Never thought I could think so much about color. Always assumed that color would just be there, be everywhere really. In the pink flowers planted outside my house, the olive green couch my mother used to sing to me on, the red collar my dog used to wear. Didn’t think color was something the world could lose.
I asked once, why the city is gray? Why this campus is so gray? An architecture student snapped that it’s 2050 and gray is modern. Gray is in. At one point, she described gray as industrial, post war era, or something like that. She rolled her eyes when I said I didn’t see why. Why couldn’t we have just a speck of color?
I roll out of bed, staring at the paint chips stapled to my wall. The sun hits them just right this early in the morning and the entire room explodes in color. But after the first hour of the day, the rays no longer hit the chips and the room returns to its disheveled disguise. Not that it needs a disguise; people, much less girls I might be interested in, rarely ever see the room, for reasons you might guess. All they see is the classic gray dorm room that everyone else has, but with an awkward cluster of hardware store paint chips randomly assorted on the wall. They don’t see the beauty that comes with them, the beauty that comes with their color.
I head out to class just as the light disappears, keeping my head down as I travel to the classroom. Other students, donning gray scrubs, ignore me as they climb into their pods. The doors click shut, one after the other, locking students in for the morning download session. I pause, take a deep breath, and look at the blackness that’s about to engulf me before climbing in myself. A familiar click is heard and darkness swarms over me.
When you’re in the pod, time doesn’t exist. Just information flashing very quickly in front of your eyes. An endless stream of words and images and then darkness again as your body body shuts down to allow your brain to process and retain the new knowledge. Time resumes only once I return to the gray.
The lunch ladies give me a soft smile as they shove food onto my plate. I nod a thank you and find my way to an empty table. That’s when I see her, wearing the same gray uniform as everyone else, yet managing to stand out. Too short to be put up in a ponytail, her hair rests just above her shoulders, a soft wave accenting the green color it possessed. For the first time today, I smiled.
She wasn’t gray.
I see her later, basking in the sun like I do so often and I sit down next to her.
“Have you ever been on the roof of the main pod building?” she whispers, turning to look at me. I’m taken aback for a moment.
“No,” I say, “I didn’t know you could get up there.”
“You can get on any roof if you try hard enough,” she says, smiling and standing up. I watch her walk away, disappointed that she’s gone and confused by the situation. She turns around looking extremely annoyed. “Are you coming?”
In a panic, I say “yes” and follow the girl as she marches us through the roadways of campus, passing others on their way to afternoon classes.
“Don’t you have somewhere to be right now?” I ask. She looks down at her watch.
“It’s almost three, so yeah, but they never take attendance. No one will know,” she says, facing me and smiling. “Live for once. I’ve been watching you and you look like you need to live some.”
“You’ve been watching me?” I ask.
She nods and gives me a sly grin, stopping next to a building. “Up.” She points to a ladder. I stutter at first, but decide to shut up and climb, not daring to look down. The ladder shakes when she begins to climb behind me and I quicken my pace. My feet fling themselves to the roof as soon as I reach the top. Almost instantaneously, my panic disappears. Everywhere I look is some new shade of red or orange. Pinks and purples line the edges of the clouds behind the skyscrapers.
“Even in this gray world, there’s still color,” she says, coming up next to me, “You just have to know where to look.”
We watch the sun disappear and the color fade from the sky in silence.
“Can I show you something?” I ask after a while.
She nods, her hair falling in front of her face. I tuck it behind her ear, trying to hide that I’m shaking, and take her hand and help her back down the ladder, even though we both know she doesn’t need help. She follows me back to my dorm and I watch her as her fingers trace the paint chips,
“They’re prettier in the morning, when the sun hits them,” I say.
“Then I’ll have to stay to see that,” she says, her voice so much quieter than before. She lifts herself onto my bed, making herself at home amidst the sheets; a speck of green in a sea of gray. I can’t help but smile. She laughs at me and I come sit next to her, realizing I was never looking for color itself, just someone else who saw past the gray.
Sammi is a competitive equestrian from Cumming, GA. She currently attends Georgia Tech and is working towards earning a computer science degree. One day, she hopes to attend vet school and do research, putting her computer science degree to use by helping to develop new diagnostic tools. In her spare time, Sammi works on writing, dividing her time between short stories and a novel she is working on.