the color blue

Nonfiction

by EmilyNicole Moreland

I dyed my hair royal blue when I was twelve years old. At first, the color was loud and bright, just like me. I screamed in the hallways when I’d spot my friends and they’d say, “A new color?” and I’d nod, telling them about the stains left on the sink back at home. They didn’t know about the other ones, and I never mentioned them. I assumed everyone had those stains, too, but I was special because only I had blue ones. The dyed stains would fade, though, and so would my hair. 

 

The other stains, though, never left. The purplish-blue blotches on my skin somehow always returned without a box of hair dye. I learned to hide them underneath my clothes and often wondered when I was alone if they would ever go away. Whenever one started to fade, they would give me another, and the stains continued to add up until they were all I could see. Still, no one else saw them.

 

The sky was a dark blue on my way back home that day. It told me there was a storm coming. I didn’t listen to it and kept walking in the rain. My shoes were muddy when I went inside. I hated those shoes.

 

The blue soap in the shower always screamed at me. It told me that I was taking too long, that I would raise the water bill, that I was too dirty to ever be clean anyway. I never touched the soap, but somehow it always touched me. I didn’t like that soap. I liked the soap that smelled like the sun, but eventually the sun always goes away, so my soap did, too. My soap left me. The blue soap told the sun that it was taking up too much space, just like me. I wonder if it lied to me. I wonder if the sun actually left me or if it was pushed away, too.

 

The razors he used were blue. They brought upon me the color red, and that was the only other color I saw between those walls. 

 

Still, blue was my favorite color. My world was blue and my sense of normalcy was, too. I didn’t know how many more colors were outside of those blue walls.

 

It was dark when I got out of the shower and went back outside. The only light was the gas station across the street: that blue light, the company name written in bright blue letters against a dark navy stripe. In those lights, I saw a silvery-blue car pull up. She would listen this time, right? She would see the hurt and she would get me out of there. She would understand the way mothers should.

 

She marked my skin red and, next to the blue he left, she showed me her favorite color was purple.

 

“What’s wrong with you?” she said. “Why are you acting this way?”  I learned the word fault, and it felt like stinging skin.

 

She told the blue man that she didn’t know why I was the way I was and that he was right, that I deserved it. When she left me with him in the driveway, I thought she would come back for me with my bags in her hands and we would leave. 

 

That would be good enough for the night.

 

He brought the knife to me. Or maybe, if I squinted a bit harder, it wasn’t him. “Then do it,” he said. Or was it her? “If you think you’re so strong, you can do it yourself,” he said. Or maybe, if I listened closely, it wasn’t his voice. But it had to be—mothers don’t say things like this. Mothers call the police when others try to hurt their children. Or maybe they don’t.

 

I told the officer with the blue outfit that they were hurting me and wanted me dead. He looked at me in the pouring rain at 2 a.m. that Tuesday and called me an imaginative kid. He looked at the big kitchen knife on the wet grass and believed them when they said I got it myself in an attempt to end my life. I didn’t bother telling the man in the blue suit that they were the ones who brought it to me. I knew he wouldn’t listen. Both of the men in front of me were a hopeless shade of blue. I watched the sirens fade away as they flashed the only two colors I ever knew against the night. I felt my fight go with them.

 

My bed was not warm that night. I wore skinny jeans to sleep in—the same as every night—and the restriction of the fabric offered false security. I pretended it was real. From my spot on my bed, underneath my ripped purple blanket, I could see that he was watching a video of two women loving each other on his phone. It stayed like that until the video wasn’t good enough anymore and I was. I kept my eyes closed as he came into my room and laid down on my bed with me. I didn’t need to open my eyes to know what color his boxers were. He felt cold. I could feel him touch me, an unwanted intimacy, and I knew then that the stains would never go away. No matter how hard I scrubbed for the years to come, they would always be there to tell me how dirty I was.

 

The world taught me that blue was a manly color, but I wonder if the people who say blue is for boys know what those boys grow up to do? Maybe they would pick a different color, or maybe they would say that not all shades of blue are bad. Maybe they’d only look at the brightest hues and be too fucking blinded to acknowledge the rest.

 

They tainted my favorite color. But in time, I relearned the color spectrum; I chose to teach it to myself and let brightly kind hearts guide my hand as I dipped into each shade over again and into new ones, too. 

 

Blue is the color of my closest friend’s eyes: the ones she got from her mother. They don’t tell me I’m unworthy of loving or that I don’t deserve a family. They tell me that I’m wanted, that I’m safe. They held the last strings of trust I had and showed me how to create new ones within myself and with those who loved me: stains and all. 

 

A whitish-blue—780E-3 sterling—is the color of her family’s kitchen walls, covering the old rusty red shade underneath. The walls gave me a home with a mug of my own inside of its cabinets, and the stains on their floors are funny memories that don’t remind me of the ones inside me. Jo’s bedroom was purple when I first made a home in it with cozy blankets on her floor. We later painted the walls together, and I felt at home with the blue splatters on my skin, knowing they wouldn’t be there forever. The water that runs down my body cleanses me quietly and leaves me with soft skin that smells like solace long overdue. The soap in their shower isn’t sunlight, but it’s something close, and maybe I am, too. 

EmilyNicole Moreland is a writer in Raleigh, North Carolina and she is constantly distraught over the fact that polar bears will never know what trees look like.

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