale, splutter.
‘Okay not that deep.’ She reaches out and I pass it back to her, a little hot ash briefly burning my thigh. She demonstrates. I take a sip of lager.
We are stretched out on the thick grass at the edge of the Meadows. It’s dark but there are stars. She pointed out Orion’s Belt and I said I saw it but I didn’t, I’m still looking. I wonder if she lied.
‘So you’ve never listened to hip-hop. Like- the good stuff.’ It’s a statement and I don’t answer because I know what she’ll do next. She pulls out her headphones and reaches for the iPod in her chock-full bag.
Before she can educate me, two guys I hadn’t noticed before come up to us. They’re a little older than me, maybe a little older than her too.
‘Hi,’ she says, switching her accent back from Washington DC to London. A trick she told me she picked up as a kid at International school. ‘Wanna join?’
Before I can shake my head at her, they’ve plonked themselves down beside us. One, taller, reaches for the joint and says ‘where are yiz from?’
‘London,’ we say at the same time.
‘You’re from London?’ This question is directed at me.
‘Yeah. Really.’ Maybe I sound a little defensive. Since I got here, I’ve been answering questions about where I’m really from.
‘It’s just the- ah- yiz sound different, is all.’
The shorter guy, his eyes on the joint the whole time, holds out a fist to bump. ‘Mike,’ he says.
‘Ken,’ says the other guy. His hair is red and he has a few freckles on his chin.
We give our names.
I’m starting to feel a little hazy, Orion’s belt becoming more defined as the rest of the sky comes into soft unfocus.
‘We stay over there,’ Mike points towards a set of tall houses divided into flats I can’t afford. ‘Come back to ours?’
She says yes without looking at me, gathers up her bag and untangles the headphones only to crush them into her front pocket.
I’ve been wanting to spend time with her since last time, since she came up to my room the week after Fresher’s. So far tonight, she has shown zero interest in wanting to repeat the experience. She’s recited her poems at me, and lectured me on the difference between hip-hop and rap, and talked about experiences that have made me feel young.
‘Coming?’ she says. She reaches her hand down to me, so of course I take it.