He was wine and music and disappointment and hope, woven together loosely with threads of gossamer, and everyone in the room around him knew this, but none of them mentioned it.
He reclined into the couch. The floors and the walls seethed with music spilling from speakers. A girl next to him was thinking out loud, saying that hearts could beat until they stopped, and yet if they hadn’t loved, they hadn’t lived.
“Isn’t that right, Aaron?”
Who was Aaron? But the girl next to him was pointing right at him, a dazed but determined look on her face, with the question still suspended in the air between them.
He was Aaron.
Aaron nodded, and the movement made him want to immediately lie down somewhere and never wake up. He asked her, “How much have I had to drink?”
“Too much and not enough,” she whispered without missing a beat. She was wearing a pink dress, hair loose and long all around her shoulders; lips red and smudged. He knew her. He knew her, but he couldn’t come up with her name. He couldn’t even come up with his own name, a few minutes ago.
She leaned further in to the couch. Under the glowing magenta lights and because of the thumping room, he knew they both looked like something out of a painting, all splashes of cherry reds and violets and…
And gray. His hands were a dull gray, the nails bordering on black, his shirt pale as snow.
His heart dropped.
He reached out and touched Aster’s arm. Aster. Her name was Aster. You only remember things when you don’t seek them out. His fingers were a shocking contrast to the bright pink of her skin, with the fairy lights above them angled directly onto her. Like she was absorbing all the hues of the room into her.
That wasn’t true. He looked at his feet, at black swirls on skin as grey as a storm. She wasn’t absorbing color. He was repelling it.
He was cotton and stone and sorrows and love, bound breathlessly with threads of gossamer, and only he knew it, and he did not mention it.
Slowly, he stood up. The blood in his veins felt like icy smoke pushing at his body from the inside, and it crashed to and fro against the shores of his organs. A heady daze surrounded him, and left as fast as it came onto him. He walked languidly, alcohol pooling at the bones in his feet.
The room had a repetitive feature; people having the time of their lives wherever he looked. Dancing, kissing, talking and laughing their lungs out. A bottle was in Aaron’s right hand, and he didn’t remember it getting there; the vodka in it, the color of frosted roses with the pink light of the room, interrupted only by shadows of people who weren’t really people- they were pounding, electric hearts. It almost took his mind off his own body being monochromatic.
He put his hand on a man’s shoulder, and sputtered, “What color am I?”
The man did not look back. He shuffled away, pumping his head to an upbeat song, leaving Aaron slack-jawed.
Why wouldn’t he talk to him?
Aaron reached his arm out and curled his fingers around a girl’s wrist. Her skin felt like the glow of a dying fire; and not because it was warm, but because he was cold.
“What color am I?”
The girl danced away from him like he was a planet and she was an asteroid.
This went on, with him gripping the shoulders of nameless bodies and screaming into their faces, clinging on to any sense of recognition in their eyes, only to have it ripped away.
Aaron saw Aster leaving, and called to her. He had trust in her, in the promise that she would return every word he said to her. She would see him, and his nails wouldn’t be black anymore, and everything would be right and his voice could stop grating against his throat.
Aster’s ignorance was the opposite of blissful.
He couldn’t take it. He was utterly, indisputably alone in a room full of souls and blood and starry eyes. A weed in a garden full of peonies.
Aaron took a swig from the bottle in his hand and marched toward a group of men hunched over a table, hurling slang into the air for him to breathe. He put the bottle down on the table a little harder than he meant to, so that it slopped over onto the table. No one took any notice. The vodka spilled onto the table mat, darkening the fabric under it.
His own skin was still terribly gray, gray as Aster’s eyes.
He wanted to leave, and leave he did. Because the color had drained not only from his being, but also his mind. He left the building and left Aster, and left the girl with the warm skin and the bottle of rosy vodka.
And he didn’t return. He spent seconds that turned into minutes and minutes that turned into months in a place he called home, but which didn’t really feel like anything more than a skeleton of cement and bricks.
Indiscernible units of time spent at a computer. Cups upon cups of coffee. Aaron thought that after he spent hours typing, he could see red spots on his fingers. Maybe his blood thawed at hard work.
Not this hard work.
When he slept, he sometimes dreamt that he couldn’t wake up, because trees had taken root in his lungs and his neck and maybe he was already buried, because that was how it felt in his heart. Like walls had closed in on him. The only way out didn’t exist.
And one particular day, he woke up to find that a part of him wished he hadn’t, because he was tired of the gray walls of his gray home and his gray body and his gray blood. He ached to feel the same alcohol pounding at his feet that he had at that party all that time ago; to hear the same whisper of Aster’s sotto voce claim that he’d had too much to drink, and not enough.
He poured himself a cup of coffee- still relieved that it didn’t turn a dark gray at his touch, because he didn’t think he could bear it- and prepared to sit down at the table. In his hurry, he slipped and crashed head first onto the floor.
When he came to, he opened his eyes to coffee and blood mixing on the wooden floor, in a dark masterpiece of sorts.
It was like someone picked his heart up and made it beat again.
In the elevator ride out of the building, he couldn’t help but smile uncontrollably when the operator wished him a good day. He ran on the street, feeling his lungs expand with air that smelled of hope. He made a purchase. He actually could talk to a person, who accepted money from him and gave him a few oil paints and a paintbrush in return.
“Sir, why are you gray?”
He didn’t stop to answer. Instead, he reached forward and pulled the man into a full embrace, inhaling beer and crayons and ink.
And then he ran back.
And he could feel his skin coming to life, but it hadn’t, not quite yet, so he dipped the brush fully into paint and dragged it down his nose.
He was life and death and flowers and smoke, wound together in a loving embrace with threads of gossamer.
He thought he would die from the color that exploded on his chest.
This short story was written by my friend Isha who blogs at Spectrums and Semantics.
If you liked the story, leave comments here or on her blog, complimenting her about it. I’m sure she’ll like it.
Also, I feel like telling this to everyone, Isha is only 16!
Yes, that story was written by a 16 year old. It is amazing, isn’t it?
The prompt “He put the bottle down on the table a little harder than he meant to, so that it slopped over onto the table. No one took any notice.” is from Harry Potter and The Order Of The Phoenix.
I’ll put up the next story on the 19th of December and the prompt is “ And she pulled a heavy book from the stack on the mantelpiece.“