Chalk Artist

June 2, 2013
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A chalk artist sits in the middle of the sidewalk, her knees spread apart and covered in colored chalk dust, just like her hands. Her black capris are faded and worn, and her white tank top is also stained with the bright powder. Beside her on the ground sits a small black bag, from which pieces of chalk spill. Around her, the crowd parts like the Red Sea, jostling, each trying to reach his destination faster than the person next to him, never stopping to take a breath or to look at something beautiful.

Every so often, the chalk artist looks up, glancing into the glass-walled building beside her, where a young man sits alone in a coffee shop, reading Les Miserables. She watches the man for a few seconds, then draws a piece of chalk out of her bag and makes a few strokes against the pavement.

Over time, a shape emerges, the true form of her drawing becoming visible. Her hands grow more colorful and sore, and she begins to sweat in the afternoon heat. Fortunately, clouds appear and a light breeze blows in, alleviating some of the discomfort.

At approximately 4:06 p.m., the man at the table happens to look up and glance out the window. She sees this and watches as the image of the cloudy sky is reflected in his large-framed eyeglasses. Then he looks down and sees the picture.

She has placed it right outside the building: it’s impossible for him to miss. At first, he frowns, and the woman worries. She should have done the drawing across the street, or not at all. It’s unusual for her to use a live model, but this time she couldn’t resist.

The picture is a nearly perfect replication of the man at his table. The table’s wood grain is visible, as are the shadows under the man’s chin and the dark brown of his eyes. His hair is dark and tousled, and even the cover of his book has been drawn to perfection, no detail missed. She has very good eyesight.

Then his expression changes, his eyes lightening and his mouth relaxing. He looks up and their eyes meet, brown to blue.

For a moment, it seems as though everything is still. Even the people still walking the streets, which are less crowded now, seem to stop moving. The sweaty, dirty woman, covered in colored chalk dust and bright with the exertion of creativity, watches the man, clean-cut and sophisticated, his previously intriguing book now put aside. They are separated by a thin wall of blue-tinted glass, and the drawing sits between them, an odd peace offering.

Then it begins to rain.

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