I have always believed that words were special, and I’ve always treated them accordingly.
Words like blossom and mesmerizing for example are so beautiful I highlight them in green, my favorite color, whenever they appear in books. Green for happiness.
Words like loss, heartbreak, and cruel are so painful I usually color them in grey. Because that's what I believe pain would be if it ever were a color. Grey.
And then there are words like unforgiving and death; words that actually scare me. Words I don't even bother coloring, for the simple reason that I wouldn't want them highlighted and saved, not to have to look at them again. But if I had to pick a color, I’d go for black. Black for fear.
I remember how my mom asked me after I explained all this to her one day what was so scary about those words. And I remember me saying that for Death, well, death was death. Death was something so strong it could take everything we loved the most when we least expected it to, and then turn it into a memory. And the thought that I had to live everyday, knowing something this dangerous could look my way one day was more than scary.
"What about unforgiving then?" My mom asked that day, tracing the colored words of Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places she picked from my book shelf.
"I guess it's because I don't know how I'd live with myself if I ever did something unforgivable." I replied. And that was true.
Looking at Aaron right now however, I realize there's another reason the word unforgiving scares me all that much.
There he is, standing at my door step, looking exactly like the last time I saw him, and there's something beating against my rib cage, seeking release. I’m wondering what it could be and I don't think it's my heart, because I can’t imagine I'd still be breathing if my heartbeats were this loud and painful.
“Hey.” He says and everything around me stops to listen to his voice, a voice I never thought I’d hear again.
For a fleeting second he looks like he wants to hug me but then he thinks against it, shoves his hands so deep in his pockets and takes two steps back.
I know that the normal thing to do right now would be to say something, anything. Instead, I keep staring at him and thinking that if I had to paint my feelings at the moment, I’d be using a myriad of colors at once. A little bit of white for surprise, multiple splotches of grey for sadness and pain, blue for resentment and finally red, with all its dark shades and in so many angry strokes, for anger.
"What are you doing here?" I somehow manage to say against all the noises filling my ears, and the countless other words wanting to come out instead. Words my brain connected with Aaron for so long it became natural to say whenever I saw him, words like “I love you” and “I miss you”. But then again, that was a long time ago.
"Well hello to you too. I'm doing great thanks for asking." Aaron says and his hazel eyes actually dare to reflect hurt, as if they have the right to, and there was a time when hazel was a color I used for love and passion but right now, all I can think of using it for –if I ever could –is guilt.
“Well that’s not what I asked.” I say in what I hope is a steady voice, but I know for sure isn’t when nothing about me is steady. Not with him standing this close.
“Look, I was in town for a meeting and I thought I’d pass by and see how you’re doing.” He says in a resigned tone and his eyes are hazel, his hair is black and his words are yellow, hopeful.
“You don’t just pass to see how someone’s doing after three years Aaron. Especially not when the last time you saw that someone, you didn’t even bother telling them you were leaving town.”
Three years ago, when the skin in my wrist was still untouched, when my mother wasn’t a decaying body underground or a photograph in a frame I couldn’t even look at without breaking apart, when everything in my life was the most beautiful shade of green; Aaron was the one I loved more than anything. He was there when I had my first job, my first proper salary, and my own flat. And even before then, his name was strictly connected to a lot of my firsts –if not all of them.
He was always there, in the bedroom we shared, in the kitchen making breakfast, at the driver’s seat on our way to and from the clinic we both worked in…he was everywhere, then one grey day, he wasn’t. Just like my mom, except that this time, I couldn’t blame death.
“I’m sorry, Vee. I really am. I know what I did was terrible and I wish I could tell you I can explain it but I can’t. I just….I thought I could_” he says and I wish his words don’t hurt the way they’re doing right now but they do.
I try to block the memories from flooding my brain but then I’m waking up one November morning to an empty bed, an empty room and an empty house. I’m waiting for days when empty is everything that keeps staring back at me. I’m waiting when the colors fade one after the other, leaving space to a swallowing darkness. I wait until I think I can’t wait anymore but still do anyways, and I still wait when I finally allow myself to be repainted again. What exactly was I waiting for? I don’t know, but it’s definitely not I wish I can explain it but I can’t.
Did you love me at all? I almost ask but I don’t. Because I no longer use hazel for love and I guess it just doesn’t matter, not anymore.
“What do you want, Aaron?” I ask instead and I witness the exact moment he realizes I’m not the same girl he walked away from. He takes a step back as if the thought I could actually move on is too much for him to handle, and I can see in the way his eyes are jumping from one thing to another, that he too, doesn’t know what he wants.
“I thought we could go somewhere, catch up and…I don’t know,” he says and he’s looking at me, desperately searching for something, anything that can tell him that the Vee he once knew is still there somewhere, still waiting. He nods once, twice then starts walking away.
“I’m sorry Vee, I really am”
“Goodbye.” I say and he’s gone.
I close the door then lean against it and I’m a conflicted mess of dark hues of blue, grey and painfully enough, hazel.
I’m thinking that after all, the reason I was so scared of the word unforgiving was not only because I feared ever doing something unforgivable. I was more terrified of looking at someone who once meant the world to me, someone I loved with every fiber of my being, someone like Aaron; and not being able to forgive them.
I then try to think of what my mom would say if she were here and I instantly remember the words she repeated when I asked her if she could ever forgive dad for leaving.
''We don’t deserve someone who comes back Vee, remember that. We deserve someone who never leaves.''
I recite the words like a silent prayer and right now, I’m a monochrome painting of the brightest shade of green.