© 2020 by Alison Darrow.


January 28, 2016

Years ago, I painted my car. I owned a prim, gold Toyota Tercel (named Tenacity) that I was determined to drive until the wheels fell off, I was infatuated with stencils, and I had been visited by a vague design plan involving maple leaves and folk-primitive motifs. So I bought as many colors of gold and near-gold metallic spray paint as I could find, collected various sizes and shapes of maple leaves, cut a bunch of stencils, and got started. I lived in a quasi-urban neighborhood at the time: multi-family triple-deckers, on-street parking, no driveway or garage.


So I worked at the curb. Spray-painting a car involves masking all the areas you don’t want to paint, so Tenacity sat there for several days mummified in newspaper and masking tape as I moved slowly over the body, placing stencils, picking a color, spraying, moving other stencils while that set dried, picking colors, spraying, letting the colors dry, placing stencils, spraying…

A day or two into the project, a small girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, walked up and asked me what I was doing. “I’m painting my car,” I said, giving her a conspiratorial twinkle.


She pursed her little face into a suspicious scowl. “Why?”


“Because it’s fun!” I felt not just that she should agree that fun was enough of a reason to deface a car, but that she should even maybe crack a grin or giggle, perhaps want to help.


Instead she watched me for another stony moment or two, and then said with disapproving finality, “I don’t like that sort of thing.” And walked off.

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