Christopher Sebela

writer, wronger, rearranger

Last month, 43 whimsical snippets of text like the above passage were stenciled onto city streets, tracing the smoldering saga of a man with a yen for a woman who only has eyes for — the moon. Depending upon which paths readers choose to follow, one can enjoy 16 different story combinations, four endings, and hike nearly four miles up and down San Francisco’s hills and flats.

The mysterious duo behind the sidewalk stencils — titled “She Loves the Moon” — call themselves “The Strangers.” For purposes of identification, there’s the Tall Pale Stranger and the Short Dark Stranger.

They elicited literary suggestions from friends, made their own stencils, and painstakingly matched geographical locations to plot devices. “The stencil that mentions the sun glowing off Bernal Heights in the distance — well, if you look up from that stencil at a certain time of day, you’ll see Bernal Heights with the sun glowing off of it,” says the Tall Pale Stranger.

Going from “Hey, that’s a great idea!” to spraying down stencils at 15 seconds a pop took around six months of brainstorming plot twists, mapping the interlocking paths on a computer, cutting 43 stencils, and, of course, writing the damn story. The Strangers furtively painted the town red — literally — over a couple of days in early July.

Of course, all that work will eventually disappear once city graffiti crews paint over it. Transience is an occupational hazard with stencil art — as is getting caught by the police.

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