Chapter 1: WWBD? (What Would Banksy Do)
- J.D. Salinger
Art is like sending a brief message on your pager. Though the colors tell a story, you wouldn't understand the painting at first glance.
But in every masterpiece is a cliche. Think novels, for example: whenever you open a book, you usually expect complicated love triangles, predictable plots, a boy becoming the "Chosen One," or a Mary Sue irritating the hell out of the reader.
Sometimes cliches begin when a character has a shitty childhood, ignorant parents, and a gorgeous supermodel boyfriend.
Unlike most people, I don't remember much of my childhood or where I was born. And if I had parents, they would probably avoid you.
It's not their fault, though. Hell, if I were in their shoes, I would rather wear my old headphones, turn on my mom's Walkman, and listen to Kurt Cobain than answer personal questions.
Now, you think I am a melodramatic asshole, but I am only telling it like it is: my generation is constantly bombarded by adults, who force them to decide what they want to be in life.
If kids want to be teachers, their parents would warn them that educators don't get paid enough as it is. And if teenagers want to be writers or celebrities, adults would tell them that their dream jobs are too idealistic or immature.
So instead of giving a shit what other people think, I am determined to make my way in the world by getting revenge on my old high school.
Shaking a can of black spray paint, I manage to construct my masterpiece on my old high school building before anyone noticed.
The parking lot was empty. Seniors and juniors sat in class, studying for their winter exams. So the good news is that it gave me time to start redecorating. But the bad news is that I can feel the afternoon sun burning a hole in my olive green hoodie.
After lowering the empty black container in the gray duffel bag, I pick up a fluorescent orange spray paint can then add the final touches to my creation.
Today I am composing a mural of Nathan Blaze—a tall, good-looking popular football player with caramel brown hair, stunning green eyes, a sleek jawline, and his iconic Adam's Apple.
He stood behind a podium, wearing a golden crown that radiated the lights of flashing cameras and adoring fans.
However, on the right-hand corner of the painting, stood four abused women wearing shredded cheerleading uniforms and sullen looks. And while the lights hit on the popular football player, none of them were focused on the women.
But before you ask what I am doing, there is something I should tell you about Spring Oaks High.
Apart from its outdated computers, terrible school lunches, and books that died in the 90s, Spring Oaks High has an outstanding record of bullying.
And it's all thanks to Nathan Blaze, who made my junior year a living hell.
The school principal did whatever she could to protect me from him. Regardless, no matter what crimes they committed, the principal couldn't punish Nathan because she needed him to win trophies.
As for the teachers, they wouldn't even lay a finger on Nathan because they don't get paid enough to give a shit.
But instead of backing down, I decided to create this mural as a parting gift for my shitty school.
You see, Nathan Blaze's football skills help bring Spring Oaks to the top. But behind closed doors, Nathan has a reputation for assaulting girls in the back of his red sports car.
Now, everyone knew that Nathan is an insane sex maniac—including the teachers. However, when the adults ask him what happened, Nathan would tell them what he and the girl had was consensual.
"Sick fuck." I mutter under my breath. One by one, I spewed a variety of dark colors on the wall.
Deep yellow and orange formed Nathan's massive crown, while murky blue slid down the cheerleaders' ghastly pale cheeks. Most of the paint sprayed on my denim jeans and Doc Martens, but I only cared about getting the fuck out of here.
So after I completed the mural, I packed my art supplies in the gray duffel bag, closed it, and left before the middle school kids came outside.
But as I heaved my bag over my left shoulder, I heard the middle school teacher scream at my handiwork. It made me smile.
* * * *
My art dealer and employer Frank Yeller told me that my check would come in about a week, but until then, I would finish my second shift at a coffee shop called Coffee N' Fidelity.
The shop is made out of cherry wood furnishings and smells like exotic cocoa beans. Teens and college students come here to drink coffee, socialize, and purchase baked goods.
Half-shots and vanilla syrup. Milk and sugar saturate dark beverages. The Roots blaring in the background; maneuvering past preps and junkies, I went up to Frank, who is busy cleaning the granite countertop.
His extended, brown hair reaches down his shoulders; a faded black Led Zeppelin T-shirt barely covers his belly button, while his dark blue jeans cloak his plump legs and beat-up Converse sneakers.
Beaming in my direction, Frank sets the dampened cloth on the countertop.
His brown eyes shimmered like pennies, but his facial hair formed an odd circle around his sore lips.
Frank is a fifty-five-year-old man, but he has the spirit of a teenager. He worships art and coffee so much that Frank became my art dealer and owner of the Coffee N' Fidelity.
Stretching his hairy arms out, Frank squirms around the station to get close to me. "How are you, Auggie?"
"Good." I nod. "Did the critics like any of my paintings?"
Frank casually bobs his head. "Of course, they did. Your paintings were sold for at least 2,000 dollars."
"Holy shit." I grinned. "That's great news."
"Thanks." Frank grinned back. He glances at the paint on my clothes then asked if I was making a new creation.
"Something like that," I respond with a shrug.
Frank inspects the paint-soaked duffel bag in my hand then asked what I was doing.
"Looking for inspiration." I smile.
"Oh?" Frank nodded. "Last time you were searching for information, the police caught you for sneaking into Disney World without paying."
I cast him an offended look. "What? Those Disney tickets were hella expensive, and I wanted to ride the Space Mountain."
"That's no excuse, kid." Frank shakes his head dismissively. "Sneaking into a theme park isn't exactly legal in my opinion."
"Neither is charging twenty bucks for a cup of coffee." I retort. "But life is full of hypocrites."
Frank casually flashes me a fake smile before changing the subject. "So, I have a Parisian buyer who keeps pestering me if you finished the painting for her."
"Almost," I grunted. "She wanted a mixed media painting, right?"
"Yeah," Frank answered. "Try and get that finished today, Auggie. The last thing my wife needs are phone bills showing up in our mailbox."
"Cool," I beamed. I lean my shoulder against the countertop so I can rest my exhausted back. "How's your wife by the way?"
"Diana is doing alright," Frank responds, setting the plastic bottle of cleaning fluid on the countertop. "She is just having trouble taking care of six kids."
"Maybe I could help babysit them," I suggest.
"Good suggestion," Frank beamed. "Take care of that painting first, and then we'll talk."
Behind the kitchen walls, I took a flight of wooden stairs that leads me to a large attic.
Underneath the canvas were easels full of paintbrushes, colorful paints, and a white mug that says, Queer and Proud!
Light brown walls soak up the sun's beaming light, but band vintage posters, vinyl records, black and white photographs, and beautiful illustrations made it impossible for the rays to make a dent.
Colorful pencils, sketchbooks, canvas, and crumpled balls of paper scattered across the oak desk table.
Next to the burnt chocolate closet, is a tall, dusty bookshelf full of various novels and old art textbooks.
As for my bed, it is a modest mattress with a white bed sheet and soft gray blankets. After my dad kicked me out of the house, I have been living in the attic for almost two years.
Frank didn't mind as long as I help him make coffee and bussed tables. Whenever I am finished making a new creation, Frank would sell them in an art gallery or hang them in his shop.
"Home sweet home," I say to myself, waltzing over to the mattress.
The Roots, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Linkin Park, Gil Scott-Heron, Nina Simone, and Pearl Jam CDs scatter across the pillow.
Abstract, still-life, landscape, oil, mixed media, and acrylic paintings stacked on the oak brown desk. I attempt to unlace my black boots, but I accidentally stepped on my sketchbook.
Shit, I thought to myself. Scooping up the book in my hand, I place it on the bed before changing my clothes.
Here's what I hate about my body: acne and fucking blackheads.
Dark scars emerge on my back down to my butt crack. Blackheads made their home on my slightly thin nose. Facial hair formed over my upper lip and shriveled chin.
Examining the clothes in the closet, I pick out a blue Velvet Underground T-shirt, baggy overalls, socks, and penny loafers.
Salvaging my fallen clothes, I have decided to dump them in an old, ratty hamper that sits right beside the closet.
Since the Laundromat shut down, I go to Frank's house to do my laundry. His wife Diana occasionally helps me pour the right amount of soap.
Other times, I would drive around town until I find one opened to the public. It sucks, but I have my sketchbook and music to keep me company.
Clutching the hardcover book with my left hand, I positioned it on the stack of old paintings.
Later, as soon as I traversed over to the unfinished canvas, I sat awkwardly on the barstool. The paintbrush is ladled in dirty water, while my half-finished creation sat on the easel.
First, I began purchasing some discarded, cream-colored French postcards from a thrift store and reduce them into an assortment of fragments.
After that, I printed pictures of Paris and spent hours cutting them into perfect shapes. Some were awful, while others I glued them on the blank canvas.
Second, I applied diverse shades of red, white, and blue and splatter them on the canvas. As soon as I was finished, I use charcoal-black paint to scribble cursive above the dark gray Eiffel Tower.
The last part was tricky; the top part of the canvas was finished, but the bottom felt rough and grainy, like sandpaper.
So I spent hours searching at Michael's until I found a bunch of fake red roses, bought at least four flowers, plucked the petals off the stem, and carefully glued them at the bottom of the canvas.
"Fuck, something is missing," I mutter to myself.
The texture is smooth, the paint is rich, and the collage came out good. I stare at the composition until a thought came to me.
Swirling the thin paintbrush into a jar of dark water, I applied obsidian black and wrote my name in fragile cursive.
"There," I smirk triumphantly. "I am finished. Now, I'll show Frank and-"
"Auggie!" a voice exclaimed. "There is a boy who wants to talk to you!"
Huh? I wondered, dipping my paintbrush into the jar of dirty water. Who the hell could that be?
Before I came downstairs, I changed into my cream-colored Beatles t-shirt, torn jeans, and black sneakers then grabbed my denim jacket that hung from the closet.
Entering the kitchen, I originally thought Frank needed more people handling the coffee orders.
But when I saw a handsome boy with piercing green eyes yelling at Frank, I recognized him as the infamous Nathan Blaze.
"Oh shit." I moaned.