“Good morning, Sir! How can I help you?” The sales girl asks as I enter the store. I smile back at her. She is pretty and has nice, bright eyes bur her face is blotchy grey with make-up. Including her lips.
“I’m looking for a brightly coloured scarf for the season. I’m just tired of neutral colors.” I explain.
She smiles and nods once and then walks away to the scarf section. I take it as my cue to follow her and I do.
She stops mid-way through the aisle and examines a shelf. She picks one up, which is plain and looks… Well, grey. She holds it up for me to touch and feel it. It is warm and soft and not too expensive.
“What colour is it again? Do you think it suits me?” I ask as I drape the scarf around the back of my neck and let the ends hang down my front.
She eyes me once and says, “It is a rich crimson colour. It looks great on you. But let me…” She stops and reaches out with her hands and she drapes the longer end once more around my neck and then grabs my arm and drags me to a mirror.
“You look dashing,” she smiles at the reflection of. I do, too.
I take off the scarf and hand it to her.
I shake my head. “Just this for now. Thank you.”
She bills it up and I hand her the cash. On the back of the bill, she scribbles something surreptitiously and puts in the bag with the scarf. I raise my eyebrows and she shrugs. “Just in case you need something,”
I lean in close to her face, from across the counter and whisper in ear, “In that case, promise not to wear any make-up,”
I swear she stopped breathing for a moment there. I pick up my bag and wink at her as I leave the store.
Once outside, I look left and right before crossing the road and reaching the bus stop. I look up straight ahead of me and I stop in my tracks.
I see a man, no older than I am, but he’s not in grey. I see him wearing a fedora with a messenger bag and sauntering down the side-walk, away from me. He has a watch on one hand and lots of colourful beads on the other. His shirt and jacket sleeves are rolled up to reveal delicate but strong arms, like an artist’s. His fedora is shiny with glitter, which colour, I can’t say. I debate running up to him but what will I say? How can I tell a complete stranger that he is the only physical being that I can see in colour?
But I run to him anyway. When I reach him, I tap him on the shoulder. He turns around revealing the most beautiful face I’ve ever seen which complements my own wolfish looks. He has mischievous eyes, long lashes and a smile that leaves me breathless.
I clear my throat to clear my head. I extend a hand towards him. “Hi, I’m Samarth. Can I talk to you for a second?”
His face is impassive as he takes my hand and shakes it. He has short nails and they were painted in one, two, three… five different colours. I couldn’t name even one of them.
He released my grip on my hand and said, “Siddharth. Nice to meet you,” he nods. “What did you want to talk about?”
I look around. We’re in the middle of the street, with people bustling everywhere.
“How about over a cup of coffee?” I raise my eyebrow.
He smiles hs mischievous smile that automatically makes me smile back and my heart beat faster.
“Okay,” he says simply and we start walking together towards the nearest Cafe Coffee Day, at the end of the street, near the signal.
We enter the cafe and go towards the counter. I’m kind of nervous because up until this point, I thought it was disease. Now I’m thinking maybe it’s not.
Or it’s probably all my imagination.
Siddharth snaps his fingers. “Earth to Sam?” He looks at me, a bit puzzled and miffed that I zoned out at his glamorous presence.
“Sorry,” I look at him sheepishly. “A cappuccino, please,” I say to the guy at the counter. He did a once-over of both of us, thinking he was discreet in his inspection. Well, I noticed, buddy and I know what you’re thinking.
We take our coffees and I paid for both, and find a couple of couches at the back of the room, near the glass wall, sitting opposite to each other, with the low coffee table between us. As I sit down, I look at the sky: a cloudy, dark grey sky. The only colour I can recognize and see from birth and yet somehow, the man in front of me seems to be dipped in a sea of colours.
“So?” He asks.
“Listen,” I begin, “I’m going to ask you a few questions and please try to answer them honestly. Don’t think I’m mad and save the judgement for the end. Okay?”
He tears a packet of sugar and pours into his coffee and looks up. “Go on.”
“What’s the color of your coffee?” I start with something simple.
He raises an eyebrow and says, “Brown.”
“Are you wearing anything brown?”
He plucks at one of the bands on his arm. Oh. That’s brown.
“What else is brown around here?” I feel the excitement running through me.
He looks around. “The couch is a nice rich brown, the table is few shades lighter and so are our coffee cups.”
“And your hat…?” I begin.
He smiles his mischievous smile again and yet again, my heart fails to beat at a normal pace.
“Here’s the deal: I will explain all the colors of whatever I’m wearing if you tell me whatever is going on with you. Okay?”
“So I’m wearing a glittery purple fedora…”
PURPLE. It’s my new favourite color.
“…My hair is highlighted with purple, again…” He takes off his hat to reveal short spiky hair tipped with purple. It must be his favourite colour too.
“…A green jacket, a beige shirt, black leather pants…”
I need to get me one of those.
“…Black socks and red shoes. Now for my accessories.”
Without warning, he slides next to me on my couch and leans in close. He smells of intoxicating candy, giving me a sweet tooth instantly.
He flexes his long, slender fingers and shows them to me. “I’ve painted them in rainbow and glitters. These are red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.” He says while pointing them out. I have a hard time concentrating but this may be my only chance at finding out how I can see him in colour.
“I used dark blue lipstick for my lips and silver glitter eyeliner over black.” He pointed to his eyes, which were a deep, mesmerizing brown.
I cleared me throat, and I say, “I’ll try recognizing your bands and beads on your wrist.”
He offered his wrist and I took it. I examine them closely and I point out to each band what colour they were: it starts with black, then a blue and black band of some rock band, then a bright orange college band, then several silver charm bracelets, then the brown band he showed me earlier, then a rainbow band, then a handmade purple (obviously) bracelet, and then finally, another black one with a metal band inscribed on it.
He grins when I finish. “Not bad for someone who’s seen colour for the first time.”
I stare at him blankly. He smirks smugly and reaches forward for my coffee and take a long sip. He must have finished it.
“What’s in the bag?” He asks as he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. I suck in a breath.
The bag. What bag?
I look to my other side. Oh! That bag. I take out the scarf and show it to him. He smiles a full, bright smile and my cheeks were probably as red as my scarf.
He takes it out of my hands and does a fancy wrap around my neck and finishes with a flourish. “There. This suits you well. How did you pick it?”
“I asked the sales lady.” I mumble.
He laughs and get us another coffee each. He’s stirring in the sugar when he asks me, “So, what’s your story?”
I close my eyes and take a deep breath. “I don’t know what this is,” I begin. “But ever since I’ve opened my eyes, I’ve seen things only in grey. Even the bright blue sky looked bright grey, if you can imagine that. I’m not colour blind, because I’ve been tested for it and it was okay up until today before I spotted you.”
I look up at him and into his rich brown eyes. “Every time I look at myself, I see grey. I’ve always believed that maybe a nerve that recognizes colour might be missing. But…”
I look down. I see a red scarf around my neck. I see it!
A huge gasp involuntarily escapes from my mouth. I see that I’m wearing a shirt that is somewhere between blue and green. My mother picked it out for me. I look outside and the blue sky peeks among the fluffy white and grey clouds. I see the bright green leaves and a dark brown bark of the trees. I see the grey asphalt and white lines and all the colourful vehicles riding over it, red, blue, yellow, orange. I see buildings with every color. I see the red logo of Cafe Coffee Day. I see beige pants on me. I see I’m wearing a blue watch. A total mismatch, but I can see it! I look at the bag of the scarf and it is a nice, pale orange. I feel it, as if I’m trying to grab the colour in my fingers.
I lean back and laugh with delight. This is the happiest I’ve ever been!
I look back at Siddharth and he has leaned back against the couch and folded his arms with a peculiar look on his face. Like he’s planning something.
I raise my eyebrows at him and he leans forward. “You. Come with me. Right now.” he says in a husky whisper, and his face is all serious.
I hop up and follow him out of the cafe and to his apartment. I’m happy that I followed him.