Unseen Graffiti

The Authority was tough on graffiti, which was seen was an early sign of degeneration of civil society. Fine arts were encouraged as ways to develop the soul: landscape paintings celebrating the sacred earth, and portraits honouring noble individuals. Conceptual art too had its place. Graffiti however was a stain on the community. It was made by those without formal art training, and usually in lurid colours. It was appreciated by youngsters and a worrying number of aesthetically illiterate adults.

The Authority came down hard. In this last year they had imposed many fines, issued Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, expelled students from high school, and relocated families to D-rated socio-demographic zones in the City where poor behaviour was tolerated. They could do what they liked there, but not in Lucerne.

Ali and his friends hung around the car park beneath the Transparent Temple. It was the only dry place to go. Water rushed down the ramp when it rained hard, but was channelled away, never causing a flood. It was a good place for them to ride their skateboards and BMX bikes, and play baseball and football. Ali’s father had a cricket bat, which was also put to good use. It was a popular game for a week or so before everyone got bored. They also jumped into the access ditch in the corner when it filled with water. So cool.

Some days they stood around talking shit. On one of those days Ben produced a spray can. Ali said, “What are you doing, man? Are you crazy?” Before long however he was adding his tag too, a crescent moon to acknowledge his Islamic heritage. It couldn’t really be traced to him. It could be any of the three hundred Muslims in the Village.

“Neat idea,” said Ben, and added his Star of David. Mary sprayed a cross. Other kids added an OM, Dharmic Wheel, Khanda, Taijitu, Water sign, Torii gate, Pagan star, Bahai star, and mystical Black Spot.

Mary said, “Wow! It looks like a painted chapel in here. I saw some churches like that in Ethiopia. They’re a thousand years old, carved out of rock underground.”

“When did you see those?” said Ali.

“I lived there as a kid. My parents were missionaries in Africa for three years. It’s an amazing place. I want to go back there one day.” Ali and Ben curled their lips out as a form of recognition, and nodded.

They returned the next day to find their symbols all gone. They had been blasted off with a pressure washer and painted over. Every few days they repainted the signs and the next day they were gone.

This situation continued till July, the start of the Village’s financial year. Budgets were slashed by The Authority, and maintenance cut back severely. The Village couldn’t afford security so closed the car park, however this decision caused parking chaos on the main road, and was reversed immediately. Ali and his friends returned to their grotto nightly and played games and sprayed graffiti.

Samira, a blind girl, was new in town. She had been born that way. She had been teased horribly when young, but here, she was acknowledged as the coolest one among them. How she managed to look so good without seeing herself in a mirror was a mystery. All the boys tried to hit on her when she came along. Samira was nice to the nice ones but never fell for the charms of the rogues.

“I love the energy of the car park,” she said, and spent her nights hanging around with them there. She couldn’t skateboard, BMX, play baseball or football. She had a go at cricket, and sometimes took a dip. But she mainly felt her way around the walls, touching the graffiti that had built up there. She felt the truth of the holy signs. The symbols acquired extra dimensions as she felt their many unseen layers.

One day she called Ali over and asked him to touch the Black Spot. “What do you feel?” she said. Ali said nothing but shook uncontrollably. In that moment he saw everything. The painted chapel showed him the layers of his life, and the points at which they joined. The Black Spot connected Ali to Samira in ways unknown. They were joined within its darkness forever.

The next day the new village budget was approved. The graffiti was pressure-washed and pointed over.

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