…a literary journey
Of course they kept all her spray-paint cans when they picked her up on the other side of town. They probably use them to paint their kid’s bikes or wagons, or some stupid table in their garage, she thought.
When she got sprung from the back seat of the patrol car, let off with just a warning, she walked to the closest bus stop and rode until it looked like an area that the cops would have more serious crimes to worry about than graffiti. She jumped off when she saw the hardware store, and once inside she walked straight to the aisle that she knew by heart. Running her fingers along the cans, the itch came quickly. She couldn’t help it. It’s not like there were regular art supplies at the foster home she’d been dumped in this month. Or any of the other foster homes in any of the other months for that matter. Mr. and Mrs. “Foster” were just as interchangeable to her as she was to them – it didn’t matter who the kid was, each one was worth the same amount of money from the state.
“Can I help you miss?” the elderly man asked.
The way his shaggy white eyebrows arched made her feel guilty. Not like she was going to try to lift it or anything – more like, why wasn’t she at school this time of the morning. She was almost 18, and then she’d have a quick reply for anyone throwing that at her; but for now, the last thing she needed was this old geezer calling the boys in blue.
“No thanks. I was just looking for a clear coat,” she said with a smile and a toss of her hair that made her look like every other idiot teenager this guy would recognize. “It’s for an art project I’m finishing today at school.”
He walked away and started sweeping the floor with a broom that was leaning against a nearby wall. She watched him for another moment, and then walked down the next aisle. Rifling through her pockets, she came up with a dollar in quarters and three nickels, not enough for even one can. She wasn’t a thief, no way, she told herself, and started walking toward the entrance.
Reaching the part of the floor that tripped the automatic sliding door, her eyes glanced at a display with stacks of blue electrical tape under a large yellow cardboard sign that screamed “2 for $1”. She picked one up and rolled around in her hand, thinking. A second later, she picked up another one and made her way to the cash register. The old man lean the broom against the wall, and came over to check her out.
She wandered a few blocks in one direction, then another, looking for an inconspicuous target. The main avenue ran north and south, so she turned right at a light and headed east into the beginning of a small arts district that had seen more prosperous days. A few antique stores and galleries dotted the street, but you could see auto repair and construction supply businesses encroaching into what had probably been a creative sanctuary not too long ago.
When she saw the building up ahead, with rounded corners and glass block windows, she felt that familiar rush. A blank canvas, crying out to be something more than what it had been left to be. She looked around, making sure no one from the neighboring businesses had a reason to come her way. Confident in her choice, she walked around the entire back wall, placing her palms against different spots, like she was listening for a heartbeat.
She worked randomly, furiously ripping the blue tape in pieces, short and long. The work, a continuous uninterrupted flow, evolved minute by minute. She reached up and then squatted to the ground, leaving one thought unfinished and moving to the other end to start something completely unrelated. Her fingers hurt from rubbing the strips down into their shapes hard enough to ensure complete adherence.
This went on for hours. Not a soul seemed to take notice. Besides the shadows beginning to cast over the building, she had no other sense of time. She kept marveling at how the tape was lasting longer than she thought it would.
Finally, low hanging clouds started to form, and her stomach growled. She stood up and took several steps back. She wiped the tears forming in the corners of both eyes, wishing she still had her cell phone so she could take a picture.
With no money left, a bus ride back was out of the question. She figured she would thumb a ride, and started walking back toward the main road.
The Fosters would be angry when they got another recorded message from the high school that she hadn’t been in classes again today. Five months. She’d be 18 in five months, out of the system, free to go wherever she wanted. She didn’t know exactly where she’d go, or what she’d do. She knew she was an artist though, maybe she’d go to New York City, where she’d heard graffiti was considered an art form. Maybe she’d go there and teach them about what blue electrical tape could do. She sure did wish she had her cell phone. It would have been cool to take a picture.