The Color of Love

She curled gnarled fingers around her copy of the poem. Over the many years it remained folded and tucked inside a red mitten, the single page of stationery had lost its crisp edge and took on the softness of the faded red yarn. She kept the pair in the far corner of her top drawer, away from the influence of an old lilac sachet tucked on the bottom. She only wore the mittens once a year, when she went for a walk along with her poem to face the night sky. She kept her promise.

The Color of Love.

She recited the title quietly into the frigid air, so still, that the fog freezing her words lingered in front of her lips long enough to walk through and dissipate over her shoulder. Though bundled in her formal coat, the one with the fur muffler and hand-knitted cap that looked so pretty with the crab stitching along the cuff, she did not feel the cold anymore. She was too old. She hobbled and relied on a cane. Age added a pronounced limp to her gait. Bone rubbing on the bones of once shapely hips that held the knack to switch and bump as she slowly walked by, all the while quite aware he stood in the back watching. He existed in her memory. Yet, in recalling the curious way he crossed his arms and dropped his chin to hide a chuckle as she sauntered past, he still possessed the ability to make her smile.

The color of love is white.

She poked her cane into a hardened clump of snow and listened to it crackle as she stepped on it. She had to wait a long time this year. Waiting for the winter winds to settle, selecting the blackest night to venture out for a stroll. It had to be as frigid and as still as the midnight she allowed him to kiss her nose. He sealed his warmth within her when he kissed her again on her lips.

The color of love is black.

She repeated the line and nodded to the blackness above. So deep, so vastly dark, it capped the world with a midnight sky. She spied past the crystalline darkness to the very back wall of time, knowing if she ever did reach that point, she would still love him, even if their colors were wrong. Her arthritic body recalled how she sat so long ago when she scribbled the first lines of her poem, huddled under damp sheets on a humid night and hunched over the small lap desk he kept beside his bed, a place where white did not belong.

The color of love is in the blush of the moon’s cheek.

She winked at the misshapen moon as it peeked past the horizon. He once explained that the moon’s timid smile lifted higher on the very night they met and remained that way since. Staring at the contrast of a round slice of white glowing against the deepening black, she truly understood the depth of debt and had paid the steep price of contrast for decades. She never understood the consequence of contrast. Just as no one understood her poem or why she remained confused after so many explanations. In her estimation, contrast required equal amounts of colors shading either side. The beauty was not in the two colors alone, but within the contrast of two people, a man and woman, hand in hand, weaved together, side by side. Did it matter that their colors did not match?

Love sings across slippery ice.

A slender icicle glistened as it pointed down almost in judgment, examining their past through the sharp silver edge of its point. Pressing forth into her walk she pondered the poetic notion that the shard could have well been formed by the constant drip of melting tears. She strained to listen for a trickle. Of course, there was none. Everything froze. He did that. She chuckled, amused, wiping the dripping cold from her nose with the back of her mitten. Amazing, it still held the scent of his hand past the faded lilac.

And cries with muted laughter.

She continued walking. With each step, she released bits of the stalwart resolve guarding the frozen wall surrounding her sentimentality. Memories seeped past the melting cracks. She listened again, to the faint trickle of images leaking from decades of her full life, and yet she was quite strict as to which memories she allowed to join her walk.

The color of love is lost in a choice.

He chose to leave. He feared the destructive chaos of their clashing colors would sever the tether of her stability, set her adrift over the solid foundations that grounded her. For when she was with him, she floated. His hand holding hers seemed to be her only connection to the world below, where he held little footing. Therefore, he decided to join a different war by answering the call of duty to fight. By facing the far away conflict between nations and their legions of troops defending inflated ideology, he prevented the tainting of her innocence from common bigotry. He protected her from an ugly war of intolerance, a battle of accusations, prejudice, and worst—both of their families’ delusional perceptions of influence from contrasting colors. He never wanted her to taste hatred. She recalled her protest in telling him he was wrong, he was worth more, that color holds no persuasion over love. He was wise. By leaving, he perfected their love by secretly freezing it in time, because within time, after decades, differing colors will no longer matter.

That scatters tears after secret rendezvous.

She remembered how a cold covered her sadness as she reluctantly accepted his conditions before his departure—each to live a full life. She gave him her poem, begging him to stay safe, to hold tight the memory of their nights, folded together, side-by-side, touching. He dropped his arms, as well as his chin, unable to cover a sad sigh. He pulled her close. Holding each other they pledged to pick a passing night, one so bitter it held the power to freeze words, and there, apart, each would set out into the dark, and step forward to kiss the sky. She lost the memory of the actual day she heard he was gone, listed as actively missing, and never to come home. Such a waste, those words vanished.

Love comes in the shape of a kiss.

The poem had a way of tickling her lips as she recited the lines. She hummed, almost singing it aloud when she reached the far end of her walk. Ever punctual, shoulders squared, fingers tight gripping a cane and a poem, she faced the black sky against the snow. There, under the archway of cold she set free a silent kiss. She watched it ricochet off the edge of time, follow constellations across the sky, exploding, raining frozen tears, and sparkling kisses upon his silent body.

So invisible on waiting lips.

He reached from the back wall of time, barely brushing the ends of her gray hair with a chilled breeze as she turned from the black, returning back to the tranquility of her rooms, to tuck the poem deep in the mitten, replacing the pair in the corner of her top drawer, until the next still night.

The color of love is timeless.

And only the ghosts of the sacrificed

Lovers can understand the true hue.

The color of love is black.

Julieanna Blackwell_headshot_fiction_The Color of LoveJulieanna Blackwell is a short story writer and an essayist. The Naples Daily News published her column of humorous personal essays. Her short stories appeared in Crack the Spine, soon in Thrice Fiction, and again as a regular feature in SCENE Magazine’s yearly beach-read issues. She is also an editor for 805 Literary and Arts Journal.