I stared at the blood red paint splattered on the concrete wall cracked by the weeds growing through it. I hefted the gallon of white and paused. This occasion didn’t deserve white. I set it down and lifted the brown and gray I’d mixed in another bucket. I slung the mix at the wall.
It splattered and dripped in the circle of light that shone from the only streetlamp that could reach under this bridge. As soon as I saw this spot two nights ago, I knew it was the right place. The streetlamp made a round spot on the crumbling wall, a circle of white like Grandmother Moon. She understood what I was doing. She understood the cycles of life. And death.
I set the empty bucket next to the coil of rope I’d stolen along with the paint buckets. Well, I didn’t steal them. The warehouse owed me back pay when they fired me for fighting with the idiot who called me sissy for the long braid that hung down my back. Some people were so ignorant. Even the warehouse boss. He didn’t know about the key I’d already had copied.
The gentle breeze of the mild summer night stopped the dripping of the gray and brown mix. I lifted the yellow paint and, in a smooth arc, sent it flying as an offering to Grandmother Moon.
Davis was my best friend on the Rez three years back. Both at the ripe old age of thirteen, he had wanted me to do it with him. But I was waiting for my father to come back and get me. One day, my father did.
I should have hung myself like Davis.
My father said he would take me to see the world. Turned out the world was full of beer joints and cops.
The yellow paint dripped slowly to the buckled concrete of the old sidewalk. It mixed with the dirt until its true color was distorted. It was lost in the filth.
So intent was I on the colors in Grandmother Moon’s light, I didn’t hear the shuffling feet until they were almost next to me. I tensed, then relaxed. It was just an old black man with a sack over his shoulder. He looked at the mess of paint buckets around me and lowered his bag. It took him a long time to straighten up.
“What you doing, son?”
“Watching paint dry.”
A chuckle. “I guess there are worse things you could get yourself into.” He gazed at my wall creation, the piece of art I would leave behind this night.
He scratched at the stubble on his chin. “Why red?”
“You would not understand.”
“Son, I been around awhile. Give me a chance.”
If only someone had given me a chance, I wouldn’t be homeless on the streets of a city that swallowed me whole. “Red is for my people. For our blood. For the beauty of who we are.”
The black man nodded slowly. “The brown and gray?”
“My hills. My home.”
The man wouldn’t understand and I wasn’t going to explain about our sacred homelands still desecrated by the white leaders, so-called great heroes.
The paint was stable enough. It was time for the final color. I lifted the largest bucket and paused, wishing the man would leave. This moment finalized all the others.
Splash! Splash! Splash!
I made sure the entire wall of color was covered over with the black paint. Grandmother Moon still shone on it, giving her blessing to my decision.
“Why black, son?”
I stared at my creation. “In the end, it didn’t matter what the other colors were. There’s no beauty in the end.”
We stood for awhile, watching the paint glisten in the light. It was still dripping when the old man bent over. I didn’t pay attention to him until I saw him step closer to the wall, paint bucket in hand.
His throw was weak, but enough to cover the black with white. I couldn’t move, didn’t understand.
The old black man came back to me. “Now you can start over.”
He took a battered pocket knife from his bag and began to swipe and scrape at the paint.
Moments later, he retrieved his bag and walked away. He looked over his shoulder. “With God, our end is His beginning.”
In the white and black paint, he left behind a dripping cross.
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