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Let me explain. I write on your property not because I’m malicious. Not vengeful, bitter, destructive or angry. Neither do I write on your property because I’m political, artistic, rebellious or romantic. I write on your property (store shutter, grey wall, building facade, electrical box, rough surface, smooth surface, tiles, marble, concrete, pebble-dash) because it’s there. Your property is in the way of my name. So, it becomes the keeper of my name. A marriage of sorts. I write on your property to show that no-one, ever, not even in this 21st century, can truly own anything but himself. If even that. If your property is seen by a substantial section of our God fearing population, chances are, this substantial section will see my name in their God fearing travels on said property some time in the past, present and future. I write my name, it’s all I have. I let myself know I exist. That’s all.
Reys. My name. I say name, though certain contingents of government and authority wouldn’t recognize this word as being my official title. Not in a proper sense, at least. But I can say, with honesty, that this has become the word which carries my identity more than any other I have ever been given. Reys was a character I created to escape from myself when myself wasn’t all I’d hoped he’d be. Eventually, however, and unexpectedly, Reys became me. I became him. Paul Jason Kent died. I can’t quite place exactly when this happened, other than knowing that it happened amidst a series of traumatic events which eventually lead to the killing of my former self. Oh the horror. Paul, RIP.
Reys was a lunatic. He stole compulsively. He ate like a man with thirty seconds to finish his last meal. He had no hopes, only immediate desires: to paint, eat, sleep, drink, shit, fuck and stay out of captivity for the next hour or so. He lived for the minute, eager and fascinated by its endless possibilities and constant spontaneity. He knew the city better than its planners, rulers, architects and police. Especially police. Reys always marvelled at how little cops seemed a part of the city they policed. They existed on the outskirts. They never understood the true spirit of the city, only gawked with outrage and disbelief at its inhabitants and tried to control what they saw as a reckless minority ruining things for the abiders of their set laws. Reys was a bum, a romantic, a criminal, a gentleman, a nuisance, a sage, a thug, a philosopher, a loner, an innovator and a drunk. He was above all honest, and, at times, I was convinced Reys was immortal. I was, of course, wrong.
I hopped off the bus on Dame street. It was daytime, sunny. The driver had hardly slowed down, only opened the door, still cruising along to allow me to jump off onto the path, nearly killing myself and a handful of innocent human fall-cushions. I walked towards O’ Connell Street, looking around. Names, everywhere. All I saw were names: Grift, Begone, Fuel, Fed, UEK, RFA, McDonalds, Centra, Reebok. Reys, Reys, Reys. I made it to the lane and slid my bag off my shoulders. It rattled. I opened it, glancing around, and put a cap onto a 400ml can of chrome. New York fat cap. I liked the cap’s thinness, how you had to really press it to make the can spit. I held the container in a shallow pocket as I closed my bag and placed it underneath a nearby silver rubbish skip. I walked, careful, back to my wall, can clutched tight and ready. A black wall, cracked in places, with a slight corner that had been home to many without one. Some names had gotten there before me. They looked at me. Only tags, hand styles, one liners. A full fill-in covers tags. This is one of the rules we rule-less abide. True anarchy is a frightening thing.
I took a hit off a shoulder of Jack Daniels in my left pocket, then brought out the can of paint from my right. My hand started painting. I watched it. It moved fast and swift, with the familiar routine of a priest blessing communion receivers. It was efficient. Soon, as the piece got bigger, my entire body was painting. The steel can rattled as I sketched. The noxious fumes surrounded me in a cloud of toxic scent. I inhaled. People passed from the alley opening every few seconds, going places. They looked at me. I glanced at the occasional one, checking them for concern or outrage. Negative. A silver REYS fill-in towered before me, sweating pollution. I put the empty silver can in the skip, minus one New York fat cap, and grabbed a can of black from my bag. I worked the cap into its hole as I walked back towards the REYS.
Outline. My hand worked again, more careful now. Outlining the letters, knowing the style. A piece’s outline decides its quality, it defines its letters which define the name. More people passed the lane: bemused, emotionless. I heard one of them mutter something, maybe even say it. I continued outlining. Nothing mattered but now: paint, DO IT DO IT DO IT. This was a city centre spot, millions of people passed this spot everyday. All types, all shapes, all sizes. Love me or hate me, they would see me.
For a moment the lunacy of the situation struck me: it was peak pedestrian traffic hour in the centre of this busy city as I, a wanted vandal, committed criminal damage before an audience of bemused and emotionless witnesses never half a street away from a helpful officer of the law. I’d racked up a mountain of various charges in the recent months and absconded from every court date they gave me. I had multiple warrants. I was, I just then realised, a fugitive. My hand couldn’t think, it kept painting and finished the outline. I shook my head clean of this dirty rationale and got a can of Divinity White from my bag beneath the skip.
Highlights and one-stroke. I painted the highlights, as always, on the top and right sides of my letters. I finished them quickly and was beginning to start my one-stroke when something inside me told my body to stand totally still, can poised. A glimmer of something, to my left, from the laneway entrance. Luminous, bulky, shuffling, faster, two of them. Run. My body darted right without warning through the darkness of the alley, around a corner and onto a busy street. People. The sun’s light surprised me and I squinted. I could hear the cops behind me, static noises and shuffling material “…TOWARDS O‘ CONNELL STREET…”. I let my can loose underneath a parked Fiat Punto, it slid right under it and onto the street where it stopped traffic for a moment. Citizens stared at the criminal and the cops, abiding laws. Shock. Confusion. Curiosity. For a moment me and my pursuers seemed to stop time.
Frenzy. I turned corners, my legs numb. I pushed through groups of people too fast to catch their muffled narration. I tried to look like I was running for a bus. A very important bus. My mind too shaken to check behind me. I sprinted onto a road busy with cars, taxis and buses. A GARDA squad car cruised in front of me for a moment, scanning me for something. It moved on, just another crazy 21st century would-be bus passenger chasing the dream. I crossed the road. More streets. Cobble stoned, people relaxing. I emptied my pockets of two markers: one fat and black, one thin and silver. They rolled and skidded in random directions. I turned some more corners.
I began to slow to a respectable jog. I pulled my sleeve to check my imaginary watch. I MUST MAKE MY BUS! I was on the quays now. It was bustling with city activity. Everybody busy. I decided to walk and not attract any attention. I strolled, sweating and panting, towards a nearby café, where I’d disappear for an hour or so. I resisted the urge to sprint and kept my composure, walking towards the warm, welcoming light of the café.
The sound of heavy material. Heavy breathing. Even before I turned I knew it was too late. I caught the shadow of his lunging body as he banged two heavy hands onto my shoulders. “Now, fuckhead.” he said. Irish police officers have a strange fascination with the ‘fuckhead’ insult. They use it with careless abandon. It must be a country thing. He grabbed my arms to cuff them. I didn’t resist, it was pointless. Me, resignation and defeat. Him, pride and success. Both of us, panting and sweating. Both of us in bits. He cuffed me tightly and put his walkie-talkie to his mouth, glancing around “Yeah, we got that one. Yes. Can I get a mobile unit up here, I’m on the quays near…where is it now, hold on…”.
The mobile unit was a shiny red Ford Mondeo. All undercover cops drove shiny red Ford Mondeos, in full uniform. I got in the back seat and my capturer pushed me over and sat beside me. The cops made small talk and ignored the criminal in the back. “Are you goin’ to the rugby there next week?”
“No, can’t I’ll be away.”
“Really, sure I wish I could say the same.”
“Are ye wrecked?”
“Yeah, fucker had me run around half the city.”
“Yeah, that’s terrible…especially when you’re just walkin’ about like, yeah, yeah…”
They made some bad jokes and drove in the general direction of my lane. I held my breath.
It didn’t work. The one who’d caught me wasn’t as slow as most cops. He asked them to stop as he got out of the door to check what I’d painted. They stopped and he got out. I moved the shoulder of whiskey from my pocket, slow and careful, and wedged it into my underwear. The driver looked at me for the briefest of moments in his rear-view mirror while we waited, then looked away. Perhaps he thought he’d catch my criminality if his gaze lingered too long. I went back into my pocket, found that last tiny container, and palmed it down my jeans.
“So what were ye writin’ then?” the driver asked, staring at the road ahead.
“Jesus was a Jew from space.” I replied.
“What?” he asked, dropping his guard and looking at me again before remembering my criminality.
“Nothing. Just writing my name.” I said, in my dumbest drawl.
“Yes, I know. What’s that?”
“Jesus. Jesus H Christ.”
“Ah sure, he’s a fuckin’ eejit,” he concluded, looking at his companion in the passenger seat for confirmation, “A fuckin’ eejit.” They both shook their heads solemnly. Just another fuckin’ eejit, sure, what are we gonna do with all these fuckin eejits, like.
My Garda ran back to the car like a kid chasing an ice cream truck, all raised eyebrows and frantic energy. He was eager with information. “IT’S FUCKIN REYS!” he shouted, “IT’S FUCKIN REYS!”
He pronounced my name wrong. The two cops up front now spun around to witness me. The Reys. The spectacle. They looked like they had just fucked Angelina Jolie. I felt happy for them. “Fuckhead!” one of them said, smiling and nodding. I laughed like a child and stared into the street.
I told them I hadn’t done the Reys but they wouldn’t listen. They were riding their own wave of personal satisfaction now, and to be honest, it felt unfair to ruin it for them. I protested but they wouldn’t hear it. They drove me down towards Pearse Street Garda station. I half expected balloons and streamers.
I knew I’d become prolific. Insanely so, even. But, I wasn’t aware of this hunger the authorities had for my capture. I had been told of inflammatory newspaper articles, concerned mid afternoon talk-show chats, ignorant evening radio-show rants. I hadn’t believed any of it. I had separated myself from any mass media for as far back I could remember. Ever since the old me died and I took to the streets. Maybe, sometimes, everything is good for something.
We arrived in the station to a noticeable hush of anticipation. I could feel it even as they walked me through the vehicle yard, all three of them. Two of them held an arm each, the other held my head. They think I’m a superhero, I thought…or super-villain. They got me through a door and placed me before a small hatch manned by a young blonde woman. Her initial look of boredom faded as she raised her head. “Is this him?” she asked, eyes bright. They told her it was, they told her it sure was. A man poked his head in from an office on the woman’s side of the hatch. Blonde, cropped hair, dull face. “Jaysus! Do ye know there’s a hundred grand reward out for your capture pal?” he said, “Do ye know you’ve caused more than five million euros worth of damage pal?” The man was a friendly walking encyclopedia. He stared. “Damage?” I said.
“Name?” the blonde clerk asked, getting ready. A growing team of curious cops was forming behind me. All pointing, nodding and talking quietly enough not to disturb the event. I felt like Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp or Saddam Hussein. “No.” I answered. But this spectacle could not be ruined by something as trivial as its protagonist. She didn’t hear me.
My cop was to my right now, claiming me. I turned to look at him. Short, tight brown hair, a desperate face, still panting and smiling. He surveyed me and said the stupidest thing I’d heard in a while: “Why’d ye run?” I gave him a quick scan: he was serious.
“Well, I dunno,” I said, “I saw two officers of the law…and since I was breaking it, I assumed I’d be, you know, at least frowned upon.” Some laughter, general grunting, then silence again.
“Are ye not gonna wish me a happy birthday?” he said.
“For the hell of it, or is it actually your birthday?”
“It’s actually my birthday.”
“What age are you?”
“What age am I?” he asked me.
“Eh…,” I looked him up and down, being careful to be as complimentary as I could whilst not appearing false. The clerk interrupted before I could make my guess. “Excuse me, over here please, can you answer these questions.” The spotlight had been stolen from her for a moment, and she seemed upset. “Name?” she asked.
“No.” I repeated. She brought her head up slowly, mouth open. She wasn’t much older than I.
“Yes?” she said, frowning.
“No.” I said. Her frown doubled. I was ruining this for her. How dare I. I heard a familiar voice from the commotion behind me: “Ah he’s a fuckin’ eejit Jane,” it explained, “he’s just a fuckin’ eejit.” She seemed to understand, and skipped the question. She made all the inquiries her sheet required: “Date of birth: 4/9/82, Address: Here, Phone number: No, Ever in trouble before: Oh lord, no…” She filled out my physical description. I leaned over to see it. She said my eyes were narrow after a moment’s deliberation. Light green, although I told her they were brown. I said I was 6’0” but my cop insisted I was at least 6’2”. She believed him. I was being made a cartoon. Nothing mediocre would suffice.
They told me to empty my pockets into a small red tray. I pulled out the contents: some tissue, a lot of loose change, a tape walkman (yes, a tape walkman), about twenty different caps, a chocolate bar melted beyond recognition, and, to my surprise, a fiver. My life, in a red tray. The blonde put my life somewhere safe while my cop frisked me with the professionalism of an astronautic monkey. He felt my shoulder of Jack Daniels, wedged there at the back of my underwear; took it out, looked at it and said: “Cheers for that.” I told him it was okay. They took the string from my hoodie and the laces from my shoes and walked me down a pale green corridor. My fans followed a few yards behind.
He opened the bulk of the door, placed me inside, and slammed it. It made a steel sound that echoed doom down the dank prison alley. Some activity outside, and then they were gone. Silence.
The room was large enough to run in, if one wanted. It was the green of a surgeon’s apron, with a narrow slab of concrete (also green) running one side of the wall, which served as a makeshift bed/bench for midgets and anorexics. Scattered around my feet were paper airplanes made out of police charge sheets. Somebody knew how to have fun. I picked one up and threw it, it was well made and held its own against the cell’s elements for a moment before sailing back down. There were people in the other holding cells, I could hear them shuffling and thinking. Wasting time. The surrounding light was a bright, harsh fluorescence. This was a room designed to drive people insane.
I looked out through the slit provided and into the corridor. There was a glowing red sign to the left, opposite my cell, saying “INTERVIEW IN PROGRESS”. I would, I knew, be next. They’d been waiting for my interview for longer than was reasonable now. They’d be ready. They’d employ every tactic, every technique, every shred of evidence, every available technology. CCTV. Eye Witness accounts. Fingerprints. They probably had people in training for my interview for the last four years. The elite Reys interview squad, now equipped and primed to serve its sole purpose: Send this fuckin’ eejit away for as long as we can reasonably justify.
My freedom was well and truly gone now, I could feel it. Reys was alive on every street in the city, I had made sure of that. I reached down into the crevice of my ass and grabbed the container of sleeping pills my cop had missed. I usually needed them to get even an hour or two rest. I took the edge of the container to the cell door, and scratched four letters into the paint. Small and faint. I emptied the brown canister into my palm, shaking. Fifteen or twenty or twenty five pills. I looked at them. A voice started singing down the aisle from another cell. At first I thought it was a recording. The sound was a beautiful soft tone, innocence and purity foreign to this dark void. It sang ‘Hey Jude’:
Don’t be afraid
Take a sad song, and make it better,
Remember, to let her into your heart,
then you can start, to make it better…
I looked through the slit and caught the eyes of a man in the cell opposite mine. “Fuckin’ eejit,” he muttered, but I could hear the smile in his voice. I smiled too.