Ever since she was little, Michelle’s favorite word had been colors. Even now, as she felt the slight vertigo as her hospital bed rolled down the hallway, she whispered the word to herself again, relishing how the sharp, concise “c” rolled into the “o,” tripping over the “l” and slipping down the curve of the “r” to reach the soft hiss of the “s.”
She remembered asking her father when she was younger, “Daddy, what does red look like?” She had heard his utensils clattering onto his plate, then the scraping of the plate as he tried to recover from the unexpected question. The gentle squeaking as he removed his glasses from his face and wiped the lens clean with his sleeve. Finally, he cleared his throat. “Well…red is…bright. And intense. I guess you can say it’s attention-seeking and up-in-your-face; red wants to be noticed no matter what. That’s why stop lights are red, to warn you of danger. But there are other kinds of red too. Remember when I lit the fireplace over the winter and we sat in front of it and you told me it felt like the heat from the fire was going right through you, like you were nothing but a flimsy sheet of tissue paper? Red can be warm like that. Or it can be dark and scary and mysterious. That’s what you would call blood-red.”
She had thought this over. “Oh…okay. I think I like red then, daddy,” she had concluded before going back to tracing the textured wooden tabletop with her fingertips.
Yet, despite her father’s best attempt, she had an idea of what red felt like, but she would never truly understand what it looked like, or what any color looked like. She contemplated this to the sound of the wheels squeaking against the linoleum tiles, which hopped up whenever they hit bumps in the doorways, wondering about what she could not see.
Through the windows beyond the towering prison walls of the hospital, robins with rich, charcoal heads and orange breasts sang to the morning sun, while bright blue jays with rebellious mohawks added their own harsh cries to the morning melody. The younger saplings had already sent out tiny green buds in anticipation of the coming spring weeks ago, some of these buds already fanning out their pretty pink petals, while the older trees with their sturdier, dark green foliage bided their time, waiting for the early morning bite to disappear. An amalgam of mismatching flats painted in shocking shades of pastel greens to electric purples proclaimed San Francisco’s unique reputation loudly, no two houses the exact same shade, each house comically small against the vast backdrop of the dark blue sky fading into a royal blue.
But Michelle saw none of this. No, there was only one color that she knew all too well: pitch black.
Selection from a Short Story
ENGL 2810 Creative Writing Final Portfolio