Paint Loudly

Submitted into Contest #45 in response to: Write a story about activism.... view prompt

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Ditching school was a pleasure. Slipping the itchy navy blazer and tight green tie off in the alleyway beside Phoenix Prep School was like a cool breeze on a hot summer’s day in Times Square. Alex was already in the alleyway, waiting with one leg propped up against the wall and a Marlboro between her stained fingers. She wore her usual get up, her favourite maroon Doc Marten boots and the Ramones T-shirt she stole from a street seller. Her dark frizzy hair was loose around her face like a halo and her cocoa skin was makeup-free. She was the type of girl your parents warned you about, from the ‘other’ side of town, setting the alarm bells of every middle-aged mother and father off as she glided down the red-bricked streets. 

The scowl that usually bestowed her face turned into a smirk upon seeing Luke, the ‘Golden Boy’ of senior year in Phoenix Prep. His father was the CEO of some financial company and his mother was the perfect example of Middle-class wealth, Martinis and charity hypocrisy. They were the polar opposites of each other but that was what drew them together. “Ya got the goods?” Alex asked, dropping the end of her cigarette on the ground and stamping it out with the toe of her boot. “Must you ask?” Luke replied teasingly, holding up his clean black back-pack whose contents rattled ever so slightly. “Don’t get smart with me, rich boy,” Alex scorned but there was a lightness to her voice. “Wouldn’t dream of it,” Luke laughed, raising his hands in front of him in mock surrender. Rolling her eyes, Alex slung her own bag- stained and tattered from years of abuse- over her shoulder. “Just try and keep up.” 

The two teenagers raced through the streets, their bags rattling on their backs, creating music for their journey. They dodged rushing businessmen and loud street vendors trying to sell their wares to susceptible tourists. They ran past shiny open-roofed buses crammed with awe-struck foreigners on their way to see the Statue of Liberty or the recently built Twin Towers. The neon colours blurred around them and the smell of hotdogs, sweat and coffee invaded their noses. They ran as fast as the city itself, only slowing when they had to slip between the ubiquitous yellow cabs on the road. They felt free, two panthers in a concrete jungle. The sounds of the city called them to hunt and they moved predatorily past the newspaper stands, the coffee queues and the angry horns that blared a cacophonous sound.

Soon the scenery changed and became darker as they entered the subway on 34th Street. Little orange neon lights lit their journey and old beer bottles and newspapers became hurdles for them to jump. Alex moved gracefully in her soft-soled boots and Luke followed obediently, exhilarated by the squalor and the acrid smell from the fast-moving crowd and the screeching brakes of subway cars in the underground, Manhattan’s private hell. They slowed to a stop before the metal turnstiles and eyed the cops, two middle-aged men who were there to make sure everyone paid their dollar. “On three,” Luke whispered, “1..2..3!” They vaulted over the turnstiles and followed the familiar route towards the D-train or as Alex preferred to call it “Muggers Express”, the domain of the gangs from the Hell’s Kitchen and Brooklyn. Its track stretched from Manhattan to Coney Island pausing at Yankee Stadium and the Bronx along the way. Luke chanced a glance over his shoulder at the unfit policemen who were red-faced and panting and over a few feet behind them. He smiled to himself, victoriously knowing the cops would never catch them on time.

Just as the train doors shut, Alex and Luke slipped into the graffiti-covered cart, embracing its dirt and the eerie electric light. Luke loved the eccentric designs that littered the walls, containing the wishes and wants of New Yorkers. Graffiti had swept the streets of New York, providing all the silent and forgotten youth a voice to speak with. “The Art Movement” the newspapers were calling it. It had entered slowly at first but soon took over every nook and cranny like Virginia creeper vine on the edge of old run-down buildings. The train sped down the track, rocking steadily and stopping intermittently at identical platforms to allow identical passengers on board. Luke could feel the cold eyes of strangers on him, questioning him, judging him. He shuffled closer to Alex and wrapped his hand around hers. ‘Let them think what they want,’ he thought bitterly.

The static Brooklyn voice filled the carriage over the intercom, announcing the next stop to deaf ears. Neither teenager knew what she said but they knew where they were. This was their stop. They exited the train hand in hand, however before the door of the carriage closed, Alex turned and ‘flipped the bird’ at the disapproving strangers. The teenagers started to run again and soon the dark, musty subway gave way to the bright, sunny pavements of Coney Island. Luke could taste the salt on his tongue and hear the waves as they crashed white against the pillars of the peer. In the distance, the shrill cries of young children could be heard as they reached the top of the amusement ride they were on and dropped. He remembered when his father brought him there as a child, the taste of candy floss melting on his tongue. He hadn’t seen his parents since Christmas when their hasty visit made Luke angry, angrier then he imagined he could ever be.

Occasionally a single elderly woman would wander past the teens with her parasol in hand to keep off the beating sun, and like the seagulls stealing left-over food from the bins, would pay the teens no mind. The green sea stretched out before them like a mirror and they walked almost somnolently as if they were dreaming. At an old grey wall that faced the rickety rusted Ferris wheel, past which stood the glowing sea, the teens stopped and emptied the contents of their bags. Armed with spray cans of red, black and white, the two young adults began their work. As quick as they had started, they were finished and gone. The only trace that they were ever there were the words they left behind. Six brave words to be seen by all, “We all bleed the same colour.”

They wandered hand in hand between the amusement rides, giggling at the thoughts of the roller coaster, the shooting ranges and the popcorn smell that hypnotised them. Alex produced a Marlboro and lit it as they faded into the people who ambled along the boardwalk. They were all shapes and sizes, mostly misfits on the edge of the world. Retired men sat on benches eating filled sandwiches and drinking coffee from paper cups, children raced around with their mothers searching for something to do to pass the time. 

Later that evening, the teens returned and stood side by side as they faced the orange sea, their skin glowing in the fading light, their stained hands intertwined. They watched where the sky came down to meet the sea and the water fell over the edge of the earth and they knew that their voices were heard and would never be silent again.

June 10, 2020 23:30

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1 comment

02:38 Jun 21, 2020

Intriguing message, "We all bleed the same colour" and quite true. A bit heavy on the description of New York (it slowed the pace a little) but if you were aiming for slower pace, good job!


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