Another 37, Day 8
One day while walking by the lake on her daily visit to her pile of interesting stones, Alycia found blue. It was just sitting there, lying next to the withered log, under the shade of the large willow tree. Except it wasn’t shaded. Alycia saw that even before she realized what she was looking at. Everything else around was darkened by the shadow cast by the tree in the early morning, when the sun was low to the ground and the willow stretched its umbrous fingers far along the lakebed. Everything was darkened except a patch of blue. It made her so curious that she walked right past her stones to investigate. They would still be there when she got back.
As she approached she realized what it was. A patch of blue. Not a patch of something that was blue. Just blue. All by itself, next to her lake, near her stones, unaffected by the shade of her willow tree. She bent down to have a closer look. It didn’t help. She laughed at her own silliness. Of course it didn’t help. You can’t get a closer look at a color, for the same reason you can’t shade a color. If you shade a color that just makes it a different color. It would be like shading a horse and turning it into a mongoose. And to be able to look closer at something it has to have dips and bends and squiggles. Texture. Colors don’t have texture. They just have color.
She dipped her finger into it without hesitation. She didn’t know what would happen but she knew it wouldn’t be bad. Colors can’t hurt you. To her surprise a bit of the blue stuck to her finger as she pulled it away. More than she would have thought. More than her tiny finger with its sparkly lavender nail polish could hold. A whole glob of blue came up with her, or it would have done if blue could glob. Which of course it can’t. But the patch of blue that stuck to her finger was the same size as the patch of blue still on the dirt. She tried to think of a word for the size and shape, and this is what she came up with: blue.
Alycia put her finger in her mouth to see what it tasted like. At this point she wasn’t surprised that it didn’t taste like blue raspberry. She had never thought it would taste like raspberry, but she knew that her sister Candice would say that blue raspberry is what blue should taste like. Even though that was ridiculous. Candice didn’t get things like this, and that’s why Alycia didn’t show her the pile of stones. But she was very good at painting nails.
No, the blue tasted like blue. That was no surprise. What surprise Alycia was that she had tasted it before. Many, many times. In and around and through other flavors, other tastes. It was in the flavor of water when she drank it right after eating a spoonful of ice cream and it cleared her mouth out and made it feel clean. It was underneath the taste of a ripe honey mango, below the bit that tasted like peach if peach tasted a little bit like grapefruit.
And it was in other sensations, too, which she hadn’t realized had flavors until this moment. The way her heart hurt in a good when she watch the fog on the lake on a cold morning. Or the mix of joy and desperation she felt when she neared the end of a really good book and knew she could only see her new friends find their resolution if she also let them go. And she tasted blue the day that her mom shooker her gently out of sleep one morning to tell her that she was leaving and she didn’t know if she was going to come back, and that Alycia should tell her sister and her dad when they woke up.
Alycia shivered. It was cold, this morning. It was always cold this early, but it was colder than usual. Alycia knew that the chill couldn’t hurt her because she had nowhere to be. She had the whole day to herself. She could walk by the lake, she could count her stones or follow the lake to the stream that glowed with pearlescent light when the sun was high above and look for more stones to add to the pile. The cold couldn’t hurt her because she chose it. Just like the lake wouldn’t make her wet unless she dived in. She could walk back to the cabin and cuddle under her fuzzy blanket or ask her father to start a fire.
But sometimes she couldn’t avoid the cold. One time the power went out for three days during winter in their house back in the city, and even burying herself in three blankets and holding Panther tight against her body wasn’t enough to keep her warm. And sometimes there was too much blue in her chest because her vicarious adventures in the Valley of Neversong were over, and even if she read the book again it would never be the same. And sometimes she couldn’t get warm because she didn’t know why mommy would say that, and she didn’t know why her eyes were so sad even though she and dad didn’t fight nearly so much anymore and everything seemed to be getting better.
She took the blue out of her mouth, but the taste lingered. She looked at the patch on the ground. She didn’t know why it was there or where it had come from, but she didn’t really wonder. What was the point? She wanted to walk back to her stones. To walk away and stop looking at and thinking about this strange patch of blue. But she didn’t. She would stay just a little bit longer.
Because blue was there. It was always there and it was sad and it was beautiful and even though she didn’t like grapefruit the mango wouldn’t taste the same without it. It would just taste like peaches, and the world would be very bland if there was only peaches to eat for breakfast. And she would never know how sublime was the warmth of the fire, with her fuzzy blanket over her head and her kitty nestled up on her chest, if she didn’t didn’t remember what it felt like to be cold.