Zita and I tried photography together – art shots in our underwear, eating bananas, then lying with the peel, some unexamined idea we had about male impotence. We were horrified to see our creativity developed – shots that probed up our nostrils, and white flashes magnifying goosebumps and rolls of back fat. But the rest of Rome seemed delighted by our appearance. They treated each woman as a fantastic new discovery. Men honked, smiled, made kissies from afar, cried “Ciao, Bella!” or “Oh, hellooo, Beautee!” There were ones who inquired “You like fucky-fucky?” and others, like the bin man, who showed us their penises. Little gypsy girls – knackers, Zita called them – who lived in trailers and ditched school to moan for lira with dirt rubbed on their faces – flocked to us and squeezed our breasts and asked, “Have you ever done it? Did you! Did you make a baby?” We dodged our regular admirers, like Renato, the policeman who loitered on my street, with games and lies. I told him that my name was Nuvola – Cloud. I had no nationality, I explained, as I had been born on a boat in international waters, but I considered my motherland to be Cameroon, where I had studied insect life and mastered traditional dances. He would look at me from under his starched white bureaucratic cap, long oiled hair curling at the base of his neck, eyebrows perked, his lips contorting into a rubbery grin – “you are a fascinating young lady!”

was a wonderful country to grow up in, a safe place to be a slut.