Bumped into L on our way home at about 9 in the evening. I knew he might live in the area, so it wasn't a surprise that we met but I felt inordinately glad that we did. Not because I fancy him, but for the much more dubious reason that others may see us talking together.

We were under the bridge where gangs of Bengali boys hang out. That part always feels foreign to me - very Bengali. Even the post office feels Bengali and I rarely use it. People stand too close to me.
I'm not sure why the area feels so foreign and therefore so intimidating to me - there's the usual East End scary pub in its midst. Though a pub of liver-hardened old men isn't going to make me feel more at home, either...
At times I am nervous walking through there to the tube - not very nervous, but alert. Signs lean against the railings about muggings and pickpockets but nothing has ever happened to me or anyone I know. In fact, I've never had any kind of grief in that area ever.

This is about perception. I know that territorial stuff - turf stuff and drugs stuff - stays within the rules and boundaries of the gangs. It doesn't overflow. Still, sometimes I'm nervous (though, admittedly, much less so than when I meet gangs of white lads. Then I know there's trouble.).

The thing about meeting L, was that I had this unfounded and offensive notion that by speaking to one of them, a Bengali, in public, there in that area, I would be somehow protected. Other Bengalis would see what I nice person I am that I speak to one of them, that we can laugh and have a joke. I kept him chatting for longer than I would have with anyone else I knew only in passing.

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