Let me begin by saying this is a personal piece, that I wrote when struggling with some frustration in my life. However, the person telling this story is a character. It does touch on some of the things I think we all as perfectionist er, uh, writers struggle with. Whether a color or a word, this can be what if feels like to be trapped inside your own mind trying to find the right word. This post is a bit longer than usual, but it is not something I can break up. Please enjoy.
Ailment of Hues
by: Erika L. Hayes
It is the small window at the top of the wall that begins my journey every evening. On it, a painting, that is muddled in the taupe chipped paint on which it hangs. It is the wrong wall. This painting doesn’t belong there, and it protests. I stare at it in the evening.
It begins as I sit on my creaky steel chair and my feet rest comfortably on the edge of the bed. Lifting my arms and pull the stiff muscles, they resist my movement. I decide to stand, if for no other reason but to establish sovereignty over of my body. I bend slowly at the waist and demand that my muscles obey. I touch my toes and repeat commanding my body to yield to my demands.
The leaves from the ancient maple, or maybe it is oak, dapple the tired bland taupe. If one watches long enough the yearning to break from the sameness could burn a hole directly through their being. The sunlight plays keep away from the shadows and dances down the wall. My eyes follow it. As I come to a defiant mountain pose, my heart flutters because the light has almost found my nemesis. It creeps along leisurely until they meet.
The click as the numbers fall it will be one minute later today that they merge. The light and the unique fleck on the painting on the bland taupe wall. I long to give the color of that fleck a name. It is trapped somewhere between emerald and as best I can describe it, malachite. This speck is exceptional. Placed there by the artist, and I am assured to drive me mad. No other hue like it on this canvas. No other likeness in all this world has I seen that matches this mocking stare. I try to not look, I force my eyes to turn away. Yet still I seek it out, my sovereignty is being challenged. I search for distraction, but there is none. Only the bland taupe wall the light and that damned fleck of color exist now.
Turning again to the comfort of my bed. I use the term “comfort” loosely. It squeaks and protests my weight. The mammoth stone that resides within its coils forces me to lay my head where my feet would rest, and my feet where my head belongs. It wants me to see that damned fleck. I pull the blanket over my head and feel the scratch of the coarse fibers on my face. I whisper “Don’t look, keep your head about you girl.” I pull my eyes tightly closed, huff and feel the tightness in my neck and shoulders.
I can’t breathe the carbon dioxide molecules are too thick. The heat pressing against my face, my neck, my sanity. My arms throw the gray blanket from my face. I gulp in the cool air. I feel the relief travel into my lungs. I turn on my side. I cannot look. I know it wants to take my sanity. That indescribable fleck. “I can’t give you a name,” I shout. Your color is known only to God I reason, alas, the fleck is not appeased. When I am released from this room I will run far and reckless from that damned flake of paint.
I examine again, looking for a twin, perhaps something to reveal its name. No, it is only in that one place. The canvas is surely a foot in length and I suppose an arm’s length in height. I have searched the length and height, and that color, it is only there, in that fleck. I wonder what I have done to deserve this fleck. Its cursed stare and unrelenting demand. Identify me. It reminds me of my failures. Whispers them by name into space. Why am I unable to simply name the color? The books I search have hundreds of names of colors, pick one I demand of myself.
When I first came to this room I would settle on calling it green followed by emerald, then sea green and so many more. Then in the wee hours, the fleck would seek me out. It would invade my dreams. These names were common, mundane and the hue, it wanted its name. I am trapped in this hell until I find the designation that can be accepted and will appease the thing that is unnamed. I cannot seek the creator and beg for a name, to find my reprieve. I know not his name, he failed to sign the device of torture. Creator of madness, I give him a name, this creator of this prison in my mind.
I have sought to leave this place. I have stood, turned off the light, then on, then off, repeatedly and find that it does no good. I can’t walk through the threshold. Funny, the word “threshold”, it holds me. I cannot leave. Sure I am free to walk away but I cannot. If I do surely death awaits me. All because of that painting on its bland taupe wall. If only that fleck did not glare, and demand I name it.
People come and in an attempt and settle my turmoil tell me it’s simply green. If only it were that easy. This speck is not just green, emerald, sea, kelly, hunter, pine or any of her sisters. It is unique. It is like you, and even me. There is only one speck like it in all the world. I cannot name it. I cannot define it. I cannot say its name.
The burning in my eyes makes me drowsy, but I know sleep will elude me. Always beckoning me to find its name. Nowhere can it be found if only the maker would whisper in my ear the cursed name of this thing that holds me so tightly oft I cannot breathe.
My bed squeaks again and I turn, the light has left the speck darkening its hue. Leaving me to my task. I will ponder the names until the light comes again to transform the hue on the painting on the bland taupe wall, praying for the release from the assignment in lunacy.