What’s your favorite color
By Wagiha Mariam
This piece is about a colorblind painter who is navigating her way in an art piece before a deadline. She cannot see a single color but has to finish the piece using her senses.
Checking over her shoulder, she mixes the colors in her palette. Unsatisfied at the infinite hues in her canvas, she looks up at the portrait. The white villas she painted on top of a cockeyed hill, the violet trees that stood awry from the land around it. She stepped back focusing on what was surrounding her instead, Inhaling the smell of solvent on her fingertips and mineral spirits in the air. She exhaled harshly. She looked around her at unfinished pieces, rectangular reminders of rude stopping points that begged to be filled. In piece number one, a vilified ballerina. She chose to paint the hems of the skirt pink. Pink was the floral scent when you walked into a flower boutique. Or the smell on the florist's apron, raising a brow as she handed her rotten Lotuses flowers. “Are you sure you would like to buy these Miss?” She was not sure, but she bought them anyway. Lotuses were supposed to be easy, less complicated. But pink on her ballerina looked out of place. She could not put a finger on it. It was confused. Or was she confused? In another work, an oil painting of a sunset. The sky was a fiery, golden orb that rose up from the horizon while the clouds melted into oranges, then reds, and then blues. Why orange, then red, then blue she thought? Why not red, then orange then blue? She heard the door shut behind her. “Hey!” She looked to see her friend entered exasperated putting a bobble hat and a tote bag on her stool. “How’s your piece going? It looks really good so far.” her friend rocked on the heels of her sneakers gazing at her piece. “Oh.” she paused thinking about what to say. “I don’t know yet.” “Why don’t you maybe add a little yellow there, for the sky.” her friend asked. She picked up her liner brush to make futile strokes on the painting. “Why would I paint the sky yellow?” she asked. “Why not? Is there even a difference for you?” She frowned, the blues and yellows did look similar to her. She crossed her arms and didn’t respond. She looked at her friend who pulled two apples from her bag. Apples she recognized from the street cart with the green umbrella outside her studio. (green?red?) “I don’t feel like painting fruits. I told you to get me resin from the department store.” “They aren’t for you to paint. Here.” Her friend extended one arm to her. When she didn’t step forward to grab it, her friend wiggled her arm. “I gave you the yellow one. Or opal as the vendor says.” Her friend bit into her apple. “What am I supposed to do with this?” she asked standing with the apple awkwardly in one hand instead of a bristle. “Eat it, obviously. Try this too. It’s a winesap one.” She placed one apple in each hand, forcing her to look at them and remember how to distinguish them. She took small bites out of both. “How does it taste?” her friend asked. That was a dumb question. It was almost as dumb as when she was asked what her favorite color was. Flavors don’t translate into words. When you bite into an apple, it’s just a spectrum of sweet to tart. She had no idea what her favorite color was either, and if she did, it would change every five minutes, like every other bite of an apple. “It tastes the same.” she said. Her friend leaned back into the stool, her chin dipping into her chest. It was the same look of disappointment from every face that anticipated an answer from her that matched theirs. “Well, if you were to paint these apples, how would you differentiate between them?” She scrunched her face. “I would paint one red. And paint the other yellow.” Her friend's lips were pressed tight. She was quiet for a moment. “Achromatic, is that how you see movements? Is it how you hear sounds and feel feelings? Just because an apple is red doesn’t mean you have to paint the apple red. Who's stopping you from painting it purple?” Her friend sighed and threw her bag over her shoulder. “Well it’s getting late so I’m gonna go home. Good luck submitting it by tomorrow. Keep the apples.” She was alone in her studio again. How does she define yellow? For a moment, she closed her eyes. Yellow was when she looked up at the sun, couldn’t see the color, but was blinded with intimidation. Yellow felt achromatic like a mix of black and white, Yellow was the astringent opal apple compared to a red winesap one. The warm bubbling laughter of her friend when she handed her rotten lotus flowers on her birthday. She breathed in. She picked up her paintbrush and painted the sky, breaking into an amber smile. She exhaled, put down her brush, and went to the kitchen for a snack, Maybe a bite of red or blue with a white drink.
I was inspired first by this poem I saw on social media that described color to a colorblind person in the form of senses. I thought it would be a good idea to challenge myself with point of view and use the perspective of a painter when writing this piece. I use the other senses such as smell, taste, sight, and sounds to describe the piece and what is around her. It is very poetry-short-story-esque and blurs the line between both genres. If I could describe this piece in three words it would be sensory, vivid, and introspective. For every color she describes, she describes something about herself; and I think that’s beautiful.
Wagiha Mariam is a student who challenges herself with her pieces. She loves writing for different purposes. It allows her to express moments of resonance and reflection: the feeling of making brush strokes to a piece without seeing a single color or physically speaking without uttering a word. She has written anecdotes, some of which are her own, but explore important topics like honor killings, race, and some of her personal interests like sign language. In her free time, she can be seen exploring a true crime podcast or catching up on a thriller novel.