Anthony was a painter until he lost the ability to see color. Worse than color blindness, the edges of objects and people blur together, making it almost impossible for Anthony to interact with anyone or anything. After retreating from the world for decades, he sees a glimpse of yellow that leads him to a musician, Teague. At first Anthony is frightened and overwhelmed by the color, but he can’t stay away from Teague for long. He finds the courage to confront Teague and explain his unusual problem and Teague’s role in helping him. To Anthony’s relief, Teague believes him. Very quickly, they both suspect that getting the colors back is more important to Anthony than his relationship with Teague. If Anthony pushes too hard, he’ll lose Teague, and possibly the colors, forever.
Teague stopped me in the hall in front of his apartment, using a slender arm to block the door. He deftly snatched his guitar from me, slipped inside, and closed the door behind himself, only pausing long enough to say, “Wait here.”
When he returned, he had traded his guitar for a blanket. “C’mon.” He grabbed my hand again and pulled me up the stairs until we came to the door leading onto the roof. He pulled a key on a cord from around his neck and unlocked it. “Whenever I move into a building, I always ask if I can use the roof. And I always seem to get it, too, or at least since I got famous.” He winked, standing aside and holding the door for me. “It must be my good looks.”
He was joking, but he wasn’t wrong.
"Over here." Teague had spread his blanket in a large clear space between the chimneys and vents that dotted the roof.
I approached him cautiously, as though he were a small and tender prey animal that might startle and take flight. I needn’t have worried; as soon as I got close enough, Teague grabbed my legs and pulled me down onto the blanket beside him.
"I like to lie here and look at the stars. It always makes me feel better."
"Because they remind you of how small and insignificant your problems are?"
"Or just because they’re pretty." My view of the stars was blocked by Teague’s face. He kissed me, soundly and with much lip smacking and happy “‘mmm" noises.
The next day, the colors started to blur.
I hardly noticed at first. Just the odd purple or green, up to their usual mischief. I would frown at them, and they would pop back. They were usually a bit prone to frivolity and playfulness, so I paid them no mind. I didn't connect what was happening to the fortuneteller's words. Not yet.
Then a blue, usually so solid and dependable, would start to shift while I was in the middle of a brush stroke. Or worse, before I had even gotten it out of its tube and onto my palate. It would just be gone, going from cobalt or aquamarine to a nonsense color, like pajamas or garbage. And all the scowling in the world wouldn't bring those blues back.
I kept painting, stubbornly ignoring the fact that I was becoming deaf to color. It was worse than being blind. It was a catastrophe.
But this painting was a commission. I had to finish it.
I watched as, one by one, every shade vanished from my eyes, leaving me with a soggy mess of random hues that clashed and jarred and upset me badly. By the end of the day, they were gone.
I wish I could tell you that I now saw in black and white. What I wouldn't give for a glimpse of clean black or pure white. My malady was far worse. I saw only muddy, indescribable, jarring concoctions of brownish-grayish-primordial-muckish tones.
When the painting was finished, or at least the canvas was covered in paint, I called my patron. He said that he would send someone to pick it up. The man, when he arrived, looked down his long, aristocratic nose at the painting and gave me a look like I was something nasty and squelchy he had found stuck to the bottom of his shoe. He began efficiently packing the painting into a box. He was so offended by the painting that he could hardly bring himself to touch it.
Already, I would have given almost anything to see what he saw in the painting. Even the most brutal, discordant visual cacophony, the most lurid, vibrant, glorious mess of color would have been a relief.
Even the tiniest hint of crimson. An echo of violet.
Not an hour later, my phone rang.
It startled me half out of my wits. I had been sorting and resorting my paints in every conceivable order, with increasing desperation, hoping that something, anything, would jar loose whatever was clouding my vision.
I picked up the receiver with an odd sense of faith, as though it would be God on the other end, and He would give me some arcane ceremony, some act of penance. It would be hopelessly complicated, but once I had performed it to His satisfaction, He would restore my sense of color.
It was, of course, my patron. I managed to tune out the individual words he said, but his meaning was clear. What is this shit you've given me? If you think I'm paying you, you're mental. By the way, you owe me money. Click.
That was nearly a relief. If other people could see what a mess I had made, what a mess I was in, then I wasn't just crazy. I had a genuine Problem. I wasn't simply having some sort of temperamental, artistic breakdown. Problems could be solved.
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