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.The Christ on the cross mural: overpowering not because of the crown of thorns, the blood-dripping wounds, or the long, pouting stare Catholics are accustomed to, but because of the way Christ looms above, as if frescoed on the concave surface of a spoon.Around Christ galaxies spin, shooting stars streak, and his white gown flows in a cosmic wind.To this day the mural is a routine stop on the North Side’s bus tours into the heart of the city.Most of Rom’s pieces are commissioned by area businesses or churches—maybe even the public, if Rom takes to heart the suggestions he hears while working.“Hey, bro, how about dedicating to my girlfriend, Flaca?” “How about to my mother?” “My grandmother who died yesterday?” But his dedication to Arelia Rosas, a ten-year-old girl who disappeared the summer before last, simply appeared one morning without warning on the octagonal brick kiosk that sits before the old Lutheran church on Nineteenth and Peoria.The neighbors called the mural “poignant,” though many were unsure of what the word meant.It wasn’t negative, though, most were sure of that, so they used the word over and over to describe the dedication until months later, when the word dropped from favor through sheer overuse.In the mural, a caricature of Arelia sits alone on the wood bench her grandfather made for her many years before and placed in front of the ground-floor apartment he lived in.How Rom knew this intimate detail of the Rosas family, no one knows, but they chalk it up to an artist’s intuition.Anyone passing the scene sees the bench, the brick-molded asphalt siding of her grandfather’s building, and knows immediately the moment takes place in summer, that there is an open fire hydrant somewhere nearby and that the scents of the neighborhood—frying tacos, boiling pots of garlic-spiced frijoles, cool Lake Michigan breezes transported by miles of sewer pipe—layer the atmosphere.She sits playing with her hair.Everyone remarks how Arelia could just sit for hours, contented, smiling to herself occasionally when something funny came to mind.“But she never cried,” her mother says.“No, never.” Yet in the dedication, as contented as Arelia seems, chrome tears run down her high cheeks.This is where poignancy takes place.Within the basket of each tear a city appears, like a hanging garden.Upon close inspection the image is revealed as a portrait of the neighborhood itself, shot from above, minute down to steeples and the path of the L as it snakes down Twenty-First Street.How he got his spray down to such fine points no one will ever know, and this is an issue of contention among the local graffiti artists: whether or not Rom actually broke the rules and employed brush.But the haze is there, the over-spray, the telltale sign of aerosol art, which, in this case, enhances the already translucent tears, the cities held within glass bulbs like holiday paperweights filled with liquid, begging to be flipped and allowed to snow.The tears don’t stop at the cheeks.They continue to fall: two are in midair.Eventually, one glances off Arelia’s white knee and multiplies in a flash, producing more tears, finer tears, smaller cities.The silver droplets reach the image’s painted cement sidewalk and sink into what now appears to be a vast city in and of itself, splayed out beneath the reflective sheen of Arelia’s black patent-leather shoes.Corridors of streetlights, side streets, meet at infinite points around the kiosk.At times, the neighbors say, the painted cities come alive, movement can be seen, the L’s slithering like hobby railroads.The neighborhood’s lowriders stop and go on the boulevards.Rom takes no credit for his murals.Never signs them, unless somewhere in the jumble of letters at the bottom of his pieces the name ROM is encoded.The neighbors call this humility, though many are unsure of what the word means.They use it anyway, while they wait for miracles.RESIDUECould’ve been Death himself, the grim reaper, descending into the basketball court that night.Could’ve been ready to pull out any number of weapons, automatics, pumps, side-by-sides—everyone knows the grim reaper don’t use sickles no more.Grim reaper looked like he grew up South Side, way he pimped down the alley ramp into Barrett Park.Even though ol’ boy was walking slow, that slight bump in his step was all South Side, Twenty-Second and Damen to be exact.Could name the street corner by that walk alone.First thought was he’d been living in somebody’s basement.Jose Morales, valedictorian at Juarez High School, thought it, and Sleepy too, twelve-year-old, droopy eyed Party Boy in training.Everyone in the park that night thought it.That, and how the world got awful small sometimes.Like just last week, when Beany from the Two-Ones found out his old lady was fucking some dude where she worked downtown.Xerox repairman wound up being Juice from the Party People over on Allport, Beany’s best friend when they came up together on Eighteenth.Two days later Juice was found tied to an alley lamppost, alive but beaten.Beany’s out hunting for his old lady now; he’s got something more serious in mind for her.Jr.Chine stood at the far end of the basketball court watching the scene develop.He wasn’t afraid of anything he could see, at least that’s what he liked to tell himself.He’d heard Juice’s story, how Beany was now after his girlfriend.“Motherfuckers should’ve seen it coming,” he’d told Joker, his Party Boy brother, his best friend in the neighborhood.“You look for trouble, shit’s going to find you first.” Joker’s only response had been to laugh.Joker was a thief, of everything.But it figured the grim reaper was living in the neighborhood.Probably renting out a musty concrete basement for a buck fifty a month, utilities included, stolen from a next-door neighbor.Might have assumed the name Julio Ramirez, or Juan Calderon, one of those generic Mexican names nobody’d suspect it was Death himself, coming in at strange hours.Whoever owned the building, the landlord living in the front, highest apartment, like they always do, probably thought Death was just a good worker.Probably thought he was some mojado busting his ass making calculators in Elgin for fourteen hours a day, wiring cash back home to Mexico, supporting seven growing children and a wife named Iris, or Esmeralda, some name that brought to mind young beauty, though she herself was tired and worn.Landlord probably thought to hire Death too, being he was such a good worker.Give him twenty bucks to patch the front sidewalk, holes so big kids be falling down there, assumed kidnapped until someone heard the screaming [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]