Chapter 2 – Extract 5 from The Paradise Induction!
Their faces were oily with large clusters of spots—some filled with pus at the head—and they were hulking in their huge bomber jackets and duffel coats with hoods or backward baseball caps.
Daily, the same seven black teenagers huddled in the carpeted lounge section. Perched on tattered, stained couches and love-seats, they surrounded a gaming console and television. After many days standing behind their seating arrangement, watching them play their games, I mustered the courage to ask, “How do you do a Hadouken?”
I had watched the powerful character Ryu fire a ball of blue energy from his hands shouting, “Hadouken!” in the computer game Street Fighter II. But in asking the question, my voice sounded out of place, like it didn’t belong among the guys. They ignored me.
I was compelled to amend my mother’s elocution lessons, dropping the pronunciation of consonants on my words.
“ ‘ow d’you do dat?” I repeated as I saw Ryu expel a blue fire ball again.
“Your posh star. Push off, yeah?” one of them said and kissed his teeth. “Your not black. You sound like a little white boy.”
“He’s tryin’ to be like us though, you get me,” another chimed in.
The laughter of the whole group that followed forced the truth. I wasn’t one of them, despite my dark skin colour, I wasn’t ‘black.’
One of the younger boys who was around my age, but lighter skinned with pupils that appeared colourless, tried to pick a fight, giggling and pushing me as the teenagers cheered him on.
“Your just a white boy in black skin star, just a little white boy in black skin,” he kept repeating. “You think your tough dough, innit? D’you think you can fight star?”
“Get him Wayne!” the others shouted as they paused the game and turned around.
I was quick to react.
I didn’t bother with a push. I emulated Street Fighter and punched him in the jaw.
“Ooooooh! Well done star,” the other boys hollered as the kid called Wayne ran out of the bungalow crying.
“You sparked ‘im raw blood!” another shouted. “Here, come n’ play the game with us.”
Joy shot up in me like a fountain.
Finally, I was welcomed in by my brothers.
I was one of them.
I was black.