Ok, deep breaths: 620 words. But that’s ok, because when it got to the point where I knew for sure I was going to go over my word count, I just went for it. I think that means I’m all right.
Life has been difficult lately.
My days are strung together like a Newton’s Cradle. Yesterday was a bad day so today will be a bad day, and yesterday colliding with today will knock a bad day into tomorrow. A constant velocity of disappointment is maintained.
Unfortunately, yesterday was a bad day.
My girlfriend left me. As if that weren’t sufficiently depressing, she took my dog with her. My dog, as in a dog I owned before I mistakenly moved her in. It might have seemed like Pax liked her better, but if it were up to her he’d be stuffed with treats and overweight inside a month. Which I guess will happen now.
There’s a leak above my toilet. That doesn’t sound outwardly terrible, but the apartments in my building have cloned floor plans—my lump of narrow hallways and tight doorways was definitely pushed out of a busy playdoh factory. If it’s leaking above my toilet it means my upstairs neighbors’ toilet is leaking. Anything dripping on my head while I’m sitting on the toilet is guaranteed to contain some fecal debris.
There’s more, but who cares? Something great happened, and nothing great has happened in months.
I was walking through my neighborhood, taking in the night. My area is sort of rundown—people don’t pick up after their dogs, garbage stuffs the sewer grates, and I wouldn’t recommend walking alone after dark, although I often do. It’s weird, but I feel myself sort of expand when I leave my apartment and walk around my neighborhood. It might be cruddy, but at least I’m not sitting inside, crushed and compressed by the lack of space. I can stretch and breathe, fumy as it is.
Tonight I turned a corner to face a wall that had been excessively graffitied—it was kind of like the Jackson Pollack of graffiti murals; numerous taggers had slapped down their marks in an untamed hodgepodge of braggadocio. It took a studied concentration to untangle an individual message from the morass.
I was looking at the wall for about three minutes when I saw it. Buck up Chuck. Now, my name isn’t Chuck—it isn’t even Charles. But there was something about the writing, how simple it was, no fancy scrawl work or blown out letters—no real artistry at all. Just as if someone walked down the street holding a can of spray paint, and stopped to write a message. Like it was meant to find someone. My face lit up.
The next day, I couldn’t find the message. I inspected the wall for at least ten minutes, but it wasn’t there. It seemed to have disappeared in the daylight. As odd as that was, I found something else. Smile Awhile. Same writing, same hand. Probably the same can of spray paint, too. I smiled, then laughed that it made me smile.
So far it’s been twelve days. Every day there’s a new message. Play today. Be Happy Chappie. The previous day’s tag always disappears, the new one popping up in a different place. It’s like the brick wall is a lake of wonderful things that float to the surface and then sink back under in turn.
I haven’t become sick of it yet, which might be the most amazing thing about it. I caught myself whistling today as I left my apartment to go see the newest message, and I think I actually hopped off the last step on the way out. Can you remember the last time you hopped? I can’t.
Every day, when I’m about a block away, the same thought occurs. I push it to the back of my brain and stomp it out as quickly as possible, but it always pops up. I’m afraid to say it out loud. I figure if I just do what the wall says, I’ll be okay.