Text Message Convo:
Hey, classes are over. Where are we meeting up?
the art department’s being used. ugh. let’s meet up smwhr else
Sure. Where? Cafeteria?
nah. too crowded. meet me at the playground
the one right across the school
You do realize this is where kidnappings start, right?
well then you better bring protection
“Hey, you’re here!” Grayson said, swinging on one of the swings. I had arrived at the playground across the school, the one Grayson mentioned. Strangely enough, he was the only one then.
“Yup,” I said. “And I brought a can of pepper spray. Is that protection enough? I was supposed to bring a baseball bat but it wouldn’t fit inside my bag.”
“Pepper spray? Really? You’re worried about me kidnapping you and you just pepper spray as your weapon of defense?”
“Would you rather I have brought a gun?”
“Okay, never mind, pepper spray’s good,” Grayson said. He shook the swing beside him. “Swing with me!”
I sat down in the swing beside him and swung too. Pretty soon, we were having a contest to see who could swing the highest.
“I still don’t believe anyone can go all the way around,” I said.
“Someone’s actually done that?”
“Well, when I was in kindergarten, there was a rumor that this guy named Kermit Rainbonowitz could swing all the way around,” I said. “I never actually saw it, so I never believed it to be true.”
“He probably started that rumor to hide the fact that his name was Kermit Rainbonowitz,” Grayson said.
We both shared a laugh.
“Sometimes I wonder what’s going on with Kermit right now,” I said. “Do you ever think we sometimes bump into our kindergarten classmates and not even notice it?”
Grayson shrugged. “I don’t really care, anyway,” he said.
“I guess I just wonder about those kind of stuff sometimes,” I said. “You know, with me moving a lot. So what is this place? And why here, of all places? And shouldn’t there be a lot of kids right now? Why aren’t there any kids?”
“One question at a time, Sonic,” Grayson said. “You would think that a playground would be filled with kids, all wild and naughty like the monkey bars bring out their inner caveman, but never at this time. I guess it’s pretty late for kids to play here. So, I may make a pit stop here some days…every day all the time after classes. Except the weekends, though.”
“So this is your hangout? You don’t want to hang out with your friends?”
“Ain’t nothing wrong with wanting to be alone sometimes,” Grayson said. “Plus, with the isolation, I get to accomplish a lot of things: I finish my novels, edit my pictures, everything I’d be too lazy to do if I was with other people.”
“Wait, what about your job? Don’t you -”
“I only man the Art Department office every Wednesday and Friday,” Grayson said. “I guess it pays well. Sort of. It’s minimum wage, and they pay me under the counter, but the job’s not all that bad.”
“So when do you go home?”
Grayson shrugged. “Whenever I feel like it, I guess,” he said. “When there’s nothing left to do, I go home. This playground can get pretty lonely at times.”
“Well, is it less lonely now that I’m here?”
Grayson nodded. “Yes, actually.” He looked at me. “Do you ever feel lonely, Jeremy?”
I shrugged. “A lot.”
Me too: two of the most comforting words in the universe. Put them together and it creates magic. You no longer feel alone with “me too.” You find out that your struggle is also somebody else’s struggle. That you’re not the only one going down a certain road.
“Oh right! About that…do you wanna do something with me?”
“You mean besides swinging?”
“More like…a project,” he said. “Look, you’re really good at drawing.”
“And, well…I’m a photographer. I love taking photographs. And I really want to study in New York. Why not? It’s just a state away. Plus, it’s the big apple, for crying out loud. Anyway, I was able to submit some of my photos and I got in.”
“Congratulations, that’s huge!” I said. “But where do I fit in?”
“I want you to do the show with me.”
I gave Grayson a look of confusion. “You mean…you want me to join the art show as well? I thought you said the deadline was way over?”
“I want you to join with me,” Grayson said. “It’s the only way you can still join the art show – if I list you down as my partner. See, I don’t wanna just show good photos. That wouldn’t stand out, no matter how good the photos are. I have this idea for a project: it’s a strange project, but I think it might just work.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“We go to a place, I take a picture of it, and you sketch it.”
“What?” I asked.
“It’s a great idea!” Grayson said. “It’s two perspectives of the same thing, shown in two different mediums, but essentially it’s the same thing. It’s…a metaphor. You get it, right?”
“Yeah, I think I do,” I said. “So what you’re saying is…you take a picture of something while I sketch it, we put them side by side and show it at the art show?”
“There you go!” Grayson said.
I thought for a while. “Do I still get to go to New York?”
“I would never plagiarize your work,” Grayson said, nodding. He extended his arm for a hand shake. “So, are you in? Do we have a deal?”
I shook his hand. “We have a deal.”
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