TW: mention of child abuse
The colour red makes me tense. I avoid wearing it and I despise how it's the start of every rainbow. I avoid ladybugs like some avoid spiders. And if a stranger were to greet me with a kind smile and tone so lovely, the gestures would render fruitless if they were wearing the colour red. I don't mean to be this way, really. If I had a choice, I would choose whatever thing made me normal. But instead, I am insane.
You see, only insane people would find themselves in a situation like this one. I am the barrier between two doors. When I look forward, the blackness seems to stretch indefinitely. Behind me, it's more of the same. And above my head, a fluorescent light beams down, to brighten up the space directly around me. The door to my right is a bright blue, and I am leaning heavily towards it, to distance myself from the blood-red door directly across.
I'm no genius, but I realize one of these doors means freedom. If I walk away from either of these choices, something tells me I'll be walking forever. So, I hesitate, then touch the blue door, attempting to push inside. Automatically, I go frigid. An icy blue feeling seeps through my fingertips and into the rest of my body, stopping me where I stand. My eyes are closed, undoubtedly, but the image I am seeing is so real I can feel it reach everywhere inside me. Everything is vivid and sharp. I find myself shocked at the towering height of the apple blossom trees above, all lined up in a pretty row. At the scent of a rose bush and cut grass, I expect my allergies to flare up. Instead, I am astonished at my health.
For a second, I think I'm alone here, but then I look down. Suddenly it's difficult to spot an opening that isn't filled with another person. Am I in the densely populated streets of Hong Kong? No, it can't be that. The people I see are so ethnically ambiguous, each with distinct features of their own. And no one looks the same as another, but each moving body looks like it has a place to be.
Then, I slowly begin to piece together the space around me. This is the street I grew up on. Nearly nothing is the same but everything is familiar. The small rickety houses I remember have been revamped into something of the future. Bold lines and shapes make the designs look seamless and innovative. The neighbourhood is filled with colour. So much vibrancy screaming at me, I don't even realize I'm moving backwards until I'm jostled violently forth. I balance quickly before I fall. There's an arm grabbing mine and when I turn to see who it is, I am perplexed at the image before me. This young woman is apologizing to me, though her mouth and her words oppose each other. I'm hearing English, but what I'm seeing is another language entirely.
I must look crazy now with the way I'm hitting at my ear, trying to make sense of all this new information. There's something in my ear, translating foreign languages. I don't know what I expected from the blue door. None of what I am experiencing here was within my realm of possibility, nor my understanding. I stagger backwards, in between bustling bodies, bumping into so many strangers, who either disregard me or give me concerned glances.
When I turn, I am face to face with another stranger. He grabs my shoulders as if to calm me. When our eyes meet, I see small white words forming in my peripheral.
Relationship Status: Married
Date of Birth: December 13, 2027
Quickly, my eyes try to flicker over to the words, but they stray away at each of my attempts like a floaty stuck in my eye. 2027? Astian? Then, I'm running away, pushing through the crowd and trying to find a place I won't be looked at. The sky is visible now. And I understand where I am. Large white numbers look down at me from the sky, etched clearly so that everyone can see. The date and time: 05/14/2061 .
Before I know it, I am overwhelmed, reduced to a shivering clump on the floor. I hug my knees to find some grounding, rocking back and forth gently to remind myself I'll be okay. The feeling makes me sick, like how I'd feel on a canoe. I realize I haven't had a panic attack in so long, I'd forgotten how I'd felt when I was at my lowest point.
I remember being only 10 years old, curled up on the floor of my classroom, just like I am now. Panicking because I'd seen my grade and imagined all of the consequences that would unfold as a result of my D minus. My teacher had touched my knee and told me to imagine my happy place so that I could escape the prison that was my brain. I cried hard then when she said that. For I had nothing happy to imagine. All I could think of was the threats and the bruises I would receive from my mother and her boyfriend. All I could imagine was the colour red, which would indeed spill from some part of me. In grade six, I knew more about the cruelty of the world than most. I learned how to be an adult faster than most, and now I am reaping the consequence of a lost childhood.
Here I am, 40 years old, crying in the middle of a busy street. With the naivety of a mere child, and it seems my emotions have not developed past this. Slowly a thought creeps into me.
How can I survive here, in this future, when it is not crafted for me?
I am thrown back into my thoughts. For some reason, I remember my twelfth birthday. My mother celebrated by taking me out for ice cream. She was extra nice to me the whole day. I could see how she struggled to not scream at me when I spilled some vanilla on the car seat. She flared her nose and looked away, trying to avoid anything that could make the evening poisonous. When we got home, she wished me a happy birthday, and that was that. I didn't have the heart to tell her my birthday had passed last month. I just accepted the treats and the treatment like I'd never receive them again. My intuitions were correct because I never did.
A car honks, startles me out of my reverie, and I am no longer in the future. I'm standing in between the two doors once again, realizing I had never actually stepped through. My hand sinks back down to my side and I turn around, eyeing the other door. I wonder if touching the red would spread fire through my arm. It would not be an unfamiliar feeling. I'd been burned plenty of times before. At the very least, the burn would be the result of a choice that I made.
I look at my palm, the way the skin is twisted there. It's a twirl of a scar that looks like an old electric stovetop. The feeling of it still burns through me sometimes. I smirk at the memory. It's easy to find comfort in familiarity, even if familiarity was abusive.
I don't need to touch the other door to see what's in it. I have already made my choice. Behind the blue door was a utopia, but it wasn't built for the likes of me. It was something clean that felt dirty. With the red door, I know I'm walking into what is surely my past. There is a chance for normalcy, a small one, but a chance nonetheless. If I can change the events there to benefit my future. Or somehow convince my mother to be more understanding and less violent. Perhaps I'd build my own utopia.
Throughout my life, I had convinced myself that I was not deserving of anything good. That I was a magnet for pain. But now, I realize something. I deserve closure. I deserve a future that isn't riddled with memories of blood and bruises. But I know what this means for me. I walk forward, reaching for the red door. I'm ready to rescue every part of me that is stuck in the past.
I must be insane when I push it open.