Chirp No More

Budgie makes a lovely corpse. This is more than what will be said of me when the time has come.

Photo by Roman.



“A short tale on the face of masculinity, portrayed by young men who grow up in inner city environments. Where the iconic ‘screwface’ is more than just an expression, it’s a matter of life and death.

“The 3-minute think-piece aims to dispel the look’s reputation as a form of intimidation, and instead to help shed light on its purpose as a form of self-defence. Based on real life experiences, Abdou Cisse, who grew up in South London — gives you an insight into what it’s like growing up in a place where a young man’s masculinity is challenged and defended by a mere expression.”

The screwface is a part of culture here in Chicago as well, though I notice it only once in a while in this part of Rogers Park. Most of the time I just note it and let it go. But there was one occasion…

It was a beautiful — no, it was a gorgeous late spring morning. From under the CTA viaduct over Estes at Glenwood, a lad baggily dressed in colors stalked towards me. He reached Glenwood before I did. As he crossed the street, something fell out of his leg pocket. From my distance away on Estes, it was not clear what it was.

I could have said something then but did not. His face was gnarled in a snarl, his gait and his prickly awareness of all about him suggested he was a clear and present danger to any challenge. When we finally passed on the sidewalk, it was obvious that he had judged I was of no concern to him.

At the center of Glenwood lay his cell phone. I stooped, picked it up and turned.

“Yo!” I yelled. He jerked.

“You dropped your phone!”

We met at the corner outside Kim’s Corner Foods. He was delighted and had a broad smile but a strained and incredulous smile, as if he had forgotten how to smile, as if he had abandoned hope for any occasion to smile, but now and yet, he was smiling. In its own way, it was a most remarkable smile.

I handed him his phone.

We turned and went our separate ways.