After last week’s post, I’m sure you knew this was coming….
It was late afternoon, after school, and the boy who lived not quite next door was sitting at our dining room table talking to my mother.
“So my mother says,” he tells her, “‘They only bother you because they’re jealous of you.’
“‘Right,’ I say to her. Just what every kid wants, to get beaten up on the way home from school everyday. I mean, what on earth would they have to be jealous of?’
“‘They’re jealous because they wish they were as smart as you.’
“Really. How out of touch with a teenager’s reality can an adult be. Sure, I get good grades, but I have no real friends and not even the prospect of a girlfriend.”
At that point I was wondering how I could subtly drop the hint that I had a crush on him. He was cute in an awkward, smart kid, sort of way. I’m not sure what I said. I know I said something, but he didn’t seem to get the hint.
I can’t trace the rest of the conversation, but next thing I know, the boy next door and I were hatching a plan. There was a footpath that went through a tunnel that allowed kids in the neighborhood to get to school without crossing a street. Somehow, the idea of, let’s say, decorating the walls of the tunnel was raised. Weirdly, it didn’t exactly enter my mind that it was graffiti. In my mind, I was an artist, not a vandal.
A couple of nights later, the boy next door, my sister and I met late at night. I had my box of oil paints and some spray paint and a series of large stencils I had cut. The boy next door had some permanent markers. We set out. Using the stencils and the spray paint, I painted a big image of a prowling panther. I looked over my shoulder and on the opposite wall the boy next door was hard at work. He wouldn’t let me see, but my sister went over and held the flashlight for him. After my panther was completed, I took out my oils. I painted a unicorn in a swirl of colors.
A figure appeared along the path. My sister turned off the flashlight and we blended into some nearby bushes.
“Hey, guys. Are you there?” My mother’s voice was unmistakable. “It was getting cold, so I brought you all some sweaters.”
Finally, I was able to see the boy’s work. He had drawn on the wall a large comic strip. It satirized some popular t.v. shows, then veered off into some sort of barely comprehensible delirium. “That boy next door has quite the imagination,” my mother would say later.
A year or two later, when they repainted the tunnel, they would carefully paint around my unicorn.