She wraps herself in violet. Hushed tones. The colour of grandmothers shawl. She has been doing what we all do, holding ourselves up to the light, just to see what colour lies underneath.
He is a faded denim blue. It did not begin this way. It never does. Colours that fade when left lonely in the sun. He was faded like we are faded. Like we are left lonely.
I remember paint-by-numbers from my childhood with a certain fondness. I was never very good at knowing where the colours and shades mixed and how their unique hue could lie out on the canvas. So to be told where to put what colour. It made it so easy. Just stay between the lines. Stick to the numbers. I knew that sky was number three. Always blue. I knew two was the green grass. I knew the sun was yellow five. I knew God was…
Until he wasn’t. Until the colours began to run. To mix themselves messy.
If you have seen the emptying of a woman at birth then you know that red always bleeds. Crimson, the colour of life. Today, however, the red was a blush. The creeping heat that veined up pink neck as she told us of the black rape and the burning burgundy of flame and the purple bruising and the grey shadow that follows her everywhere. Midnight blue became her sadness. A charcoal loneliness. The white of bone. The white of snow. A velvet sunset. The hope for green to bring a new beginning.
I tried to paint her, but it was not working well. The colours would not stay in their defined areas. They mingled too easily with each other. They defied the borders. The neat lines were not working. Too much mixing and running and the way the black seeped and tried to cover everything. And the green shied away into a corner to hide. The numbers were all wrong. Nothing made sense. The sky behind her was a murky brown cut through with slash red scars. Her skin was a grey mingled green and everything washed together. Where she ended and the dark surroundings began I could not even discern.
I could think of nothing else so I dabbed the yellow. Just the smallest drop. It lay on her skin. I painted it in. I painted it in. I painted it in until she shone. Golden. Beneath the grey and the dark and the brown, she shone. And I know it was not the eloquence of my brush that brought it out. It was her. It was who she was. She could not be painted with numbers. Who she was. She was all of this. All of these colours and none of them fit and none of them were neat and it was messy and dark and it was light and it was beautiful and it was masterpiece. And it was so…human.
This was the day the colours bled.
So as a child I painted like a child, but these days paint-by-numbers doesn’t have the same joy as it did back when. Nothing lies so neat anymore. As much as I want to paint people into their place so that it all makes sense. The colours refuse.
I have placed the paint-by-numbers back inside the cupboard. One day my son shall need them, at least for a time we all do.
I pull out a blank canvas. Brush in hand. Or sometimes no brush. Sometimes fingers and hands and messy and hope and confusion and pain and betrayal and with all of these things on the blank canvas of my life I realise that I am trying to paint God.