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Bonnibel Hemings, 2013

I don’t remember her name. All that I remember is her color, green, as green as the turning ocean, the rolling fields, the crawling caterpillar.

I don’t remember my name. All that I remember is my color, red, as red as the burning fire, the glowing lights, the sinking sunset.

We are opposite, she and I. Fire and water, the sun and the moon, day and night. It’s an endless cycle; the red fire burns the green trees, the green trees die but the ocean sweeps away the fire and new trees grow again, greener than before. Both sides want to give up the fight, but neither can. The world is relying on them.

“Hello. It’s nice to meet you.” She turned around and reached out her hand, smiling too wide for her own good. It was the first time that she had ever spoken to me, and I didn't know why. It came out of nowhere. Then she gave me a name that I knew I would never remember. So I asked her, if I could just call her Green. And instead of turning away, she said yes.

“And I'll call you Red.”

I’ve known a few other reds, a few other greens. None quite like this. There was a liquorice red, an old lady living down the street. The rusty red of her husband. And my sister, she’s an aqua green, her boyfriend the color of tea. Neither of them look anything like Green. Nobody looks anything like me, either. Of course, no two colors are the same. But there are usually more similarities, at the very least.

“I don't believe the rumors about you,” she said to me. “I think that you're a good person.”

“Do you want to be friends?” I had never had a friend before.

“Yes.” I could feel my heart turn over. In that moment, I think that I burned a little brighter.

“How about lunch?”

The next day, it was raining.

“I love the rain,” she whispered. “I know that it's kind of strange, but rainy days always make me so happy.”

“That's not strange.” She smiled at me. After school, I watched her dance in the rain. Her laugh sounded like the waves.

“Join me.” I shook my head. Her smile turned to a pout.

“What's wrong, Red?”

That night, I told my sister about Green. Her face lit up when I mentioned we were friends. That’s good, she told me. It’s good to have friends. She sent me away when her tea-green boyfriend got here, though. I didn’t mind. I kept seeing Green, but I stopped talking to my sister about it. At that point, I didn’t need to.

“It’s a Polaroid, the newest model.” She held the clunky camera in front of her. “I got it for Christmas.”

“Your parents must have a lot of money,” I said, examining the wide lens of the camera. “All that mine ever do is yell at each other about taxes. I hardly got anything for Christmas this year.” Suddenly Green looked guilty, as if it was her fault that my family was in debt. There was a brief moment of silence between us, and I was afraid that she would leave. Instead, she smiled again and held up the camera to her eye.

“Say ‘cheese.’” The camera flashed, and the film rolled out the front. Green shook the picture a little, waiting for it to develop.

“There.” She held out the picture. To me, it didn’t look any different from when it first came out of the camera.

“There aren’t any colors.” I squinted, trying to find where I was in the picture.

“Of course there aren’t, silly,” she said, not even looking at me. “I can’t wait to show this off at school. Everyone will be so jealous.” For some reason, I felt like crying. She still didn’t notice.

“Pretty cool, right Red?”

For some reason, people think that, because I don't see the way they do, I can't hear or speak either. The gossip got louder over the next few weeks, even when I was in the room. It looks like the weird, stupid boy who only sees colors finally got a girlfriend, they said. Green must have been suffering as well, but she didn't talk to me about. She knew that it was worse for me. This went on for a month. I’m sure that the teachers saw, and just didn't care.

“My parents told me to avoid you,” she said to me. She looked down at the ground. “They say that you're not right in the head.”

“And you believe them?” My voice was barely a whisper, but she looked startled all the same. It had only been a month, and I didn't want to lose her.

“I'm sorry, Red.”

That day, my father asked me what was wrong. It was the first time that I had ever cried. My father is sky blue, the gentlest in our family. He may be the only one who truly loves me. I told him that I didn't want to talk about it, and he left. He didn't understand what I meant. He didn't realize that I needed help, but wasn't strong enough to ask for it.

“I can't take this anymore,” she said. “We should have a meeting place, somewhere that we can go without anyone finding out.” It had been a week, and I was surprised that she even remembered me. I wanted to hug her, but instead I helped her come up with a plan. We met in the alley connecting her street and mine. It rained again that night. And this time, I danced with her.

“Thank you, Red.”

My mother wanted to know where I was going each night. I didn't tell her. She scoured my drawers, looking for drugs, a knife, something that would give her an explanation as to what kind of trouble I was getting into. She didn't even know who Green was. So, she took me to another doctor. This is my son, she said, he doesn't remember names or faces. Instead, he's always going on about colors. It was the exact same speech that she had given to the last three doctors. They never knew what to do with me, and this one was no different. So, I kept sneaking out, no matter how much my mother yelled at me. She even threatened to send me away to the special school all the way across the country, like she had many times. And, like all the times before, I ignored her. I knew that my father wouldn’t let that happen. That year, my life was amazing.

“I just want you to know, my parents made my curfew even earlier,” she would tell me. She said it about twice each month, until we only had an hour after school to talk.

“We deserve a day off,” I said one day, while we walked to school. “Let’s go see a movie.” So, we skipped school and went to the one remaining movie theater in town, and bought tickets to the first movie available.

“I’ve got an idea,” she whispered when it was over. “Let’s hide in the closet by the projector room. We can come back out when the next movie starts.” We shoved in with the mops and buckets, probably used by the janitors before the theater couldn’t afford them anymore. And all day, we watched movie after movie, until we realized it was an hour past our curfew. We ran home, laughing like maniacs, not caring about how much trouble we would get in.

“We should do that again sometime,” she said. “Next week, maybe?” I nodded, and without thinking, hugged her. She hugged me back, before running into her house.

“See you tomorrow, Red.”

We made it a rule that we wouldn’t skip school more than once a week. That year, we broke our own rule more often than we followed it. When I got my report card, I had failed half of my classes. My mother pulled me aside, looking furious. She said that if my problem was really this severe, she would have no choice but to send me to the special school. I told her that I would try harder, but I didn’t mean it. I experienced a kind of withdrawal just being apart from Green. I wasn’t going to sacrifice our days at the movie theater because of school. I knew that Green felt the same way.

“I'm leaving,” she told me, tears in her eyes. It was spring time once again, and the rain was even thicker than usual. But Green was the saddest I've ever seen her. “My parents say that I need to be straightened out, learn to become a mature woman. I'm going to school somewhere far away, and I might never see you again.” I didn't say anything.

“Talk to me, now!” she sobbed. Her tears mixed with the rain, and I could no longer tell which was which. “We can't let them tear us apart!" The saltwater streams continued to pour from her eyes, filled with her tears and the rain that she loved so much.

“It's better this way.” I didn't look at her.

“What's happening to us, Red?"

This time, I didn't cry. I just sat in my bed and stared at the ceiling. How did I ever think that this would work? The two of us, we weren't meant to be friends, or whatever it was we were. Someone like me doesn't have friends, because everyone is afraid that I'll screw them up too, as if I'm contagious. She was probably scared of me too, just too nice to say anything. Besides, she's green and I'm red. The ocean will never touch the flames. The sun and the moon will never meet. The day and the night cannot exist together. It's better this way.

“I guess that this is goodbye.” She wasn't crying anymore. I held out my hand, but she slapped it away and grabbed me tight instead. She hugged me for a full minute, burrowing her face in my coat. And I started to think, maybe I was wrong. Maybe I can have a friend. But I still didn't stop her from walking on to the train. She looked down at me from the window, and I couldn't tell whether she was crying or not. Maybe the streams had dried up. Or maybe the dam had just crumbled. The train whistle blew, and everything started to blur.

“I love you, Red.”

Then the train pulled out of the station, and she was gone.