Blue, Green, Teal — somewhere between the colours our names floated, and with them I let our realities suspend.
Sunday, you made us lemon juice with honey, mint, and ginger and poured them into a ceramic jar with a half-tired smile. It’s been two weeks and we haven’t decided on the book. I placed the paper cups on the table and pulled my hair into a messy ponytail. I like how different we both look, your blue-black hair almost covering your face.
Grandma’s raw mangoes were cut in half, soaked in a salted red chilli paste. I think of the last time we had mangoes but memories blur— mangoes and apples sieved through me like a faded memory. I wish I could hold the memory and not let it sink. I wish I could freeze them and carry with me like I carry the book you gave.
‘Last time it was about a Duke and a Duchess’ you said and munched on an oatmeal candy, your lips were pink and parted slightly when you took a bite. I hated those healthy bars, they taste like goo. I watched you chew them slowly and rhythmically, legs splayed, hands wrapped around the wrinkled candy cover.
‘It’s always about Dukes and Duchess’ I said
It was raining outside, the sound of water on the window sill, an odd scent of wet mud and citrus seeped in, summer rain washed the parched ground. My feet felt warm against the soggy floor. I opened a random page and read and read the same line until it looked like a word has been repeated a thousand times. It dizzied my sense and dismembered my thoughts.
‘What you think of the book?’ you asked.
You sounded like a glass toy, fragile and tender.
‘Uh! It was good’
I hate how little I contribute to these discussions, I hate how much you enjoy reading about good looking men kissing good looking women, I hate it’s always a Duke and Duchess and never about two Duchess. I hate that I could never understand romance the way you do.
You smiled, a sad yet an earnest smile and for the briefest second, I believed you could hear my thoughts. I felt I was naked, skin shredding, bones crumbling, melted into the floor, traces of my existence left on the tainted tiles.
The lemon juice tasted sour in my mouth, it was a bad lemon, the one I bought from the supermarket’s super sale, the kind where rotten stocks are sold for a wee price, I hate those sales as much as I hate the books on Dukes and Duchess and yet I read, because sometimes for all my cravings I need to settle with the rotten ones.
Monday, you kissed a boy behind the church. He was an inch taller than you with a slick of black hair almost to his shoulders, and a set of fine white teeth that softly bit onto your ear. On the corridor I overheard him say you tasted like honey. I went home and sucked in a spoonful of honey, I poured honey into my glass of cold milk and dipped my rice, bread, chopped bananas, and every single food into a bowl of honey. I did this every day until it tasted bitter in my mouth and I thought of you, of how you remember the lines of Duke from the books we read.
Olive, Orange, Tangerine— somewhere between the colours, I tried finding us, and in vain I held you.
Your sister picked another book and said it was a regency romance. I closed my eyes and could see the Duchess wrapped in Duke’s arm. It hurt my brain. The longer I stared at the book, the stronger the image got etched on me so much that to imagine romance with people who are not Duke and Duchess was almost impossible. It was like imagining you without that boy.
Tuesday, you skipped the class and I gawped at boys around. All looked the same, same eyes, same smile, same hair, same body, the one you kissed could be any one of them or every one of them and it would mean the same, it would look the same, and it would feel the same— an absolute void.
Yellow, Beige, Peach—somewhere between the colours I found me, without you, half alive, half-empty, like a leftover dish on a dinner table.
You never saw me the way I saw you. I sat beside you and every day heard you talk of a Duke and a Duchess, every day a different Duke and a different Duchess. I wished you never read those books from our romance book club. I wish I never read the ones you chose. I wish I stayed in my room and dreamt of a land beyond, where things would make sense, where love would be a word I too could understand.
Room was both cold and warm. The smell of burnt cookies and hot chocolate soaked in, you tossed a cookie to me and giggled, my stomach churned and bones twisted. I longed to run away, far away from the hills, somewhere near the sea, where I would be cloaked by the salted air and the seaweeds.
Somewhere between the colours, between the sea and hill, our reality would be the same, I could be with you and we could read about two Duchesses in love, together and happy.