I’d heard the stories of a girl who came out of the bricks in an alley on the lower east side. They said she was a fairy, or a nymph, or something. My cousin Clarence had come back from the city in a full suit and tie darker than midnight, saying this woman granted wishes. I thought his brain had finally been baked by the sun from being out in the fields too long, but I’d also never seen Clarence in anything other than dirt caked jeans and a stained undershirt for most of my life.
And, I was desperate. I wonder why Mom and Pop wanted me to read all those books about so many different places when I was little if they never wanted me to stop tilling fields and planting crops.
So, I made an excuse. I told them I wanted a vacation. They didn’t like it, but I told them that if I couldn’t live there, then could I at least see it?
They grumbled, but agreed.
So, I drove at a hundred past those humble pastures until they gave way to bright and showy glass and concrete, all the while wondering if I would actually check if what Clarence said was true.
The hotel was nice, though the bed was a bit too soft for me. At first, I found it strangely hard to breath, wondering how there could be enough air for all these people. All the food tasted sweeter, like every dish had sugar as a secret ingredient. I liked it though. It was just a lot all at once.
After a couple days, I decided to go.
A curtain of black stretched over the alley, the narrow space permitting only a few feet of light through, though that was already a cold colour from the shadows of the surrounding industrial monoliths.
I hesitantly took a few steps, letting the grid of bricks on either side surround me. I listened to the gentle rattling of the spray can I moved back and forth in my hand. They said you had to leave something of yourself on the walls here, or she wouldn’t come. An offering, of sorts.
As I went further, I saw a beautiful mess of tags scrawled up, out, and along the wall. Names and sentiments of every colour of the rainbow, contained and effused via stark outlines. Pictures and depictions, more detailed than I could ever hope to create, all overlapping one another, jostling for space. This was my favourite thing I’d seen here so far.
I didn’t want to disturb all of it too much, so I found a relatively clear spot. I gave my can a last good shake and removed the cap, before letting the red paint fly with a hiss.
I start writing before I know what I really want to say. In the end, it’s just my name, scrawled on this wall in a city where I can’t stay.
This is stupid, I think.
I get up and turn to leave, only to feel a hand rest gently on my shoulder.
I turn, and am nearly blinded by a woman who looks to be made of as many colours as the art on the wall was. Her hair was rippling back and up, flowing like water in a stream of coloured energy. Strands of the stuff ran off her from everywhere in smaller amounts, and the darks of her eyes were somehow visible against all that light.
She smiled at me, and my heart seized in my chest.
Before I knew what to think, she leaned in and kissed me lightly. She tasted sweet, like everything else here.
It felt strange, like I’d been given a purpose that hadn’t been there before. The part of me that felt like it had always been roving grew still. And somehow, too late, I realized I had lost something too.
She pulled away and brought her mouth close to my ear, whispering to me with the sound of that missing thing. When she said the words I knew I’d follow them, because that was all there was left, and that was fine. No turmoil, no questions, a terrible peace.
“Go back where you came from, and tell others like you to come.”