I remembered the first day that I saw color.
Granted, it wasn’t the day that I saw the sky for its truest blue hues, the whiteness of the sun, the green of the grass I had so long trodden beneath my feet. I always imagined it that way, it didn’t up end like that at all. I had expected the world to burst into rich shades. Before, the world was a monochrome place, shaded with only blacks, grays and whites.. That all changed when I saw him sitting on a bench near the bus stop on Canal Street, a book with a color of something bright, not bright like the clouds but lighter than gray clutched, within his hands.
My boots scuffed the pavement as I halted to an immediate stop. After turning my head every which way to take in the rest of the utterly monochrome scene around me and even opening and closing my eyes repeatedly, I decided that my sight had not failed me. This book was a foreign shade.
Oh no. My eyes flickered from the book to the man that held it between his sturdy fingers, occasionally flipping a page. Does this mean that it’s him? This is the man I’m meant to be with?
This daunting realization sent chills tapping the dips of my spine like a xylophone. I had long dreamt of this day, of the unprecedented burst of unfamiliar colors that would appear when a handsome young man winked at me. Now that it was happening, now that the occurrence wasn’t as elaborate as the visions my once fledgling mind had created, I was overcome with apprehension. The right thing had to be to say something to him, wasn’t it? My mind raced as I analyzed what to say, but when he looked up from his book and met my studious gaze, it was as if my thoughts had never existed. My dry throat clenched, my stomach twisted into knots. I wasn’t ready for this.
I kept walking.
My footsteps led me into the cafe to my right and only until I found myself staring into the swirls of the coffee before me did I feel at ease, the steam filling my nostrils with the alluring scent of caramel and my tongue lingering on the bittersweet heat.
My newly-found serenity didn’t last for long. The stranger with the colorful book pressed a hand to the glass of the door, a bell on the handle jingling a humble fanfare to his entry. He tucked the book under the arm of his black jacket and glanced over in my direction. When my eyes flickered up at him, I realized that he must have been anticipating my gaze.
He's walking this way! He's walking this way! What do I do?
I occupied myself by digging in my purse for the proper amount of money to pay for my coffee, the jingling of the coins covering the sound of the stranger's footsteps across the tile floor. His hands gripped the chair in front of him as he stole a seat, still not saying a word. I ceased my harmonic jingling and looked up at him.
"What can I-, um..." My tongue failed me as thoughts skidded through my mind like water skippers on a rippled pond. So this is the first thing I say to the man who's supposedly my soulmate? Not even a fathomable sentence?
He smiled, dimples creasing across his cheeks, and pointed to my arm. "I couldn't help but notice that your coat is dark but it's neither blacknor gray. I'm not sure what color I'd call it, though, I've never seen it before." A modulated voice escaped from his thin, faintly colored lips.
As I examined my sleeve, I saw that he was right. Across the woolen material of my coat was another nameless hue, though it didn't resemble the likeness of the book at all.
"Oh." I breathed softly, pinching the seam between my fingers. Heat flooded my face, my pallor surely darkening as we locked eyes again. A long moment passed without anything to fill the empty air between us. What else was I supposed to say? Oh, nice to meet you! My name is Kodie. Would you like a fall or a spring wedding?
"Why just the coat? And the book?" I questioned instead.
The man shrugged, ruffling the shoulders of his black jacket. "Perhaps they were the first things we noticed about each other." The book thudded gently as he laid it down on the table and pushed it towards me. “Here’s something to remember me by."
Gingerly, I grasped the book and examined its hardcover, trying to familiarize myself with the strange color. After another silent moment, he stood up to leave and for a moment I nearly let him go until I realized that I didn't even know who he was.
"Wait," I stood abruptly and he immediately turned on his heel, a smile permeating across his cheeks as if he were hoping I would ask him to stop. I found myself returning the cheerful grin, he did have a rather nice smile, "What's your name?"
"Abbott, and yours?” He offered a hand in my direction and I took it, giving a proper shake, but I hesitated to let go. At first, I worried that it was too forward, but then I realized that he held on firmly as well.
“I like it.” He paused for a moment and then reached out and stroked a lock of my hair between his thumb and index finger, “And I like this color as well.”
I glanced down at my curly locks to see yet another new color, close to that of my coat but more vibrant. Out of my peripheral vision, I spotted two teenaged boys furrowing their brows at our bizarre talk of colors in a world of bland luminosities. Perhaps they would understand one day, just as I was beginning to.
After Abbott ambled out the door as smoothly as he entered, I placed my attention back to the book, feeling the thick pages beneath my fingertips. Upon a blank page toward the front cover, I noticed cursive handwriting in heavily etched lead, inviting me to dinner the next evening, finishing with a series of loops forming Abbott’s name. My stomach reverted from knots to butterflies.
The first thing I did when I left the cafe was find a book that described colors. If everything would begin to possess its true and marvelous form, I wanted to identify all of it properly. I started by finally matching the color of the book to its rightful name.
I showed the book of colors to Abbott when we met again at dinner. Between bites of Chicken Romana, we flipped through pages, identifying the pigments of objects around us from the lemons floating in the water glasses to the towering stilettos worn by the fashionable lady sitting across the room from us, her chin held high and a glass of wine adorned with lipstick stains between her fingers.
The more time passed, the more shades became evident until eventually, it seemed as if the world had drenched itself with paints to compensate for the years spent in dismal grays. The sky was ostentatious in its abundance of colors, painting the heavens orange and pink in the October mornings, blue during the days that weren’t obstructed by clouds, and deep purples and reds during the evening.
While we were walking hand in hand through the park, the rich color I now knew as green dimmed beneath the encompassing night. The bright sun had bid its farewell and beckoned my familiar stars and moon to take its place when I stopped by a streetlight so that I could see Abbott’s face properly illuminated.
“Is something wrong?” He inquired, his brow furrowing beneath a cluster of dark brown curls.
“I think I’ve decided which color is my favorite,” I spoke in undertone, “Blue, like your eyes.”
A smile glinted across his face, lighting up the eyes I had come to admire nearly as much as the overhanging sky. We were merely inches apart until the distance between us diminished entirely. It was gentle at first, as if our lips merely grazed, but we soon discovered our courage and sincerity. His warm palms met my cheeks, which were likely stained all kinds of scarlet. I dedicated myself to remembering the specific details of this moment: how he carried an aroma of fresh coffee and tasted of icy mint, how his arms laced around my waist, just how high I had to reach up in order to meet his lips. I captured it all in my mind and mentally repeated all of the minute details so that I might never forget it. I didn’t realize that someday I’d reminisce of this moment to the brink of tears.
I remembered the day that I first saw color. I also remembered the day that the colors went away.
June 30th, 2012: our fifth wedding anniversary. I had been reading the card that came in tandem with a bouquet of stargazer lilies- my favorite flower- when it happened. Upon a second glance, the fuchsias and ivorys had completely drained from the petals. Around me, I was suffocated by sudden shades of ominous grays and blacks gradually taking over where reds and blues and browns and purples should have existed. Tearing open the curtains, the yellow of the fabric fading at my touch, the world outside and its accompanying clouds resembled that of a stormy sky, but the sun was shining too clearly for such weather. In the midst of my confusion, I could only determine that something was terribly wrong.
I panicked, my throat constricting and my mouth dry. Sweat beaded my palms and stained the underarms of my shirt while another kind of moisture formed in my eyes. I resorted to the next most certain thing: my appearance. In the mirror, my chocolate brown eyes reflected a stare turned gray once again, once flamboyant red hair now tamed and dull. Hastily, I fled from the bathroom sink, my sock covered feet sliding across the hardwood to the telephone on the counter.
Due to the trembling in my fingertips, I mistyped his number multiple times. Tears distorted my vision of the small white numerals on the black buttons. In that moment, I only wanted to hear his voice. I wanted him to answer with a cheery hello in his modulated tones, to hear my distress and dedicate himself to consoling me and promising me that everything would be all right.
Everything will be all right, won’t it?
Somehow I managed to dial Abbott’s number and held my breath. Ring… Ring… Ring… This is Abbott’s phone. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you later.
I immediately hung up and redialed, my fingers more steady this time. “Come on, Abbott.” I hissed through gritted teeth, my right fist tightening more and more after each tedious ring. My rapid pulse began to drown out the monotone chimes as more blood rushed to my head.
This is Abbot’s phone. Leave a mes-
Hurling the phone at the wall, I began shouting foul obscenities at the top of my lungs. I soon grew desperate for air and I grudgingly drew inhales and exhales until the furious red fire inside me extinguished into ashes of dull gray.
In my life, I had always heard stories of color entering the lives of others, but I had never heard of the color leaving. The blandness around me seemed to wrap its hands around my throat until I couldn’t bear to look at it any longer. I buried my face into my knees and tried to remember the world for its vibrant traits, for the sky’s inability to choose only one color, for springtime’s pastel blossoms and Abbott’s brown hair in offhand curls, his electric blue eyes and his favorite red flannel. I recalled the feeling of my palms pressed against his back whenever he’d pull me in an embrace and spin me around until we both became too dizzy to continue. For a moment, I convinced myself that this world would return whenever I chose to open my eyes, but upon hearing the phone ring, I lifted my head only to meet the unfeeling grays again.
I retrieved the phone from where it landed and answered, anticipating Abbot but hearing the cadence of an unfamiliar woman instead.
“Hello, is this Mrs. Turner?”
“... Yes,” I gingerly responded.
The voice on the other side hesitated before she resumed. “This is Martha calling from Elmhurst Medical Center. I’m afraid we have some bad news…”