graffiti

by dm gillis

A thing never really comes to life until its existence is disproven.

That’s what the graffiti said on the wall in the alley behind the record store. It was a short line of small neatly crafted characters, written in black felt pen. Only the most devoted graffitophile would have seen it. I lit a joint, took a hit, and passed it to Jenny.

“It’s the most boring graffiti I’ve ever read,” she said, toking and suppressing a cough. “There’s no anger in it; no profundity. It reads like a bowl of warm Jell-O.”

That was Jenny. An eighteen year old punk forensic philosopher, wearing combat boots, working in a secondhand vinyl shop.

To me it sure enough looked like it came out of a textbook. But it was new. It hadn’t been there the night before. Someone had come in the darkness to write it, a ghost or an Elephant man. I knew because I’d left by the backdoor of the shop the night before, at 10pm. It hadn’t been there then. Graffiti can be some mysterious shit. It inoculates impervious surfaces, and grows like mushrooms.

Its newness was a welcome thing. We were getting stoned and needed something to fixate on. Our minds needed distending. We needed to expand our consciousnesses beyond banality. In ten minutes, we’d be back in the aisles pretending we were straight, studying album covers with our fresh Visine eyes, hoping we didn’t have a laughing fit when the smirking dilettantes rolled in.

I took another deep toke. It was some righteous bud.

“Was it foggy last night?” Jenny said.

“Yeah.”

“And that lamp over the door works?”

“I guess,” I said. “(Cough!) Of course.”

“Then someone stood here in the fog, on this tiny expanse of planet Earth illuminated only by that shitty little sixty watt bulb. And he wrote that.”

“Holy fuck.” I blinked. Now the profundity was flowing thick and fast. She’d only had a couple of tokes, but Jenny was changing her mind about the message on the wall.

“The fog,” she continued, “was floating by on a feeble wet breeze. And there was no one else in the world, except him.”

“But what if he’s was a woman?” I asked.

“Shut up,” she said. “And the thing that he was driven to write on this wall, in the incandescent lit fog, with the whole world flattened into a state of near total absence around him, was that.” She pointed at the fresh graffiti, and took another hard toke.

“There’s more to it than just the words,” Jenny said. “There’re strings like razor blade fractals violently radiating out from it. A childhood of grief, a mother who hated the men over whom she obsessed, a tiny room in a slum, a sink with a drain that lead straight down to hell. Even as a child he could hear the screams of the damned. He’s a vampire. He sleeps in a body bag. He’s a demon with a Sharpie. He eats stray cats.”

“You’re stoned,” I said.

“Immaculate.”

Later that day, Jenny sold a very rare 45 rpm of AC/DCs Can I Sit Next to You, Girl / Rockin’ in the Parlour, Polydor Records / 2069 051. The proceeds would pay the next month’s rent.

The customer was dressed like he’d just been peeled off of a page in an LL Bean catalogue. As she wrapped the disk, Jenny asked him why men wearing deck shoes always looked like serial killers and pretended to like Metal.

He paused a moment with his platinum card in hand, and glared at her. Then looked over her shoulder at me.

I looked up from a cover of Disraeli Gears I’d been staring at for about half an hour and said, “A thing never really comes to life until its existence is disproven.”

It was the best I could do, under the circumstances.

He knew he was out numbered, and left with his purchase.

“He’s never coming back,” Jenny said.

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