At the foot of Queensberry you came to the victory gardens—hundreds of them patchworked into four and a half acres of almost violent green. In midsummer they were wild with blown roses, bobbing globes of hydrangea, hollyhocks as big as Vivie, huge silken scarlet and orange poppies and every other out-of-control plant the marshy soil could support, with the Prudential tower, in the distance, offering its last word over the hawthorn trees. At night vagrants and junkies pulled down jury-rigged fences and scattered their cigarette butts among the aegopodium. Between the gardens and the river rose a bristling army of dry rushes, tall and dense enough to hide anyone who ventured inside. “Men go in there to have sex,” Vivie said once. She showed him the spent condoms that mingled with wood chips on the garden paths.

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