Infamous Black

Her multicoloured fingers skimmed through her short coarse hair, a wavy stroke of bronze stopping abruptly at the neck. Eyes, hazel brown, looked like pits, rather amateur. Fumbling for a brush in mommy’s tool kit and failing to find one, her face turns into a frown for a split second until the nose swims into her vision. A mix of red, yellow and a little bit of blue with a drop or two of brown for the skin tone. Trial and error. Trial and error. Aha! Slowly running her ring finger below the gap between her cartoony eyes, she made a nose. A beautiful one. Tiny Sasha, at 10 years old, was already a world-class painter for it was the most beautiful nose she had ever laid eyes on in her long, long life. A smile replaced her focused expression and she beamed at the nose, completely ignoring that her face had holes for eyes and no lips. Her reflection peeked at her from under the layer of her masterpiece, alas, the neck seemed to melt like wax dripping down a candle. Mirrors (obviously) weren’t her best choice for a canvas.
“Sasha” cried out a voice from below and it seemed to grow, with the sound of footsteps skittering up the stairs.
“Sasha!” panted Sameer at the door in a fit, sweating profusely.
“I made another one.” exclaimed Sasha without preamble, her yellow flared frock covered in red and green and pink watercolours.
Sameer, whom Sasha liked to called Essay, the first two letters of his name tweaked, for no reason other than the fact that their classmate Samridh aka Sam was “very annoyiiiiiiiiing” and no way would she give her best friend Samridh’s nickname, was thin and wore glasses, reason being ~ his “cool” brother did too.
Sasha and Sameer, according to Sameer were the bestestestest friends ever and also that they would one day, together open world’s largest toy store that sells free toys. Sells free toys? Sells? Free? Yeah, something isn’t right here.
From playing video games together to having no-adults-allowed parties, Sasha spent an enormous chunk of her childhood with Essay.
“Look! I brought you paint cups.” Essay spoke out, his voice still hinting towards the need of air.
Sasha immediately craned her neck toward Essay at the word paint. Her interest maximised to the point it would have burst a measuring device had one existed.
“Happy Birthday, Sasha.” beamed Essay, his eyes twinkling.
And there it was, world’s widest grin ever gleaming on Sasha’s tiny face.

Colours to Sasha were symbols and souvenirs of memories. If there was anyone in the world to whom colours mattered most, it was Sasha. A winged paintbrush that she always kept with her, day and night, was living proof of Sasha’s love for colours. It was the most precious gift she had ever received. She had her own colour nomenclature system. Violet wasn’t violet. Violet was Bluebells V. White was rarely called white. White had always been missy-wissy. Of course, these names had their origin stories, usually the kind of story Sasha poured out in her personal journals, the kind that made an impact on her. And they were renamed too, as life progressed toward the more impactful. One thing that remained constant was Sasha’s rule of thumb to always name the colours after happy memories.
Rubber-duck yellow. Till 8 years old, Sasha had to be forced into the bathtub. Like a dog yelping for mercy against the bathing ritual, Sasha stared at her mom with eyes begging for an ounce of kindness until… her dad brought her the very special “limited edition” rubber duck. The rubber duck was the saviour and salvager of mommy’s daily wasted strength and kept Sasha intrigued by its unique easy floating properties. And that is how, yellow became rubber-duck-yellow. The colour of innocence. The colour of childhood.
FMN-Blue. The first time Sasha ever saw a forget-me-not flower plant was when she turned 12. At her aunt’s house on the kitchen table rested the mystical looking bunch, tight together like a joint family of 50 in a room meant for 2. Sasha was so fascinated by the peaceful shade of the flower, she took the pot outside to compare the blueness of the sky with that of the flower. Since then, blue became FMN-blue. The colour of curiosity. The colour of wonder.
Sorcerer’s trick. Frida, the most beautiful sister in the world according to Sasha, had an aura that Sasha found so mesmerisingly beautiful. Her long straight brown hair flew behind her as she walked and the smile on her face lighted up whichever room she stepped into and Sasha believed these magical qualities of Frida lied in her makeup. Her blush, to be precise. The pinkness on her cheeks was always evenly distributed and the gentle smile worked wonders on guests, relatives and boyfriends alike, it had to be the blush. And that is how, pink became sorcerer’s trick. The sassiest one she ever came up with. “Pass me the sorcerer’s trick”, sounded too cool to Sasha, she sometimes found herself commanding herself and secretly chortling at her brains. That’s the story of why pink, to Sasha, is the colour of grace.

16 long years had coloured off. Painted and peeled. She stood in front of the same old slanted mirror (she straight up refused to ever throw this mirror out, it was too special, it encompassed too many memories), although now it was cracked and faintly covered in dust at the corners and remnants of watercolour shone in the space between the double layered edges. Her reflection looked older, with eyes containing a bittersweet depth only adulthood can birth. She stared intently at the multicoloured disaster on the carpet under the mirror and tried to recall the ex-names of green, orange and purple. Her right hand blandly moved inside the space of her side bag and what looked like an envelope appeared between her fingers. “To Sasha.”
“You taught me how to live,” written with a dark ink on the back of a postcard sized photograph glimmered before her eyes. Two very ugly looking hearts in black watercolour next to Essay’s classy-font-like handwriting made Sasha laugh, but there was no deceiving the mirror which caught her eyes, hovering on the verge of tears. She flipped the card to see a smiling handsome Essay in a patient gown with his hand held up in a peace sign. Mildly grazing her thumb over the uneven surface of the two black hearts, Sasha whispered to herself, “Essay black.”
Sasha never quite declared allegiance to a single colour before but she knew essay black would become her favourite. And just as easily, what so many called, the shade of death and despair, became to her, the colour of love and friendship. The colour of courage. As she gazed out the window of her childhood home, she realized how black turned out to be the only colour ever to be, simply and plainly, named after a person.
She crouched down and brushed her fingers against the watercolours splayed on the carpet and mumbled under her breath,
“But you taught me how to hope.”

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