The concrete was damp with the rain that had fallen that morning. The squares that made up the sidewalk were beginning to grow light around the edges as the hot sun baked them dry again. I walked along the path, stepping heavily in the puddles as I passed. The drops sizzled on the concrete allowing the lightest whisp of steam to rise from where it fell.
His house is worn down and ragged. The walls are covered with vines that have crept up around the posts of the porch railings and windows over the years. The gutters brim with leaves and the paint has been flaking off the wood siding for years. His house is crackled and dirty with the dust that has settled there. It’s mud now, slowly cracking into bars of cooked clay.
He sat in a rocking chair on his porch rocking forwards and back, forwards and back, watching the bars of clay form. I sat on the steps in front of him and focused on a slab of clay. I watched as a crack began in the center and winded its spider web way across the surface, cracking the dirt. It reminded me of a windshield after it’s been hit with a rock and it exposed to extreme weather. The little nick in the windshield will grow legs that reach across the windshield until it cracks into tiny pieces of ice.
I reached out for a piece of clay and crumbled it in my hand. I pressed it into the concrete of the sidewalk, using my finger as a pencil. I drew cave man drawings, primitive, showing my warrior prowess and the strength of my clan. The crude drawings were not elaborate, but I must have used a dozen ground up cakes of dirt. I sat in the middle of the drawings, surrounded by my insanity.
The sun was setting and my friend nodded to me. He rose from his chair and disappeared behind the squeaky screen door. I heard banging from inside the house, pans clattering, boxes being moved. When he returned, he carried with him a large bucket of chalk which he poured out in front of me as the street lights flickered on. Such colors. Vibrant purple. Red. Yellow. Green. Blue. We stared at the sticks of loveliness, amazed at what lay before us.
A bug flew into a porch light, making a popping sound. We both looked as it fizzled to the ground. I watched the place it had fallen. I looked at my friend and he raised his eyebrows. We grabbed the chalk and began to crawl around on the concrete, both hands flashing back and forth. Steaks of color appeared on the newly washed pavement. We were impressionists, using bright strokes and dashes to create a sense of light. We were surrealists, drawing ordinary things in unusual places. He drew me like Picasso. I drew him like Miro. The sidewalk was hungry for our chalk. It ate it until only little stumps were left, grinding it into dust and hue.
Families walked by, children in strollers or on bikes. They stared at what we were creating. They wondered at the whimsy we made. But it wasn’t whimsy, it was reality. It was truth incarnate onto this sidewalk. We jeered at them for not understanding and they would hurry on their way. An old man and his dog would stop to ask a question about our art. He would gain insight and we would cheer and offer him chalk, but he didn’t really understand and we snatched it away again. A soccer player ran by and we drew her, steaks of color flashing by us. We drew the cracks in the clay and the bug on the light. We drew spider webs across the planes of our imagination and it threatened to crack our minds open to spill out into this world. We knew the world was not ready for our ideas, so we would not let them out of our heads. We had to protect the world. We were insane. The images knew they couldn’t get out of our heads, so they flowed out of our hands instead, in the form of bright flashes of color being force fed into the concrete.
That was the night we transformed our minds. That was the night we realized the world would not be ready in our lifetime. That was the night we ate sidewalk chalk until dawn, stopping only to cheer on passers by.