Lenore M. Taylor wins third place in the Essence Short Fiction Contest
You know, it don’t matter if blue ain’t your favorite color, 'cause when them blues come down on you, it’s the color you become. I tried so hard to keep everything around me bright and colorful. I thought it would be so bright that the glare would blind everybody and keep them from seeing all my blue. It just seemed like the right thing to do.
Nobody ever really wants to know about your hurt or your pain. Sure they ask you how you’re feeling and how you’ve been. But they’re usually two steps past you before you can answer. Answer truthfully that is. So I just keep my colors around me.
My colors could be anything. Sometimes I call my clothes colors. If it’s real sexy, it’s a red. I call my friends and even different places colors, too. Like my girlfriend Neicey. She’s a yellow because she’s always smiling. Her smile is so big and illuminating, it reminds me of the sun. Then there’s my girl Mona. Mona’s a pink because she’s bouncy and bubbly like a big piece of Bubble Yum bubble gum. See, I need to keep those kinds of colors around me ’cause my blue done ran so deep down inside me that it’s mixed with my blood and made it purple.
I often sit here and look out the window of my black house and wonder how life look on the other side of the city limits. My house ain’t really painted black; that’s the color I gave it because it seems to describe it best. It’s dark in here. There’s an absence of emotion and an endless sea of nothing. The lack of color here makes it cold and empty.
Then, whenever he’s here, the black represents the darkness that comes over me. I cower in the darkness of his shadow and try to become as small as the little blacks ants that crawl on the windowsill. When he opens his mouth to speak, the dirtiness of his words of abuse and degradation remind me of the color black. But I do what I can to keep it black in here 'cause that’s how he likes it. He’s blue just like me. Blue because he’s unhappy all the time. He can’t love or be loved. I don’t think he’s ever even known love.
Every now and then I try to bring a little color in here. I smile to bring a little yellow or laugh for a rainbow of colors like in a clown’s suit. But whenever I try, all I’m left with is purple like the color of a battered woman. Then after all, all that’s left to do is to try and please him as a man. Some people call that love-making, but love is red. There’s no red when he’s on top of me. All I see is black because I close my eyes and I make everything disappear. I remember once asking Neicey what color she saw when she was in bed with her man and she simply said, “No color at all, and that absence of color is exactly like the absence of satisfaction that he gives.” She was funny that way. She never even paid attention to color like I do.
Neicey never realized that she changed the color of things whenever she was around. I loved her for that. She gave me moments where I forgot about blue and became more like beige. I kinda just blended in and fit with the rest of the world. She was the one person who I think always saw my blue. It seemed like just when things would become almost unbearable in my life, she would call or stop by unexpectedly. I was just ashamed because I could never offer that same support to her.
I’m sure she has rough spots in her life. After all, she’s a single mom of two, trying to finish school and become a teacher. Her kids’ father was a successful lawyer and once he made it, he decided she wasn’t acceptable as a wife among his peers. It’s only through the power of a judge that he sends a few bucks every month, but don’t ask those kids when was the last time they saw their dad. They couldn’t even tell you what he looks like. I often wondered what she ever saw in him. But everybody knows that you never question a woman who believes she’s found “the one.” Nine times out of ten, she’ll cut you off before she ever leaves him. After all, back in high school they were both voted most likely to succeed. It just happened that Neicey had to keep putting her success on hold because he kept getting her pregnant.
If I were her, all I would see would be grey. Grey like clouds of impending doom. Grey like being overshadowed by hurt and feelings of being abandoned. Most people don’t see color the way I do. I honestly don’t know anybody who pays attention to color other than to match their shoes with their handbag. By the way, Neicey was good at that, too. I guess that’s what they mean by seeing life through those rose-colored glasses. I’ve been taught that God doesn’t put more burden on you than you can handle. It’s a blessing to know that he also places people in your life who don’t mind sharing the weight with you. Now Neicey’s about to finish her classes towards becoming a teacher like she always wanted to do.
I wish I knew what I wanted to do. Some people just seem to know why they were put on this earth and what they’re supposed to be doing. Mona and I are alike in that way. She doesn’t seem to know what she wants to do in this life either. The difference is that unlike me she’s willing to try anything. Her happy-go-lucky attitude just makes people want to be around her. She’s always taking jobs that she has no experience whatsoever in.
Everything is just pink all over in the office, so who cares that she’s typing with one finger and taking messages while popping gum. She was like a chameleon, able to blend in and hide her imperfections in whatever surrounded her. She would hang out, party and surround herself with as many friends as she could, and always kept a smile on her face. She was like David Copperfield, creating the illusion of making something appear not to be there when indeed it was. After all the years she’d spent perfecting it, it would have been too embarrassing to ever expose her. Instead, I loved her enough to be her safety net if ever she were to fall from her imaginary high.
Life is funny that way. No matter how out of sorts our life is we can clearly see what’s wrong in someone else’s life. Even better, we can see what the solution is and wonder why on earth they can’t see what is so obvious to us.
I lose track of time just sitting here in this window thinking. Another day has come and gone. Now all I want to do is lie down, close my eyes and let my mind function on autopilot.
I must have been really tired last night. I don’t even remember hearing my 8 a.m. wake-up buzz. Morning is usually a very strange part of my day. I open my eyes and lay here staring at the ceiling. I’m not thinking about anything in particular. I’m really just trying to ignore the sounds of those demons telling me that I shouldn’t bother getting out of bed. They try and tell me that today has nothing to offer me and it won’t be any different from yesterday.
Today things did seem different. I felt different. I opened my eyes this morning and I saw the yellow brightness of the sun. Today it didn’t seem to be blocked by the green leaves on the big tree outside my bedroom window. It was like it had forced its way in. It wanted me to acknowledge its power. I felt its warmth on my skin and it covered me
with the security of a warm blanket. That sense of security gave me something I’d always lacked. Optimism. Today was the beginning of something different. I just wasn’t sure what that something was. So as I ventured out of my bed, piqued with curiosity, I told myself I was ready for whatever awaited me beyond my bedroom door.
I hurried myself into the bathroom because I remembered that he was probably downstairs waiting for breakfast and pissed off because I overslept. I turned on the sink to wash my face. When I looked up, I didn’t see the silver grey of the mirror. I saw my reflection. It seemed that every time before this I’d never seen myself, only the silver grey color of the mirror. I marveled at the beauty of my brown face, the pink of my lips, the shine of my black hair and I could swear there was a sparkle in my brown eyes. In all the while I’ve spent thinking and seeing color in people and things around me, today is the first day that I’m seeing the true color of my life. I gave myself one more look of approval then made my way downstairs.
I heard my mother say many times when I was a child that miracles never cease to exist. As I rounded the corner of the stairwell to the kitchen, I knew for sure that this was truly a miracle coming to fruition. It was like my mind had far transcended any limitations these walls could place. I plopped down in the kitchen chair because I felt my knees buckle from the shock of this experience.
I felt like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz only this time the house landed on me. Maybe that was it. I must have been dreaming, because before my eyes I saw a room cornered by crisp white walls. There were flower patterns along the borders and the windows had peach and white curtains blowing gently in the spring breeze.
I suddenly focused in on the sting to my left cheek, and I realized that he was standing in the path of this perfect vision. I guess he hadn’t realized it but today I woke up with my eyes wide open. My vision was no longer overshadowed by misery and discontent. I felt the heat of his breath on my face but the bite if his words seemed to lose power as they left his mouth. It was like his words were suspended in the air between his lips and my ears. It was beginning to make sense to me now.
The white that I could now see in the walls represented a clean slate, a new beginning. From this day on, I would see the possibilities in life. It was strange because I never said one word to him about the revelation happening inside me. I guess he saw it or maybe he felt it. He was defeated and I had taken back the power I’d allowed him. After that, I guess he was swept up in the darkness that had me blinded because I never saw him again.
It’s kind of like what they say about a rainbow. How with the colors, all in perfect alignment, represent hope. After a dark thunderous storm, at the bottom of your porch, there’s a rainbow in a puddle. That rainbow holds out hope that even though it’s been dark, miserable, and stormy, the sun will shine again. Well I think in my life someone came along, saw my rainbow in the puddle, stuck their finger in it and swished all the colors out of order. Up till now I don’t think I’ve been able to see hope and beauty in color. God has realigned the colors in my rainbow and it’s now the color of my soul.
Beauty and hope are inside me. I now know that there doesn’t have to be a storm to battle before hope for a better tomorrow comes. God’s promise to carry me through is real. Here I am, living proof of the possibilities. You know, it don’t matter if blue ain’t your favorite color, ’cause when you let them blues come down on you, it’s the color you become.