It's not easy trying to live up to someone else's standards for relationships. I always thought it was just about love. Isn't that what Momma taught me? Sometimes moms and dads forget their own lessons. But isn't it supposed to be about love? I guess that was something I knew that they didn't. All they could see was that he was black and I was white.
I was a freshman in college then. I was eighteen years old. I was an adult, or so the law said. But I was still their little girl and they still had control over my life in so many ways. They were paying for my education. They helped me and guided me. I wasn't ready to be on my own. I wanted my freedom. I wanted my love life not to matter to anyone but me, but what I wanted didn't seem to matter.
Everyone around us thought it was okay. All of our friends supported us, but my daddy called me a disgrace, and all manner of other nasty things, to say nothing of the things he called Jaime. Momma stood by and watched as he told me I was colorblind, and that he raised me better than to be such a slut. I knew he was wrong, and Momma did, too. But she didn't argue with him. There was no arguing with him.
They couldn't tell me to stop seeing him. I didn't want to. I wasn't going to. But what they could do was nearly as devastating. Daddy threatened to stop paying for my college. And Momma would hear nothing of my talk of love. I didn't love him. But I liked him a lot. He was wonderful, and I wanted to love him. I was ready to make sacrifices to keep seeing him. But things were about to change.
The last night I saw him, he took me to a fancy Italian restaurant. I looked good in my long, flowing black skirt and sleeveless red shirt. My long, brown hair had been curled and styled. While I usually wore it in a sensible bun, that night it flowed in exquisite ringlets down my back. I was wearing makeup, which was rare for me, and my fingernails were newly manicured. The smile on my face flawlessly hid my inner struggle.
Jaime smiled back at me as we talked like nothing was wrong. I always enjoyed talking with him. He was intelligent, kind, and handsome. Both sensitive and supportive, he made me feel good about myself. He was growing to be more than just my boyfriend. He was my best friend. And he had gorgeous eyes. Stunning, bright blue eyes. Never in my life had I seen eyes like that.
Later that evening, we sat in the park gazing up at the stars. The conversation had diminished, but the silence was hardly awkward, in fact it was comfortable. I reached up and took off his glasses. When he gave me a puzzled look, I smiled and said, "I wanted to see your eyes," and without further explanation, I leaned forward to get a closer look at them again. The moon provided plenty of light. As I gazed into that gorgeous blue, I knew I wasn't colorblind. And when he kissed me, I closed my eyes and could see nothing but that breathtaking color: bright, sky blue.
Jaime died that night. I was devastated. I blamed myself. Maybe if we'd stayed a little longer or left a little sooner, he'd still be alive. When I found out about his death, every inch of my body had hurt for him. My nightmares were haunted by images of the car accident that had taken his life, and during the day, my stomach was knotted with sickening regret. In the same naïveté that had caused me to believe I'd never lose him, I was convinced I could have kept this from happening.
I had been starting to fall in love. I'd finally found someone who seemed to understand me, someone who cared. I wanted to believe I could feel the way Jaime made me feel for the rest of my life. And he probably thought we had all the time in the world, too. Most college students think that way. Young men and women can't truly wrap their minds around the concept that it's entirely possible that they might die before their next birthday. Jaime was in perfect physical shape. He wasn't planning on dying any more than the next healthy young man. Of course I knew it might end, but I didn't want it to end like this. Not like this.
Daddy was almost happy. That was when Momma snapped. She screamed at him. She said all the things she'd been keeping silent in the months Jaime and I had been together. She stood up for me, but it was too little too late. I didn't want to hear it; I just wanted to be alone. Momma didn't need to be telling Dad this was all his fault. It wasn't. It was mine.
Adjusting to college life had been hard, but I was almost through with my freshman year. This was a difficult time of my life, but losing Jaime made everything ten times harder. I continued to go to class and give a modicum of effort -- enough to get by, for my momma's sake -- but I was never really there. I would daydream. I would pretend. And my friends would pretend that I wasn't slowly slipping away, that they didn't care that I never spoke to them anymore. They gave me sympathy for my loss, but I only told them to just leave me alone. And even though it was the very last thing I needed, they did.
However, I soon made new friends. After the shock had worn off, things around me seemed to go back to normal. I didn't think I would ever be the same, but I knew I had to continue to function. Life didn't stop for my pain, so I went on, hiding it as best I could. I did what I had to. Even though I'd alienated those I cared for, I knew I couldn't do it alone. I realized, though, that I didn't really want anyone to care for me. I just wanted the anger and guilt to go away.
My new friends were nothing like my old ones. These friends were bad news. They got me drunk; they got me high. They made me feel no pain, which is what I wanted. But they also got me into trouble. I was having sex with people whose names I didn't know, getting in fights. I was doing drugs, and I stopped caring what they were or where they came from... anything to make it all go away. My grades were slipping, my best friend Katie didn't know me anymore, and my poor momma was reaching the end of her rope.
Paul was a junior. He was fun and exciting, and oh, man was he good in bed. I didn't love him, but Daddy didn't care. He was white, and that was all that mattered. I met him through the new friends I'd begun to make at school. He was handsome and he was fun. He wasn't exactly a gentleman, but it didn't matter. I wasn't looking to get attached anyway. He was fun and he made me feel good. My beloved blue had begun to fade to a cheap, childish color that I now took for granted. Paul was white, but he was also red, and so was my new life. Deep, passionate, exciting, painless red. The heat of lovemaking, the rage of addiction, the blood in the bathroom sink.
Paul wasn't much for romance. His world was still new to me; I'd always been a good girl. Sometimes I still felt so small and naïve when he took me someplace I'd never been before. He did that a lot, though, and that's what I craved from him. Excitement, to me, was artificial happiness. And the color red. I loved red. The latest party he took me to was at his rich friend's house. Not only was there red, but every other color, and some I could never even have imagined. And Daddy was happy, because I wasn't colorblind anymore, and Momma went back to being quiet about it all.
This night was different. Paul and I usually crashed at his apartment after an evening out, but this time we went to my place after the party. It was early by our standards, only shortly after midnight, but my roommate was fast asleep, and we slipped silently into my room. We fumbled with one another's clothes, but as we collapsed nude onto the bed, I stopped. How could something so familiar surprise me? Paul asked me softly what the matter was, and I realized I was staring at the sheets on my bed, illuminated just enough by the moonlight through the window. They were solid colored: bright, sky blue. I didn't reply. I just kissed him, and when I closed my eyes, I didn't see blue anymore. I saw fiery, blood red.