Spending time with friends who are painters, I learn to see more colors: the butter-yellow light on my blue sheets, blue shadows on the creamy ceiling. But the color that comes to me, this blue-and-yellow morning, is grey.
The “e” in “grey,” instead of an American “a,” is the last trace of the little British girl I used to be. I learned my colours in England, and I learned to write there. And although I dropped the “u” in colors easily, “gray” still doesn’t look quite right to me.
Some my relatives get nostalgic for England. As if people were never unhappily married in Harrogate. As far as I can see, leaving England was never the problem. The train wreck was inevitable. But nobody else wants to know this.
I am battleship grey, armed to the teeth and spoiling for a fight. Camouflaged against the ocean.
When it became clear that nobody was going to see me, I learned to make myself invisible.
My mother always described my eyes as brown, and I believed her. I believed her so much that my driver’s license still says my eyes are brown. It wasn’t until I was well into my 20s that I understood they are mostly green, surrounded by a ring of brown. And around the very edge of the iris, a thin ring of deep grey. My eyes are hazel. In my mother’s box of paints, there is no such color.
The rest of them have blue eyes, except for Dad. Deep blue like berries, with a bloom of grey on them. When Dad left, every time he left, I was the only one in the house who didn’t have blue eyes. “One of these things is not like the others,” sang Big Bird. “One of these things just doesn’t belong.” And just like on Sesame Street, it was easy to say which thing.
I learned to make myself invisible.
I do it to myself, even here in this well-lit room. I am grey like the fog I hide in. I’m blowing smoke. Writing in circles around the sad little fact that MY FAMILY DOESN’T WANT ME.
And I don’t want them either.
Don’t see me. Find me, but don’t see me.
I am grey like the elephant in the living room, which will never fucking forget. A grey wall. Or is it a rope? Or a branch?
I tell a friend I am cultivating Sacred Rage, rooted in love for hapless nine-year-olds rather than hate for 70-year-old bullies. She hears nothing but “Yes, I have time for lunch next Thursday.”
Will it be different in person, on Thursday when we have lunch? Will Thursday ever come? I mean: will we stop having to postpone this lunch? I mean: will the world end before Thursday? It seems possible we will put off lunch for another five or ten years. It seems possible the world will end.
I might as well stop hiding.