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Colours: A story

  • Published at 05:21 am December 11th, 2020
Colours
Jahid Jamil

Short Fiction

Mauve, also my favourite colour, is a child with eyes that pull you in like a black hole.

I ran into her on the streets after a busy day as she was selling some wares that looked insignificant. She walked as if she knew what she was doing, even though the sunglasses on her eyes said she lived in a different world—a dark, blind fantasy.

She chirped like a bird, and tried to show me some of her belongings—a pair of hoop earrings, a scrunched up paper that I assumed someone had lost, and a photograph, torn in half. She said that these were her mother's belongings, her inheritance, her property.

The weather seemed forgetful that day—it couldn't decide between rain and sunshine. Forgiving it, I sat down on the sidewalk, to talk to Mauve. Mauve sat with her legs spread while I crossed mine. She showed me the three objects she held tightly against her chest, and pulled on my hair and asked, “Which one do you want?”

I saw nothing. 

                                                                      *          *          *

The scope of my vision is quite interesting. I see things, and when I focus on them, they start to dissolve into colours. As if they take up a role, a mask, or an attire that says enough about them. That's how I saw Mauve too, her colour was all I knew of her.

My vision’s change was sudden. At 17, when I looked at my curtains after a good night’s sleep, I found a medley of colours. The rose imprints on it clumped together, the scattered designs were merging with each other as if I were looking at a painter’s nightmare.

Scared, I quickly took them off their rails and peeked outside. As soon as I did that, I saw a man through the window. Some delivery guy who first went purplish green, then indigo and finally, green again. Confused, I went to my father, and asked him gently, “Dad, do you see what I see?”

He didn't, and ever since that day my father had been a wonderful lavender with some blue on the edges.

The same day, when I looked towards the balcony, Fuschia, my older sister, was throwing something at a guy who I saw as Grey. I had never seen Grey before but I was sorry that he had to embody melancholy, while Fuschia looked as vibrant as I had always seen her. Whatever was thrown, was thrown quite aggressively. My imagination called it a love letter, so I let it be that.

                                                                   *          *          *

A couple of days later, when my vision started troubling me, I went to a doctor, whose colour would be kept confidential. He said that it was all an illusion and gave me some eye drops, as a placebo treatment. But I knew better, so I asked my eye doctor to kindly refer me to someone else. I found this sparkling, disco ball-esque guy the next day, and he told me to lie down on a couch and close my eyes so that he could do some analysis. I asked him not to overanalyse, but that was a mistake, since his diagnosis was now “hallucinations”, a close second cousin of illusion perhaps. So from the next day, I started to use those eye drops, and some pills from the disco guy's cabinet, and slept long and hard for days. My faulty eyes still bothered my husband, who was a brilliant yellow. He pined for a different colour though, not knowing how much I loved yellow.

Maybe I was lost in thought, when another pull on my hair prompted me to admit that I couldn't make out what was being shown to me. Mauve laughed at me for a few minutes, and then said she couldn’t see either and the sunglasses were just another prop. She dragged me towards her, and demanded that I see through her eyes for a minute.

“Explore my world!” was all she said before she held onto my arms and I closed my eyes.

My world dimmed for a moment and then we stepped into darkness. I entered a dimension where I could touch, feel, taste, listen without any distraction. As I smelled the breeze, stood in the sun and danced with rain, I found that the world was my canvas, and I could paint it any way I wanted.

Suddenly, Mauve gripped my arms tightly, as if she saw something. I started to pay close attention to our dark land, where a wrinkled piece of paper fell onto my feet. As I slowly laid my eyes on it, I could finally read.

Love, keep your earrings. Goodbye.

I recognised the handwriting, and before I could react, in that land, the script had changed, as Mauve took centre-stage. She wore an expensive smile, as some hoop earrings dangled from her ears. The same earrings that a woman had rejected, while faking anger, at the only person she loved. The same earrings that were thrown from a forgotten balcony enclosed in a piece of paper—the memory of that scene, that home, lost now somewhere within me.

Now that I found it, something told me that my encounter with Mauve was not a chance meeting.

I opened my eyes immediately and turned to Mauve, who was still holding me very tight. I asked her, “What did we just see?”

Mauve, for a moment, looked quite serious for her age. 

She said, “Why, what did you see?” 

I quickly pointed at the piece of paper in her hand, and said, “I read the letter.”

"What letter?" she asked, smiling.

I calmed myself down quickly and asked her where she found the items in her hand.

She looked at me with a giant grin and exclaimed, “From an artist, who saw colours in everything, quite like you!”

For a second I didn't know what to feel or do. The world flung itself in my face, and my head spun with it. I said, “How do you know about me?”

She lowered her gaze for a while, thought about her reply and said, “I don't but my father knew you, and my mother still does.”

“Who is your mother?” I asked, a little fearful thinking about what her reply could be.

“I don't know, but to my dad, she was a simple pink hue, not a vibrant Fuschia, while my dad remained Grey, happily waiting for her."

As soon as she uttered those words, everything went white. Within a blank world, I pictured my sister and the child she gave birth to, the newborn that she had handed over to a man stranded under the city lights. I wondered about Grey, thinking how he and I saw the world the same way—the same romanticised perspective—while Fuschia was bound by practicality. I wished Grey knew that she was softer than pink, her tears were all pastels, and her days were still his namesake.

Mauve and I, we parted ways that day with a simple smile that we could not see. I have no idea where Mauve went; my heart wanted to follow her footsteps but I lost her. Before she left, I “bought” the Grey-half of the photograph she was carrying, and she kept the Fuschia-half, holding it close to her heart.

It had been a few years since then, and the world around me used the sepia filter now, and the colors I saw were muted. Still my world was brighter than ever, because I had my own Mauve now, my daughter—something of a rebel and a young spirit—just like my niece. When she was born, my sister gave her some gold earrings. I kept those earrings for my little Mauve in a drawer I used to share with my sister. She knew everything about me, except that I had the torn half of the photograph—my biggest secret.

Mr. Yellow always bragged that our Mauve was his spitting image. But I didn't tell him that no matter how much he thought she looked like him, she had my eyes.


The writer holds a BA in Neuroscience, from Mount Holyoke College, USA

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