This post was originally posted on Helium.com. Here is a link:

Short Stories: Artists

“This is the best work you’ve ever done.”
“Really? You mean it?”
“Yeah Squirt, keep it up, and you might just be a famous artist some day.”

This is one of the conversations I remember having with Zoey, the best baby sitter in the world, or at least my favorite growing up. She was my hero, the only person in my life who ever took me seriously. My momĀ  got mad at me for finger painting on the wall, but Zooey, she loved it. She got a kick out of all my antics. She just got me.

Her parents were hippies. She was not, though her real name was Moonbeam. She wanted to change her name to Zooey, a character from a book she read. She wore all black, dyed her hair jet black, and wore lots of make-up. Her mom really hated it, she had bright red, wavy hair that hung all the way down her back. She wore long billowy flower print dresses, and always told Moonbeam she needed more color in her life. Zoey would say, “Squirt adds all the color I need.”

Yesterday, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing, the air was full of a sense of expectation. The sense of well being that comes with the beginning of fall. Yeah, I was always really into school growing up. But, I’m also bi-polar. Usually my depression ends when fall weather begins. That is also when the mania begins, and what a welcome relief after 6-8 months of sleeping constantly, not bathing, and wishing for death.

Yesterday I was on my way to the gallery. That’s when I saw them. They reminded me so much of me and Zooey. She was a goth chick, complete with a multi-colored Mohawk. He was a tow head, decked out in preppy clothing, probably about eleven. The image would force many to wonder, what kind of upper east side socialite would leave her son with someone like that? Some might even suspect kidnapping.

They were singing a song together, loudly, and he was dragging a piece of chalk along the buildings as they passed. She was carrying a bucket of chalk. They seemed absolutely blissed out. I wanted to talk to them, but I didn’t dare interrupt their reverie.

So, I went on into the gallery, soon I was talking to a perspective buyer about a piece. She wanted to know what inspired me. I was trying to tell her, but I was also trying to be diplomatic. An artist can’t give away all his secrets, and I was sure she didn’t want to know the gruesome truth. The truth of my mania, the fact that I had done that piece, along with nine others in the show, on a four day binge. Four days with no sleep at all. The longest I have ever gone. The hallucinations were horrible. Nevertheless, it is some of my favorite work. I look at it, and can’t even believe I did it. I look at it, and I feel very little recognition.

Anyway, I was rocking back and forth on my toes, with my hands in my pockets, wishing for an escape hatch, ala “beam me up Scottie,” when they came into the gallery. They, being, the young tow head with his goth chick. They were making quite a commotion. Apparently this girl was trying to convince the owner that her little charge was “the next big thing,” and that it would behoove her to check out his work out on the street corner.

I thought it was hilarious. She was just as much an encourager and agent as Zooey. I decided to go with them and have a look. Her name was Grey, his was Aiden. I followed them to the corner. Aiden was jumping up and down with excitement. Grey said, quite nonchalantly, “So what do you think?”

Aiden had drawn a portrait of Grey. It was gorgeous, way beyond what you would expect from an eleven year old. His sense of color, space, and personality were phenomenal. So, I said to Grey, sotto voce, “Honestly, I’m jealous. This kid is better than me.” I knew he could probably hear me. That was kind of the point.

After studying it a little longer, I asked Aiden, “What are you going to do if the rain washes it away?” You should have heard his response. He cocked his head, looked at me real hard, and then said, “But, I’ll always know it was there. Besides, I see her everyday. I can always do another one. She’s my muse.”

Well, that’s the part that killed me, an eleven year old calling his baby sitter his muse. Kids, where do they get this stuff? So, I asked him if he’d like to collaborate on a piece with me, and that’s how it all began; my career in sidewalk art and collaborative pieces. It’s been the best work of my life. It’s also how I met my Lady, Grey, the love of my adult life. Aiden was right, she is an incredible muse.

So, what do you think? Can you picture this scene? Do your own kids say amazing things?