Post- Magazine

all the purple i could need [narrative]

a search for color

When I’m nervous, my therapist tells me to try to find each color of the rainbow. To find them in my environment, and to find them in order. She says the rainbow will appear in the amount of time it takes to calm myself down. To breathe. To see all the colors again in full, in combination. In beauty rather than terror; in clarity rather than the dizziness of panic. And if by the end of the rainbow, I am not yet calm, I know to do it again.

I can feel it in my body, the anxiety, as though someone has flicked a switch and my brain is short-circuiting. I feel a rush of heat through me, enveloping my body. I know the feeling of panic all too well. It greets me like an old friend.


Look for the colors.


My bedroom is dark. There is no red. I read somewhere that everything is black and white in the dark, even if you know there to be color. My red bow, for example, looks black to me right now but feels red. It feels red because I know it is, from seeing it in daylight. Maybe that should count for red. Is that enough? To know it’s red even though my eyes might disagree? No. Not enough. Not if I can find better.

I reach for the window shade and softly pull the string to lift it up. The smokestacks downtown glow sequentially, little red dots lining up above the horizon. Every night a different pattern— tonight, the second one, then the third, then the first. I watch it for a while, moving my eyes to where the red will be before it gets there.


2, 3, 1.



2, 3, 1.


Below the smokestacks, a small orange light on the side of the parking garage is glowing. If there was anything underneath it, I know there’d be an odd orange glow cast over it, but outside it’s deserted. It’s somewhere around 3:00 a.m., the loneliest time  in the world. At 2:00, there are still people awake, perhaps working late on an assignment or stumbling home from a party. At 4:00, some of the city starts to rise. The early shift wakes up. But at 3:00, there is nothing and no one around. It is dark and empty.


I wish the sun was around. I could count the sun for yellow and move on—it’s reliable, a constant. I know there’s yellow because I know there’s a sun. The sun is still out there somewhere, rising and shining over Europe and Asia, but is knowing it’s there enough to count? Even though I cannot see it?

And what of the moonlight, since it is sunlight redirected?


I resolve to count the moonlight for yellow.


Grass. Easy enough. There’s grass everywhere. Right outside my window, there’s a patch of grass, dying, but grass nonetheless. Does it really look green, though, in the dark? Can it feel green even if it doesn’t look green? Is it even green at all without the light to bounce off of it?


My heart rate is slowing a little, but I know to finish the rainbow. My room is full of blue things, because blue is the color of peace and persistence and patience and, to me, everything good. Perhaps it is the color of everything.

I have any number of things to pick from: my stuffed dinosaur, my tapestry, my throw blanket. There’s my blue pens and posters and pictures; dried flowers stand in a blue vase. My hats and hairbrush, my pillow and sheets. I spot my cardigan and below it, the blue numbers on my clock. It’s all blue, everywhere.

Maggie Nelson says of the color: “That this blue exists makes my life a remarkable one, just to have seen it.”

And shortly after: “There was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world.”

That’s true love, I think to myself. Loving beauty and then, in the next breath, being willing to sacrifice it in the name of something else. That’s how I feel about him.


Indigo? Purple?

And suddenly, I don’t even need to continue. I have all the  indigo or violet or whatever color comes next that I could need. Calm greets me like an old friend arriving late to a party. My heart rate slows. I feel my body relax into the bed.


And all at once, I am fine again, and unequivocally content.

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