See Me Work (I…)

Usually at two years old, we experiment. Not like that, you freak. Well ok, maybe I led you on to thinking that. What I meant was experimenting with colour. For example, your parents left a sharpie on the coffee table, well within reach of your little fingers, and in being completely oblivious to the cost of wall paint, you draw all over the stairway’s walls. When they come downstairs, they notice red lines all over the blue-washed stairway, and instantly get angry, almost forgetting that you’re still two; a rookie in the ways of the world.

I was sixteen, and I still drew on walls. Not with sharpie, as it took too long and the rough texture of brick wore down the felt. I tried it, and wasn’t too happy with myself after I ruined a three-dollar thick-line sharpie. You see, sharpies are what those idiots at school use to desecrate the girl’s washroom stalls with racial and sexual slurs. I knew I was better, higher, than that petty ten-second enjoyment. I decided on spray paint instead.

Sure, I knew what I was doing was against the law, but damn, I felt so good after finishing up some work. I started out at night, biking down to one of the local skateparks to do some inking on the ramps. After a while of jumping into the bushes when the cops passed by (which was often), I decided to focus on alley walls instead of the skatepark. I can’t say if I was addicted to the feeling I got when I painted on someone else’s things, the anticipation of a cop possibly coming around the corner, or even the paint fumes themselves. I do know, however, that I was bent on the idea that what I was doing was justified. I brought colour to the dull city I lived in. Yet it wasn’t long until I realized I was part of the problem.

With rising crime rates, cops put anyone they found doing any type of crime behind bars and not back home like they would have done before with young offenders doing stupid things. This reached my mother, who was scared for me and begged me not to continue my late-night activities. However, me, being a teen, rebelled and didn’t listen to her warnings. That very night, I snuck out of my room through my window and ran to one of the alleys that were a bit farther than my other alleys. I was there for an hour before a cop flashed his light into the passageway, and the minute we noticed each other’s presences, I reacted accordingly, as a good criminal should. I ran down multiple passageways (I knew the back-alleys better than anyone) for about ten minutes before I climbed a water-pipe up the side of a building. I held my breath, watching the cop run right underneath me and down the street. I never saw him again that night.

Getting home, I sat with my mother who scolded me harshly for going out, but was so relieved for my safety. Sitting with her then made me realize how lucky I was that I wasn’t in jail, and I promised myself I would drop spray painting for good. I found myself reaching into my bag once or twice for the non-existent paint-cans when I passed by a brick wall, but I stopped myself quickly after remembering my mother’s words. Every day that I passed the skatepark on my way from school, I saw more and more graffiti-artists in handcuffs being escorted away, and I always managed to notice their half-finished work beside mine. Little by little, more half-finished work began to overlap mine before it was barely visible, cloaked in scribbles and graffiti-tags.

Today, I continue my habit of art, but I found a new canvas on the bodies of my customers, which my mother greatly approves of. I believe I will always miss the sound of spray-paint on brick, but like my skatepark art, it is covered enough to never see the light of day again.

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