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Different Tracks | Stefan Christiansen

They stood silently beside the train tracks, underneath Broad Street bridge. It was 1:07AM. They were examining the concrete support wall in front of them, a short distance to the tracks. He peeled layers of old, splintering paint off the facade.

“Well the ERA and the PACER are both capped,” he said, pointing to the sharp lines formed by two innovative painters, which jabbed out from under the rebellious scribbles of bored 13 year-olds.

“And the JAS7 is so badly peeled it’s not worth saving,” he said in a slow, hushed tone as he pulled away layers of paint from years past. “Let’s just take out the whole wall.”

“Fine,” she said, “but I don’t know how I feel about going over that JAS7.”

“I mean, it’s barely there anymore.”

“Yeah, it’s just that…”

“Well if you don’t want to, we don’t have to.”

“No, it’s fine, just do it,” she said in a quick single breath.

He enjoyed the manner in which JAS7 painted too. But to save a piece that was so badly peeled it could only be recognized by those with a strange fetish for illegal calligraphy, baffled him.

“If it means that much to…”

“It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“Well…”

“It’s nothing. We got the paint, we’ll do the whole wall.”

“We can go look at the wall on the opposite side.”

“No forget it.”

“It’s worth a look.”

“We both know 4Skor and Bel have that side.”

“Maybe some kids went over them.”

“Those pieces have been there since ’02,” she said with an historical authority that he should have conceded to.

“It’s worth a…”

“Forget it.”

“…look.”

“We got the paint, we’ll do the whole wall.”

He looked at her with a sigh that fell somewhere between aching and lusting.

“What time is the last train?” he questioned.

“1:46 at Naugatuck. Probably come by here at 1:50 or so.”

“And that’s going to Waterbury?”

“Yeah.”

“And there’s no more going to Bridgeport?”

“No,”

“But the last train usually goes back to park at Bridgeport instead of Waterbury, I think. So we gotta watch out for that.”

“Okay.”

“Just keep your eyes open.”

“Yeah.”

“It might come fast, it won’t be making any stops.”

“Yeah.” She fixed her stare on him. His eyes were well adjusted to the dark and he could see, and sense, her impatience. He just couldn’t help but direct.

With an astonishing quiet they unzipped their backpacks and began removing and coordinating cans of Rustoleum, Krylon, and Ironlak.

He rose from his duck-like squat and moved close to the wall, “Start at the end and try to complete your ‘e’ by the middle of where this idiot went over Pace. Right here,” he said waving his hand in front of the wall like a security guard directing mall traffic. She nodded without paying much attention. “Are you seeing where I’m talking about?” he said as she continued to balance cans on the gravel.

“Yeah I see.”

“I’m going to mark it,” he said as he sprayed a single black streak on the wall.

“You don’t need to mark it.”

“I already…”

“I understand where to end.”

“But…”

“In the middle of the wall.”

“Yeah and…”

“We’re doing the whole wall. So we’ll divide it in half,” she said.

“You gotta be quieter.” She did not respond. “I mean ‘we.’ We have to be quieter.” He paused briefly and stared at her misshapen pencil of a body, which he had deemed perfection long ago (even if she claimed erasing was necessary). “Sorry, I just thought,” he began with a childish tenor but then stopped mid sentence. He was not asked to complete his statement.

The pair moved toward the wall and began their work. In long, deliberate motions each formed the outlines of letters.

He shot a glance at her outline, which he could see more vividly than his own because of the streetlamps above her side of the bridge. Astounded that she had completed her full outline already, he gazed in wonder at the curvature of her letters. The forms were magnificent, ebbing and flowing, with occasional geometry. Utter perfection, and only a rough a sketch. He ogled the figure and craved the perfection. The motion and subtlety, peaks and valleys, lines and arches; he adored. His eyes fell on her hand as it moved furtively across the wall with an elegant fog of paint bouncing off the barrier and surrounding it. From her hand to her arm, arm to shoulder, shoulder to neck, neck to ear; and though he could not see it in the darkness, he knew there was a small divot in her lobe where an infected earring was once abandoned. He eyed her until she noticed. With her glimpse he abruptly looked back to his own outline, raised his ultra-flat black to the wall, and began painting again. He wondered whether she had smiled or scowled at him.

He reached into his pocket and extracted his phone. He carefully positioned his body in front of its luminescence and read the time. “It’s 1:42 already. We should duck down for a while and let that train pass.”

She moved her hand in quick dashing motions a few more times. He knew she was forming the trademark psychedelic fill, which had earned her much respect over her years of stylizing surfaces. “Okay,” she exhaled and began to move towards the bushes to safety.

Without thinking he moved to the end of the wall he was closest to. He had intended to go to the same side as her. Now struck with insecurity he thought it inappropriate to change sides. He nestled behind some shrubs and put his hood overhead.

He was still in front of the wall but hidden from the train’s sight. He waited anxiously, knowing that when the train passed, the lights would illuminate the structure, and for the first time he would get a view of their work in progress.

Seemingly an hour later he heard the hissing of wires above him. Then the screeching of metal on metal as the Waterbury bound projectile blasted by. The engine of the train passed and there remained a momentary stillness. But as the second car moved by an explosion of wind struck, throwing his hood off, and pushing his hair anyway it pleased. The whistle hollered, and the wheels screamed, so poignantly even Lord Sutch would have been jealous. The violence was soothing to him, a familiar sensation that had become theraputic over the years. In these fleeting moments he observed the concrete by way of the strobing lights. He could make out the blue, yellow, pink, and orange of his and her color coordinated masterpieces. He could only make out the big picture. Despite his peek he had little idea of what needed fixing.

With the last lights of the train he attemped to see her. She must have been behind the wall, or crouched deep in the trees.

Once the train was safely past the duo emerged from their veiled havens. He crept back to the wall, cautiously looking around as if someone might have joined them under the bridge while the train passed.

“Why are we painting the Waterbury line?” she asked as she began to spray the wall again.

“Cause barely anyone paints this line.”

“Exactly.”

“Yeah, exactly. We’ll be king and queen of it with just a few night’s work.”

“Right,” she said.

“Right,” he responded with a smile.

They continued misting the concrete with aerosol. Slowly forms became distinct as un-harmonized gaps decreased on the surface. Despite the delicate arrangement of colors it all appeared as differing shades of gray at 3:14AM. Silently they worked separately. Separately they concentrated on a single end.

“We should get proper masks.” He coughed to stress his point. She nodded without giving definite verification that she had listened to him. “Iz the Wiz, he died from inhaling this shit,” he continued. He sprayed on the shadowing that would give the illusion of a third-dimension. “You know?”

“Okay. What? Yeah.”

“It’s funner when you listen.”

“Huh?” she said, exasperated.

“You can talk about stuff sometimes too.”

“I have nothing to talk about.”

“You sure?”

“Shut up. Someone will hear us,” she said and he directed his focus back on his Krylon.

Then a jeer from above caught his attention. He ceased his hand momentarily and listened. Then it became clearer, and closer, and he recognized the hiss of wires; the last train on its homecoming jaunt back to Bridgeport.

A glow became visible and the shriek of metal on metal finally got her attention. She was late to realize. He was late too. Without thought and without warning he scurried toward her. He latched onto her shoulders and drew her to the side of the wall. They collapsed under the shelter of branches and bushes.

Wailing cries echoed against concrete. The wind yanked leaves from their homes. Light crashed against all in its path, including their refuge. It was this light that made him realize he had come to rest on top of her. Smothered in a hug of sorts. Pressed at the middle, with a mess of legs tangled below. His weight fully on hers, comfortabley crammed together. Face to face, with cold lips close enough to be warmed by one another’s breathing. He felt an amorous shake he had not felt since they found themselves in the same position on his bedroom floor, the day they met, a year earlier. The couple gently gazed at one another, close enough to see the finer lines of each other’s faces, despite the darkness.

“That was close,” she whispered

“Very.”

“Do you think they saw us?”

“Maybe. Only for a second.”

“They probably thought we were deer.”

“Probably.” Still neither moved.

“We should finish up.”

“We should.”

“And get out of here.”

“And go back home.”

“Okay.”

“Maybe talk.”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”


Stefan Christiansen plays in a number of New Haven-based bands, including Estrogen Highs, Medication, Iron Hand, Ehrgeizig, and Ink; and runs Never Heard Of It Records. The 6th NHOI release, titled “Judges Cave: The Hidden Sounds of New Haven,” is a 4 cassette box set compilation featuring 8 New Haven bands (Sudden Walks, Ehgeizig, Medication, Permanent Feels, Colorguard, Female, Bible Frost, and Roman Wolfe).  It is due out April 2010.  He is also a founding member of Popeye’s Garage.

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