It was a blue Monday.
Mandy was running late and as she strapped her daughter into her car seat, she broke one of her manicured nails. This was not a good way to start a busy day and week. Cursing under her breath, she slipped into the driver seat and started the engine. Everything that could go wrong had gone wrong this morning and she was in a foul mood. Not even wearing her favourite powder blue twin set could lift her spirit.
It was a beautiful day.
From her seat in the back of the car, Amanda had a perfect view of the morning sky. An invisible hand pulled wisps of candyfloss across the dome and she marvelled at the liberation of the fleecy strips. As they made their way down the street, trees poked their heads into the dome and their leafy branches waved good morning to her. She giggled her delight and waved back at them. A flock of birds formed a dark V against the light background and she wondered where they were going for the day? Did they also have to attend school? Where did they pack their lunch?
The dark, granite cliffs of office buildings replaced the trees and birds and filled the sky with their ominous presence while sunrays bounced of the windows and made smiley faces at her. Amanda smiled back at them.
It was a wonderful day filled with joy and fun.
‘Mommy, what colour is this?’
Peering in the rear-view mirror, Mandy could see Amanda holding up a small baby blue rabbit. ‘That is blue, sweetheart,’ she answered, immediately turning her eyes back to the traffic on the road.
‘What does blue feel like?’ Amanda asked whilst rubbing the rabbit against her cheek.
‘Blue doesn’t feel like anything,’ Mandy replied.
Holding the rabbit to her nose and sniffing it, she asked, ‘What does blue smell like?’
‘Blue smells like nothing.’ Mandy answered, all of her attention focused on driving.
With tiny, dart-like licks, Amanda put her tongue to the rabbit’s face. ‘What does blue taste like?’
‘Don’t be silly Amanda, blue tastes of nothing. Nothing. Blue is just blue. It is a colour, that is all,’ Mandy stated adamantly. Her voice carried a hint of irritation.
Amanda hugged the rabbit tightly to her body, buried her face in its soft fur and closed her eyes while she inhaled its blue.
It was a blue day.
‘Be good now, sit down and be quiet, children!’ Mrs Brown’s voice cracked above the lively chatter of the pre-schoolers. Going through the classroom, she urged the toddlers to settle down as she handed out worksheets to them.
‘Today, we are going to make Mother’s Day cards for our mommies. Colour in the picture of the mommy for me.’
Amanda’s small hand immediately reached for the baby blue crayon. Tentatively she brought the coloured wax to her face, smelled it and then gave it a quick lick. Meticulously, she coloured the drawing of mommy on her worksheet, placing extra emphasis on the cheeks and upper arms. Tongue tip protruding from the corner of her mouth, she happily worked on the picture when a claw like hand gripped her tiny wrist and stopped her mid action.
‘Amanda, you cannot colour your mommy blue,’ rasped Mrs Brown’s voice next to her ear. ‘And you must stay inside the lines. Look how you have coloured outside of the lines.’ Her bony finger pointed to the blue halo surrounding mommy’s head. ‘Now you have to start over,’ she instructed as she took the paper from Amanda.
Every eye in the classroom was on Amanda. Her face felt hot with humiliation as tears of disappointment rolled down her tiny face.
‘Oh, come now Amanda, there is nothing to cry about. You are a big girl and big girls don’t cry. Here, wipe your nose and start colouring,’ the teacher scolded as she handed Amanda a rumpled tissue from her own pocket.
Tears dripped on the clean worksheet in front of her. She did not know where to start now. She did not want to begin a new colouring; she just wanted the one she had already done. Bent over the paper she sat motionless, staring at the white surface, her small hands clenched in her lap. There was not one other colour crayon that she wanted to pick up to use.
Blue is the softness of mommy’s cheeks and upper arms. Blue is the smell of mommy’s hair when she leans over Amanda to tuck her in at night. Blue is the colour of Mommy’s eyes when she looks deeply into hers and tells her how much she loves her. Blue is the taste of mommy’s skin when Amanda kisses her. Blue is what their car smells like after mommy had used it. Blue is what her clothes smell like when mommy had washed them for her.
Her mommy is blue.
Amanda was lost. There was no answer to her dilemma. The white sheet in front of her screamed to be filled with blue; blue sky, blue birds, blue rabbits, blue flowers and all the shades of mommy’s blue. Her arms felt heavy and would not respond; her heart a bulky ball that filled her chest with painful beats. Her head was a tangle of confused and troublesome questions to which she could find no answers.
This was how Mrs Brown found her when she later collected the completed worksheets from the learners. Dry eyed, staring at the wet spots on the sheet. Amanda did not respond to her teacher’s voice or touch. Frozen, she struggled with a world without blue; an unmarked world contained within the boundaries set by lines.
* * * * *
Undressing Amanda for her bath, Mandy found the note written on pastel blue paper in Amanda’s pocket.
‘Dear Mr and Mrs Hays,
I am sorry to report that we have been experiencing problems with Amanda in the classroom. She has difficulty carrying out instructions and finishing tasks. At times, she refuses to carry out my instructions. She does not make eye contact with me when I speak to her. She does not respond when I call her by her name. I foresee serious problems for her for the future if we do not take action to remedy the situation.
Please have her assessed by a professional therapist, who can recommend a course of action. I am of the opinion that we are dealing with Autism.
The small piece of paper, casually tucked away into the toddler’s pocket, splintered the Hays household into multiple shades of blue.
Amanda’s blue fun became a family in a blue funk.
The blue of mommy’s eyes were now deep pools of troubled waters, her skin dry and rough underneath Amanda’s touch. Dad sported grey-blue semicircles underneath his bloodshot eyes.
Amanda’s days grew into a bawdy string of blue glass bubbles as she was ushered from one cold room to another by nurses dressed in navy blue uniforms to undergo test after test. Every morning, strapped into her car seat on her way to yet another day of testing, the overhead dome majestically displayed its infinite hues of blue to her. Amanda no longer wanted to see it. She did not wave at the trees nor did she smile at the sun. She kept her violet-blue eyes focussed on the tips of her shoes.
Amidst all the hue and cry, Amanda tried to figure out where all of this had started. Where did she go wrong? What did she do that made Mommy’s eyes go dim? What did she do wrong that she no longer could go to school?
Her parents presented her blue picture of Mommy to the doctor and Amanda found her answer.
On their way back home, she rolled down the back window of the car and threw the blue rabbit out of the window. Mommy yelled at her for opening the window, but Amanda did not mind. The blue rabbit was gone. Everything was going to be all right again.
But the tests continued, day after day after day…
Now Amanda is blue too.
Amanda came to know the never-ending shades of blue. The once extroverted, happy little girl now turned into herself. Where she had been curious about the world around her, constantly asking questions and seeking answers, she now scouted her inner landscape driven by question upon question. Scratching through the veneer of blue as dark as a moonless midnight, she sought for a ray of light. Shattering violently through indigo walls, she pursued self-control. With great effort, she resisted and conquered the deceptive lull of azure waves of complacency. Fields of blue cornflowers called her to tranquillity and rest, but she refrained from wading into their knee high wonder. She sought to remain on the washed-out, pale blue plains of reason and logic. Suppressing feeling, intuition and emotion, she steered her course to the principles of right and wrong.
Robbed from its vital life force, Amanda’s soul cyanosed. Oscillating between volatile violet and drowning in debilitating deep-ocean blue, she fought for her survival in a monochromatic matrix.
Go away, blue day…
She attempted to stay between the lines, to do what was right; to see what she was told to see and to say what she was told to say. She dared to neither touch and feel objects, nor smell or taste anything without instruction to do so. She had learned that she could not trust her own instincts or observations; that her experiences held no value or truth. She came to understand that there was only wrong or right, determined by other people who knew what it was. She had to stay between the lines to be right and accepted, to be labelled normal. She had to stay away from every shade of blue.
However, blue did not give up on her. Eagerly it pursued her; assaulted her senses and her very being at every turn and corner. The more she aspired to run from it, the more resolutely indigo courted her. It sought to conquer her heart and to subdue her mind. No matter how hard Amanda tried to avoid lapis, it always knew where to find her. In the clink of an ice cube against glass, the ozone smell after a thunderstorm, the soft kisses of late afternoon rain. In the wing of a bird, the eye of a new born baby. Teasing her in the spidery veins on her mother’s legs. It lured her in the slippery satin of a negligée or the dark velvet of an elegant evening dress. It found her in the electrifying moments of excitement, in the dark waves of life’s storms. Denim blue enfolded her comfortably on fun-filled days; steel blue determination guided her on her course. Berry blue hues celebrated young love; midnight blue the burial shroud of young love lost. Her heart arctic blue against the assault of being misunderstood; her soul draped as a peacock with artistic bloom.
Blue, with me you cannot stay!
Blue was rebelling against its concealment. It wanted to be revealed. It desired to be acknowledged and owned. Slowly eroding her resolve, blue vied for centre stage. In a fit of rage at blue’s persistence, Amanda called its bluff. She presented it with ten blank canvasses spread out on her bedroom floor. The challenge – to fill the spaces with hues of blue, not one to be repeated.
To the strains of Joni Mitchell’s Blue album, Amanda poured her heart, her thoughts, her very being onto the canvasses. Twenty years’ filtered emotions, reasoning and reflections now ran clear as the paint spilled unrestrained onto the white sheets. The gates to her inner landscape were flung wide open; nothing was held back. The true Amanda was revealed. Her impressions of life and the world brought to light.
Blue is here to stay.
Two days later Amanda was squatting in front of the paintings, each painting a splinter of her life. Mirror images displayed, blues hues on white. She peered intently at them, seeking to understand the meaning of each dot, only to step away and peruse them from a distance, desiring to grasp the significance of the bigger whole. With tender strokes, she explored the infant planes of her own face. Nostalgic she gazed at Mommy’s beautiful profile. Denim childhood days nestled next to dark blue teenage, romantic nights. Amanda saw herself for who she was; for what she was; for what she was meant to be. As crystal clear tears streaked her cheeks, she whispered…
Blue, I love you.
©Copyright Micelle Coetsee 2015