I had just got home from work, and I’d propped the front door open so the cats could play on the porch (they don’t go outside, but they love to sit on the screened-in porch and pretend they’re outside).
And, no surprise, two minutes later the house is invaded by little girls. E and two of her pals dashed in, asked me for a sharpie, and zipped right out the door again, brandishing the sharpies like warriors. I figured they were going to write on their hands or sneakers or something, which they’re not supposed to do, so I didn’t ask. But – lord love her – one of them calls merrily on the way out the door, “We’re going to go write on the wall!”
“What wall?” I called after her, but I already knew: my house is at the end of a dead end, right next to a giant brick sound wall. The highway runs by on the other side, but the wall is quite a nice one and you can’t hear the traffic at all.
I love the wall. They were still building it when I moved in, so I’ve seen several stages of its construction. And it makes my end of the street into a quiet little island, cut off from the nonsense of the traffic and the shopping mall. We’re connected by the Washington St Bridge to the neighborhood’s parks, schools, and playgrounds, and across another street and bridge there’s a greenway path along a creek. I’m literally two blocks from the nearest highway exit, but one summer, there were foxes in my yard.
There is no graffiti on this wall. This
And there’s lil’ e and her friends, happily dashing toward its blank slate of bricks, sharpies waving wildly.
“No no no!” I cried, and then realized, I hadn’t anything good to follow that with. Don’t write on the wall? Seriously? When I was 13 I loved writing on things. I made my mark on any blank surface I could find. I had fancy tape with my name on it, to decorate my books and binders. I kept up a year-long “conversation” in pencil desk-scribbles with some other anonymous student who sat at the same desk in the math classroom. Graffiti is this amazing combination of public and secret that is so intoxicating to adolescents. “Don’t write on the wall?” Right.
They’re going to write on something, and if I say no, now, they’re just going to do it somewhere else. And they’ll end up writing mean things that they know they can’t say out loud, because that’s what 13-year-olds do.
In a flash I had the answer. “Don’t write on that wall.” I said. “ It doesn’t belong to you, or to me, and it’s been there for years now with no graffiti and I don’t want you to ruin it. If you want to write on a wall, you can write on my wall.”
When I started talking there was a defiant gleam in all three pairs of eyes. But by the time I finished you’d think I’d just offered them a pony and an ice cream cone. They spent about half an hour writing love notes all over the wall of my house – on the “sound wall side,” of course, where nobody will see it. ;)
They wrote silly things and drew silly pictures. They scrawled their eternal, undying friendship and devotion to one another. They wrote Miss Rebecca is Awesome in big letters (thank you very much). We measured our heights and marked the year. And then I confiscated the sharpies and sent them on their way.
A few rainstorms and a little S.O.S powder later, most of it came off. But I made sure to keep a few scribbles intact.by