.life in technicolor contrast.
My father always told me that the only people in IHOP at two in the morning are cops on one side and drug dealers on the other. I used to think that this was their time of unconscious truce; their little moment of peace from each other.
When I walk through the door, I am almost disappointed to find neither cops nor drug dealers, only a handful of world-weary restaurant staff.
I order an orange juice and a stack of pancakes and look around at the mostly empty restaurant. They have seated me in a corner so I can look out at the dark silence of this little town or in at the bright silence of IHOP. I observe one other patron I had overlooked before, sitting several tables away from mine.
She is stunning, but her outfit is what catches my eye. Her dress is a vibrant scarlet - a red that is redder than red, red like fresh blood - and the silk twines around her body, swirling loosely in some areas, but tight enough to display the curves of her body to those who might be looking. It is a dress made for dancing, or fine dining - not for IHOP in the early hours of the day. It is meant to be viewed by members of high society, not an insomniac student and overworked waitresses.
She stands and her dress sways, sparkles in the cloth catching the light as she moves towards the door. As she leaves the restaurant she enters and seeps into the pores of my mind, filling me with questions and curiosities about her presence. She is out of place here, like a figment from my dreams, or something pulled from a book, and thus captures my imagination.
In the days to come I will often wonder what force caused our paths to cross, even if for only a brief moment. And I will wonder why I was chosen to bear witness to her crimson-colored solitude.
My cousin is the most beautiful person in the world, I realize one evening as the two of us sit on the roof of her house.
Her curly hair and smooth face are silhouetted against the deep orange of the sky as the sun sets behind us, leaving behind one more day. What the sun doesn't know, what it probably never stopped to consider, is that today is the most important day. My cousin will leave for college tomorrow, and nothing will be the same ever again.
We will never play Sailor Moon in her mother's closet ever again, we will never make scrambled eggs at one in the morning just because we were hungry ever again, we will never drive around this small town for no real reason at all ever again.
And, after an evening of just talking, we will never sit in silence on her roof against the backdrop of the glowing evening sky - a sky that is such a vivid shade of orange that it must have been mixed by the hand of God specifically for us tonight, for never again can it be reproduced so vibrantly before the eyes of mankind - ever again.
She sighs, her lithe frame rocking slightly, and asks quietly, "What now?"
I know that she's asking more than, what are we going to do in the next minutes, she means, what are we going to do for the rest of forever, and I have no answer for either. Because, while she may tease me about knowing everything, I have no knowledge to prepare me for what comes next.
So instead, I close my eyes and remain silent. On the back of my eyelids I can still see her striking, dark profile against the radiant orange sunset.
I cling to this moment, the here and now, because tomorrow, everything changes.
I'm not expecting them, but nonetheless there they sit, expecting me.
A simple bouquet of yellow tulips, innocently resting on the driver's seat of my car, alerts the world to their presence with their brightness.
Confused and delighted, I reach over and pluck the card from amidst the flora, but am disappointed to find no name I can attach to the sender. Only a simple, if slightly cryptic, message that reads: The meaning of yellow tulips.
And even though I don't know what that means, or who they're from, the flowers in and of themselves are a wonderful surprise.
For a week I keep them in the passenger seat of my car and make my friends sit in the back; partly because I want to show them off and partly because I feel like they brighten the dull grey interior of my car, the vitality of their color bringing life to an otherwise dark place. Every petal of the eight flowers seems to be the brightest shade of yellow ever conceived, as if someone had squeezed the color out of a hundred lemons to brighten each one of them.
Eventually I have to remove them, and I throw away all but one, because it is less dead than the rest of them. I keep it and the card on my desk and that night I stare at the two of them, with so many questions that those inanimate objects can not answer.
Out of curiosity, I decide to Google the message, hoping I might gain insight into the sender's mind.
The first hit gives me all I need. The glowing screen reads: Tulips are used to express perfect love.
The brilliant yellow of the petals enter my mind's eye and I scroll down the page, and my breath catches at what greets me.
Yellow tulips traditionally represent hopeless love.
The tree is as vibrant in reality as it is in my memory. Each leaf still possesses that deep shade of emerald that reaches out to draw you in, captivating and hypnotizing. The tree in itself is a sight to behold as it stands, tall and proud, showing the world that its stunning jade foliage is the only exciting thing to see in this otherwise empty field.
This was our place. In my memories, it lives and breathes as she does.
She was a girl who liked to put numbers in the wrong order, because she had never been given a reason to put them in the right order. Her aura of spontaneity filled any room she was in, and it was this impulsiveness that drew all of us to her, like moths to the flame. But I was the only moth that the flame ever reached out to.
She showed up at my door one day with her father's old pickup and drove me out to this field that had nothing in it but this magnificent tree. We climbed high in the branches and stayed there all afternoon, our presence hidden from the world by the emerald vegetation. So the leaves were the only witness when she softly kissed me.
I think I loved her for that all consuming capriciousness. I think I loved her because she was everything that I wasn't. My life had order and structure, and I was in control of every aspect - until she came along to tell me that I didn't always need to be so organized.
I think I loved her.
But it doesn't matter now, because she's gone. Gone to another country, another city, doubtless another lover as well.
Now she's only with me in my dreams, when she comes to me cloaked in alluring shades of emerald.
I once met a girl who didn't know what the color blue was.
She had been born blind, with only the ability to differentiate between light and dark, but slowly that faded as well. Yet, she never saw her lack of sight as a disability that required special treatment. She refused to let her difference control her life and she had the courage to live without limits or regrets.
I admired her fortitude, because I'm not sure I could have lived as she did. Living without knowing the shades the sky turned when the sun rose in the early hours, without knowing the bright joy that the colors of the blossoming tulips brought after a long winter, without knowing the sparkling of the ocean on a bright day, would surely make life dull, wouldn't it?
She is used to keeping her eyes closed or lowered so the first time I see her eyes wide open I'm startled and react without thinking. I blurt out, "You have the most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen," before I realize that that must not mean much to her.
I apologize and in my apology there is a subtle question which she picks up on, Do you know what blue is?
She lays a hand on my arm and smiles. "I know what the color blue is," she says softly. "Blue is that first moment after you jump in the ocean, when you're not sure if you'll ever come up for air again or just remain suspended there for an eternity. Blue is standing outside in a thunderstorm, being pelted with rain and having the wind steal your words away as you say them, never really certain that this will ever end. Blue is a little piece of forever, captured and hidden away."
I look into her eyes - like two sapphires showing me eternity - and I realize that she knows exactly what the hues of the sun, the flowers, and the ocean look like.
"Yeah," I whisper, "that's exactly what blue is."
We are doing nothing, and perhaps that's what makes this moment so perfect.
Time stretches endless between us now, the effect of which is only enhanced by the utter silence of her empty house. All that exists for us right now is just her, me, and the growing feelings in our hearts.
We lie resting on a quilt her grandmother patched together for her years ago, using only pieces of purple cloth. There is no pattern, but sometimes there is beauty in chaos, I think as I lightly run my hand from a trapezoid of solid lavender to a square of plum polka dots.
My finger is lightly tracing the first half of the outline of a violet heart, when she reaches over to trace the other half with her own finger. We meet in the middle - two halves making a perfect whole. Beneath our fingers the violet seems to pulse with the depth of its color, and to my eyes the most precious amethyst in the world could not compare to the intensity of its tone.
For a moment, I marvel at how much we are like that violet heart - separate we are incomplete, but together we comprise something deeper, more meaningful. Two hearts beating in rhythm, we give meaning to each other.
She leans across the short distance that separates us to press her mouth against mine, and even in a chaste kiss such as this I can still feel the surge of emotions that are too complex for mere words. I wouldn't describe it as love, because the term is too ambiguous, too nebulous for what flows between us in those precious seconds.
"Stop thinking," she whispers against my lips, as she twines our fingers together so that the entangled digits rest in the center of the violet heart. "Just feel."
So I do. I stop looking for anything outside of this little bubble of heaven - her, me, and our patched together purple hearts.
The word count breaks down like this: Red - 333, Orange - 310, Yellow - 309, Green - 307, Blue - 339, Purple - 330. Just in case you happened to be curious.
So, yeah. I don't really know what that was. But I had fun writing it. So you should review and tell me how much fun you had reading it.