Today, scrawled on one of the tables in the library, I discovered the word “rice.” It was written with fierce intention, all in caps, and I could tell the writer went over it many times to ensure it was indelible (it wasn’t). RICE. The letters were slightly angular, ferocious even, and they stood about a centimeter high.
At first I just grabbed my eraser and started rubbing, but then I began to wonder. Who loves rice this much? That he would inscribe it with such fury on a table in a library? Did he mean the small white grain that pairs so appetizingly with beans? Yes, sure, it’s the world’s most blandly delicious staple food, but to inspire such vandalistic devotion?
Perhaps he meant Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens’ suspended running back and elevator assault captain. Maybe he was going to write “sucks” or “is innocent” underneath but was interrupted by an unsympathetic bell.
Was this social commentary or hungry musing? Could there be yet another meaning for the word RICE of which I was ignorant? An acronym? A cipher? A clue to an unsolved crime committed in a Panda Express years ago? A cold case, solved at last, by a simple four-letter word. RICE.
Sadly, I will never know. I do wish to ask the artist what he was thinking when he was moved to take his pencil from his math homework, glance furtively around the room, and then, sweat beading on his upper lip, touch the tip of the pencil to the table and scratch that first letter.
If only he would return! If only he had written more! RICE. You are gone from the table, but etched permanently in my mind, enacting every possible scenario, playing every character, stealing every scene with unrelenting confidence.
Author’s note: I chose to use the pronoun “he” only because I vaguely remember the RICE table being occupied by boys. If you would rather envision the graffiti being perpetrated by a girl, by all means, please, substitute “she.”