MONDAY: Here Me Is


Copyright is held by the author.

SHE LISTENS for warning signs — boot heels on asphalt, a crackling walkie-talkie, whispering voices, a squeaky hinge on a porch door. A streetcar rattles by. Metal-on-metal echoes bounce between buildings down the empty street. The bars have closed. Boozers wandered off. Hookers vanished. Street kids curled up asleep in the park. Except for a solitary raccoon snuffling through a can of garbage, she’s alone. Safe. The night is hers.

Moonlight shines through the trees throwing leafy shadows on a blank concrete wall.

Ticka ticka ticka hissssss . . .

A swirling cloud of green mist hangs over the alley as she spray-traces the foliage patterns cast on the wall. Taggers’ perfume: pungent and lethal, definitely toxic, probably carcinogenic. No need to read the small print, the skull and crossbones says it all.

The aerosol petro-stench hits her lungs deep and hard. She pulls a cotton bandana over her face, bandito-style, takes a fresh can out of her backpack.

Ticka ticka ticka hissssss . . .

A pale blue line appears — fluid and loose. Hints of a woman’s contour — neck, breast, hip, thigh, calf and foot. Any woman, every woman — shape without detail. The spectral female hovers over glossy pools of crimson and rose.

Three hours later the artist emerges from the enamel haze, walks to the healthy side of the alley, removes her bandana and studies her design — how the shape of the figure matches the curve of the shadow branch; how a sharp line on a hazy background lifts the figure off the flat wall; how the shape is pleasantly familiar and yet, utterly new.

Ticka ticka ticka hisssss . . .

Working quickly now, she draws a line full of energy, sliced and slashed into eccentric interwoven shapes running across the full width of her mural. A message written in her personal alphabet. Before it can be read, it must be deciphered. An unspoken challenge to an unknown audience: Look here! You won’t be disappointed.

In a past life she was a medieval scribe; a monk inking sacred words onto lamb skin; an artisan pressing wedge shapes into moist clay tablets; a shaman carving animal totems into cedar. Today, she’s a graffiti artist, although critics are still undecided on the “artist” part.

A bird calls. Another answers. Wings flutterflap overhead. Orange dawn seeps into fading night like ink on wet paper. Dots of light flick on in silhouetted condo towers. Soon, legions of people dressed in corporate uniforms will swarm into the streets and subways, through marble lobbies and crowded elevators, into glass and chrome offices. Too soon, she’ll join them. One more anonymous wage-slave putting in time. If she suddenly vanished, the next drone would take her place and the machine would grind on without her. But tonight, here in this alley, she’s found the antidote to anonymity.

She looks once more at her creation, takes an industrial-sized permanent marker out of her backpack, crouches down and signs it. I did this, she thinks. Isn’t it beautiful.

  1. I say artist ? but only if it is creative, respectful and not destructive.

  2. An original take on the artist as vector to the inner person. No wasted words, no suggestion she is struggling to achieve greatness, or seeking approval, fame or fortune. She is secure in her anonymity and the outlet her antidote. Good for her. And good for you, Colin, for bringing her to life.

  3. Agree with Michaels’ comments. Plus love the sensory detail, i.e. sights, sounds, smells etc. Well done

  4. Captivating read about an art form I know nothing about.

  5. I was bathed in the opening paragraph. A wonderful sensory experience- hungry to read the rest of this while feeling a part of the artist’s wall. Thank you Colin.
    You always know how to take the words off the page. Bravo!

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