At the neighborhood park a young boy with different colored chalk pieces was creating a sort of renaissance masterpiece of a Knight on horseback. He wasn’t a student of the round table or anything as freaky-geeky as that. If anything I’d say he seemed detached from his drawing, simply striking the lines where they should go, not manic but straightforward and simple was his style, to me the sign of a true artist. He also had a tiny blue and white striped stroller (for his bear), that stood immediately to his left. I watched the boy draw for awhile, finish up the hilt of the lance, stand up to view the portrait at a different angle then slowly and heartfelt, nod his head as if the bear had made a critique so compelling it makes the artist confront their own inner child (which for this kid was in the womb). The boy seemed to relax his shoulders and quickly assimilate the corrections.
Rafael, with his brown puffy pants, black puffy coat and Peruvian scarf tied around his neck like the Red Barron, stood watching the bear, apparently hearing the instructions as well. The painter, bending down to grab a different colored chalk, didn’t notice Rafael commandeer the stroller and high tail toward the swings. The painter continued painting and Rafael went further and further and further away.
“Rafael,” I said.
“You have to play with the stroller near the boy.”
“Cause that’s his toy. Is that your toy?”
“Ok, so you have to play with it near him.”
“Tell him to come here.”
“That’s not how it works. That’s his stroller. He is coloring over by the monkey bars. You are borrowing his toy so you have to stay by the monkey bars.”
“The bear doesn’t want to go by the monkey bars.”
This puzzled me. Would the bear risk it all right here? Risk having his ability to communicate to young children be discovered, all for the sake of being away from the monkey bars? What is it about bears and monkeys? I quickly flipped to the Things-to-Google portion of my notepad and jotted it down.
“I’ve been there, son.”
“To the monkey bars?”
“No, I’ve been where you are; wanting to have someone else’s toy and enjoy it my way, on my terms. I used to buy pot off this Greek kid called “Bro.”
“Was he your brother?”
“No. No, he wasn’t.”
“But it seems like such a brotherly name.”
“That was the point. He was brotherly. He would come to my house, bring me soda, maybe some leftover pasta his Mom had cooked from the night before and hang out right before the start of the five o’clock showing of The Simpsons. Roll a joint. Smoke it with me. Then stay.”
“I love watching tv by myself.”
“So do I, and you can imagine how hard it was to have someone there with me.”
“Why didn’t you just tell Bro to leave.”
“It was his toys. If he left, he’d take all his toys with him.”
“The pot, too?”
“I see your point.”
“So what did we learn today?”
Rafael reflected and just as his mouth was forming the word to begin the sentence, the bear, unable to hold his tongue, following our conversation with a turned neck and quiet pathos, a fidgety ear and deep imperceptible knowledge, basically just dying to judge us; Burst from the stroller…
“Don’t do drugs!” the bear squealed with indignation.
“Always buy your own weed?”
“Exactly, now let’s get this fucker.”
At that point we squared off on the bear and it’s really impolite to brag about kicking the shit out of something inanimate, so let’s just say in four short minutes we were kicking back with an apple juice and a gatorade.