“High Tops and Graffiti”

12 11 2011

For Levi, with great affection for one of only a dozen people with whom I have had dance parties in front yards in Illinois.

I swear, I didn’t mean it to happen. I was just a nice kid from the suburbs, transported to city life by a combination of cultural expectation and parental pressure. The big University was the only “acceptable” choice for the son of a successful businessman and an Ivy-league graduate. I’d have given anything if they’d let me go to art school in England but a biology degree from a prestigious university was my only option. At least as far as THEY were concerned.

I’m getting off-topic. Like I said, I never meant it to happen. All I wanted was to keep my head down, get done with my four years and get OUT. Once I had a job they wouldn’t be able to tell me what to do. I have never had the illusion that being a college student made me in any way independent. A host of teachers, RA’s and my ever-present parents made college another gilded cage. And the gilding was flaking off with dangerous rapidity.

Finish, get the degree, move on, that was the plan. God laughs at plans.

It was November and my head was down, this time as a futile defense against cold wind and stinging rain. I was walking along the road next to campus. There was a trail I liked that dipped below an overpass. It was a quiet path, not frequented by my fellow students. Just as I drew level with the sheltering overpass a flash of red brought my head up.

Shoes. There were shoes on top of the concrete wall next to me.

I stopped walking. The shoes were red converse high tops and they were on the feet of the most striking girl I’d ever seen. She wore torn jeans, a black and pink zip-up sweatshirt and a bright green t-shirt. Her hair was blonde and long.

“Cheerleader hair.” I said, not meaning to say anything at all.

“What did you say?” Until I’d spoken she hadn’t seemed to notice me, now she turned and glared.

“Um,” I was completely flummoxed. No words came. We both stood there, me in shock, her frozen in disbelief.

“Did you just say that I have CHEERLEADER HAIR?” Her words stung almost as hard as the rain.

“I didn’t mean to offend you. Honest.” My neck was starting to hurt from craning up to look at her where she stood on the wall. “If you’re going to yell at me can you come down here? My neck hurts.”

She paused, considered and jumped down. “You shouldn’t accuse a girl of being in any way like a cheerleader. It’s rude.”

I spoke without thinking. “That’s dumb.”


“Well, there is nothing inherently WRONG with being a cheerleader. And it’s offensive of YOU to imply that they are inferior.”

That flummoxed her, I could tell. Good, I thought, we’re even.

“I have to go.” She grabbed a backpack off the wall and turned away.

“Wait!” The rain was starting to bother me but this girl was bothering me more.

She stopped but didn’t turn around.

“What were you doing up there on the wall?”

She started walking then but called back over one shoulder “Look UP, you idiot.”

I watched her walk away, her red sneakers darkening in the rain. When she turned a corner I remembered and looked up.

And there, covering the entire wall was an enormous graffiti. Dragons fought over a cityscape where people ran and laughed and drove tiny, perfect cars. Flames and stars and flowers twined and soared over it all. Stunning. Breathtaking.


I didn’t mean for it to happen but it did. I fell for the graffiti girl in her perfect red sneakers.




2 responses

13 11 2011

There you go, appealing to the romantic in me again. Well done.

14 11 2011

That’s just because I’m a whimsical romantic and it leaks out when I write stories.

Next time reply faster when I ask facebook for ideas and you too can have a short story dedicated to you!

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