Friday, May 05, 2006

happy graffiti

A trend has emerged. I first saw it on the west coast, but now I think it’s spreading to the east: happy graffiti.

Graffiti that says, Hi beautiful or you’re fine or everything is okay. Often on the sidewalk or street, on the corner, when you’re looking down, there it is, spray-painted or stamped: I love you.


I like to think it’s a gang.

I like to think it’s a gang of teenage girls who put their peppermint gum behind their ears before they bend down to the pavement and shake their spray cans and sometimes leave notes that say, we are your daughters.

When I was a counselor to high school students, one of my charges was wronged. 15 year-old girl, 22 year-boy. I didn’t know him. She went missing one night, and I remember looking. I remember coming to a locked door.

Revenge in small ways. He was in a band. None of their posters survived a night. I’m not sure what I wrote, but I’m sure it was snarky and sprawled. I traveled with a black marker always. I’m not that girl anymore. Now I travel with a book and scarf and some rock or two I’m always picking up because I like their shape and a small piece of chalk, just in case.

I have a tiny plastic tambourine. I haven’t forgotten that.

In my neighborhood when I first moved in, one of the initial things I noticed was a swath of pink. I had left my father in the packed car and walked around while we waited for Susan with the key. I was horribly disappointed and trying not to show it. It was windy and bright and cold and lonely, not what I thought it would be, not what it was in books, and I walked fast. I was about to meet the crepes man and the cheese man and my friends Maria and Suzanne-—but first I saw hearts.

Everywhere on the street were spray-painted hearts.

One in the center of a garage door. One on an unsuspecting trash can. One on the side of a meat truck. One on a brick wall half-hidden by now overgrown eucalyptus (you can only see it when the wind blows). One on a port-a-potty. Really.

The hearts are there. They are still there. They make a path. I'm just following.